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Two International Webinars on Kashmir

Tuesday 1 September 2020, by Editorial

Kashmir is under siege. Seven million people are under virtual lockdown for nine months since the BJP government abrogated Articles 370 and 35 reducing the former Princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in to two ‘Union Territories’ of Indian state.

The Indian Constituent Assembly had adopted Article 370 as a part of Indian Constitution to give a certain degree of autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir the only Muslim-majority state — integration of which into Indian Union was to be done either through a ‘referendum’ or through an internationally monitored ‘plebiscite’. The promise of ‘referendum’ was made to the people of Kashmir by the Indian state at the time of accepting the ‘Letter of Accession’ signed by the then ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh.

The Article 35A, gave the local Kashmir government the right to define who is a “permanent resident” of the state and who are able to own property or buy land. This was a condition that Sheikh Abdullah the pro-accession leader of Kashmir’s National Conference had insisted upon to protect Kashmir’s Muslim-majority status, and was the last thing Kashmiris were holding onto to preserve some semblance of their nationhood.

By repealing Article 35A & 370 of the constitution, people from the rest of India will now have the right to acquire property in occupied Kashmir and settle there permanently. Kashmiris see the move as an attempt to dilute the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir with Hindu settlers.

A few days before the announcement of abrogation, the Indian government put Kashmir under military curfew and ordered all Hindu pilgrims and non-Kashmiris to leave the valley. They were denied access to all their family members and relatives living outside Jammu and Kashmir, their cellular phones and landlines were disconnected, access to television broadcast and internet was stopped.

These restrictions and disruption, which has been maintained over the last seven months, albeit with some relaxation, has resulted in loss of jobs to lakhs, collapse of business enterprises and massive loss to financial institutions as a substantial number of accounts have declared bankruptcy. Many business establishments dependent on internet like information technology and e-commerce have been ruined. The fruit crops, particularly Apple, which is the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy suffered heavy losses and fruit trees suffered permanent damage due to the unavailability of weather updates on the heavy snowfall. The government intervention in the horticulture sector for which Rs. 8,000 Crores were earmarked for purchase of apples came a cropper and caused price turmoil and panic sales. As per a study by Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, during first five months of the post abrogation lockdown, Kashmir’s economy has suffered a loss of Rs 17,878.18 Crores.

For more than seven decades, the people of Indian Held Kashmir have been denied their inalienable right to self-determination. Human rights abuses in the India administered parts of the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir are an ongoing issue. The abuses range from mass killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual abuse to political repression and suppression of freedom of speech. The Indian Army, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Personnel (BSF) and various separatist militant groups have been carrying out these heinous crimes against Kashmiri civilians with total impunity.

More than 100,000 killed during the last decade, over 15,000 Kashmiri women violated, over 15,000 Kashmiri youths imprisoned in Indian interrogation centres and torture cells, more than 20,000 kids orphaned, 8,000 to 10,000 involuntarily disappeared, over 200 totally blinded with pellet guns 2016. The extent of male disappearances has been so large that a new term "half-widows" has been created for their wives who end up with no information of their husbands’ whereabouts. Human right activists estimate the number of disappeared to be over eight thousand, last seen in government detention. The disappeared are believed to be dumped in thousands of mass graves across Kashmir.

Mass graves have been identified all over Kashmir which contain bodies of thousands of Kashmiris of enforced disappearances. A State Human Rights Commission inquiry in 2011, has confirmed there are thousands of bullet-ridden bodies buried in unmarked graves in Jammu and Kashmir. Of the 2730 bodies uncovered in 4 of the 14 districts, 574 bodies were identified as missing locals, which expose the false claim of the Indian government that all these graves belong to foreign militants. It was claimed by local and international human rights groups that the total number of unmarked graves was more than 6,000.

Under all international agreements and United Nations Security Council resolutions, Kashmir is not the internal matter of India or Pakistan. It is a disputed territory whose status is yet to be determined by its people. The Indian act abrogating these two articles is an open contravention of UN resolution #122 adopted on January 24, 1957; # 123 adopted on February 21, 1957 and # 126 adopted on December 2, 1957. These resolutions prohibit any unilateral action to change the disputed nature of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. It is also against Tashkent Declaration of 1966, Simla Agreement of 1972, and Lahore Declaration of 1999 between Pakistan and India.

It is beyond doubt that the longer the uncertainties continue and the longer the United Nations and world powers ignore Jammu & Kashmir, the more dangerous and intractable the crisis becomes in light of the fact that both Indian and Pakistan are nuclear powers. There is an urgent need for the international civil society to step in to initiate a campaign for supporting the liberation struggles of the Kashmiri people, in the light of the UN GA Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960 that the right to self-determination could not be proclaimed as fulfilled and that it did not involve only the political phase of decolonization. The principle of self-determination serves as legal support and target indicator of the struggles of peoples whose right to self-governance is at risk due to external and internal forces.

As the Modi Government’s current response to Kashmir shows that New Delhi has declared total war against the civilian population. The history of Indian counterinsurgency policy shows that this is not the first time the Indian state has used this policy of using massive force with impunity. The patterns of state and state-supported violence are repeated across time and space. The continuing crisis requires immediate diplomacy that recognizes the explosive situation on the ground in Jammu and Kashmir and takes immediate measures to avert it before it explodes.

The two webinars were held on Sunday 23 August 2020 and Saturday 29 August 2020. They were hosted by the Global Dialogue for a systemic change.

You can watch them at the following links:

First webinar:

Second webinar: