Clampdown in Kashmir
Huma Jafree '22
Troops began to pour into Kashmir, an already heavily militarized area. Cell phone reception was cut, internet was gone, landlines, cable and TV went out as the Indian government imposed a communications blackout. Hundreds of politicians, journalists, leaders, activists, and thousands of innocent civilians were arrested. Movement, school access, and hospital services were restricted. Just like that, Kashmir entered its 51st curfew of 2019, ending all contact with the outside world.
Imagine being unable to call your parents, to leave your room, to go to class, to seek medical attention, to live in fear of being arrested, raped and killed. Imagine living in Kashmiri, and your home is suddenly turned into a prison.
Since 1947, India and Pakistan have had a tense relationship over Kashmir. The roots of the conflict lie in the countries’ shared colonial past. When the British had nothing more to leech off of the subcontinent and decided to leave, they drew the border separating India and Pakistan based on religious majority populations in the two countries.
Kashmir was given the choice to join either India or Pakistan, both of whom tried to force Kashmir’s decision, for example, by invading and occupying local territory. Today, Kashmir, a Muslim-majority area, is claimed by both countries; India-administered “Jammu and Kashmir” and Pakistan-administered “Azad Jammu and Kashmir”—which, from Urdu, translates to “Free Jammu and Kashmir”. Today the people of Kashmir are subject to great violence and inhumane living conditions, courtesy of both India and Pakistan.
In 1949, India-administered Kashmir was given special status in the Indian constitution under Article 370, giving it substantial autonomy over its own affairs and the ability to formulate laws for the state's permanent residents.
Specifically, article 370 protected inheritance rights for Kashmiris by allowing only native Kashmiris to buy local land. In 2019, however, this article was removed, and India-administered Kashmir was split into two union territories: the Hindu-majority Jammu region, which has a legislative assembly, and the Buddhist-majority Ladakh region—the latter of which has a considerable Muslim population.
The fundamental problem is that this Muslim population has no assembly. Thus, began the clampdown.
Many have asked themselves why India would do this? The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were opposed to Article 370 for a long time, and revoking it was part of their political agenda. They claimed that its removal would improve development—allowing India to control Kashmiri land—and thus foster economic growth.
However, many Kashmiris have seen this as a way to alter the demographic character of the Muslim-majority region by changing the rights to own land in the area. The BJP and Modi have repeatedly expressed anti-Muslim sentiments, so it is not surprising that there is no Muslim member in the party. In the five years of Modi’s first term, hate crimes against Muslims soared. One of the members of the BJP has been charged under a terror law for conspiring and carrying out bombings in a Muslim-majority city in 2008. Some members have said "as long as we have Islam in the world, there will be no end to terrorism” and have resorted to violence against Muslims in the past. For instance, one BJP member has 34 criminal cases against him, including murder and robbery.
What was Pakistan’s role in all of this? Prime Minister, Imran Khan, filed a formal protest with UN Security Council, asked President Trump to mediate negotiations over Kashmir, downgraded diplomatic relations, and suspend bilateral trade with India. Not surprisingly, none of this has resulted in any progress in this humanitarian crisis. Since June 2018 Pakistan has been on the grey list for its alleged failure to adequately crackdown on terror financing and money laundering in the country. This meant its position in the UN and international politics was weakened, which was the perfect opportunity for India to make its long pending move in Kashmir.
For more than 70 years, the people of Kashmir have had to bear the consequences of Pakistan’s and India’s decisions. They have been divided, conquered and tortured. Time and time again they have been silenced and their freedom has been stripped from them. How long are we going to turn a blind eye?
Silence is compliance.