More than two-and-a-half years have elapsed since the Indian government abrogated article 35-A and 370 through a presidential order and revoked the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir. This was followed by barbaric measures like the implementation and enforcing of the new draconian laws, which gave occupation forces unfettered authority to kill, plunder and destroy. The Kashmiri population is numbed by these ferocious measures, and are yet to recover from the trauma. Thousands of youths as young as 15 years of age are languishing in Indian jails. The slightest suspicion of protest by Kashmiris leads to macabre violence like brutal killings, demolition of localities and molestation of their women folk. The silence of the international community is exasperating, and the world is oblivious about proactive Indian measures aimed at promoting demographic changes in the region. This has left Kashmiris dismayed, daunted and disconcerted to the extent that the independence movement appears to have lost steam. But those of us who have visited IOC (Indian occupied Kashmir), and have met the youth would agree that present situation is a “lull before the storm” and restiveness anytime can trigger violence that would have serious ramifications for the entire region. Without deviating from the main topic and due to limitations of space I would like to highlight some of the major steps that the Indian government is pursuing to achieve its nefarious objectives:
Huge influx of Hindus masquerading as tourists to Kashmir:
During the past decades Hindus from India would visit Amarnath temple in Kashmir for about two weeks in the middle of August. In the mid-nineties the Governor, appointed by the government of India, extended the visit of Hindu pilgrims up to two months and at present it has been stretched to three months. New religious sites are being discovered to maintain the flow of tourists throughout the whole year. Recently a holy lake in Ganderbal area of Srinagar was discovered and hundreds of thousands of Hindus flocked to the area to take a dip. At present Srinagar is inundated by Hindu visitors coming on one pretext or another. The majority of them are Hindu fundamentalist belonging to the lower middle class with vermilion on their forehead, ill-clad for the weather and with emaciated appearances. How such people can afford air travel or lengthy hotel stays is bewildering. The information that has percolated from reliable sources is that funds are being provided by the government agencies so that a continuous and unabated flow of pilgrims can be maintained. This will create a demand for building permanent abodes and huge chunks of land will be acquired for the purpose. This will contribute immensely to the change in the demographics of the region, which is a primary design of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.
Destroying employment opportunities:
Currently the rate of unemployment in Occupied Kashmir is 22.2 percent, which is significantly higher than India where, officially, it is 7.1 percent. Indian authorities are working assiduously to scuttle any prospects for job to trap the Kashmiri youth in an economic quagmire. Additionally, the government sponsored agencies are patronizing the drug trade and a large number of Kashmiri youth have fallen victim to this menace. The goal is to destroy the young generation to the extent that they are extricated from the freedom movement.
Removal of Kashmiri bureaucrats:
Kashmiri officers have been flushed out of the upper echelons of the bureaucracy and replaced by Hindu fundamentalist officials. One is hard-pressed to encounter a Kashmiri official at a high-level position, either in the civil services or the police. The goal is to appoint those Hindu officials who are highly motivated to fulfil the iniquitous agenda of the BJP government. Innocent people are massacred and civilian property destroyed, with the blessings of their political bosses, on a daily basis.
Occupation of Kashmiri land by the Indian Army:
About 4,301 lakh kanals of land in Occupied Kashmir is under the occupation of the Indian Army. Much of this land was used for agriculture and horticulture and provided an important source of livelihood for thousands of Kashmiris. Under the guise of security needs, the occupation forces can acquire any property or land without legal recourse for the owner. The intent is to deprive the Kashmiri population of their property rights and ultimately restrict them to ghettos.
Process of de-Islamisation:
There is a process of de-Islamisation going on in Kashmir at the behest of the BJP government. Major mosques are frequently locked by the occupation forces and Muslim religious activities like Muharram or Eidgah processions are banned. Conversely, Hindu festivals are celebrated with zeal and fervour, with the active participation of high officials and political leaders. There are workshops, seminars and camps conducted by the army in which school children are made to participate. Under the pretext of acquainting them with principles of co-existence, serious attempts are made to indoctrinate them with Hindu culture so that they are weaned away from Islam. Again, the aim is to destroy the Muslim character of the region and to allow Hinduism to prosper in its place.
Recently a feature film, Kashmir Files, was released in India. This movie was funded by the ruling BJP and aims to change the narrative of the Kashmir issue and influence moderate Hindus. The movie depicted the alleged murder of Kashmiri Hindus and rape of their women by Muslim freedom fighters. To implicate Muslims in these kinds of gruesome crimes is a total distortion of facts as none of that happened. In the government’s own report only 87 Kashmiri Hindus were killed and the majority of them accidently, in police shootouts. On the contrary, more than 100,000 Kashmiri youth have been massacred, 11,300 women gang raped, 3,000 mass graves and thousands of Kashmiri men are among the missing persons. The BJP government believes in Goebbel’s doctrine that if a lie is repeated consistently it becomes the truth. What India wants to achieve is to create a furore and mob frenzy so that all Muslims in general, and Kashmiris in particular, become soft targets for Hindu extremists, who receive patronage from the government.
The most regrettable part is that there is no strategy to counter the abominable game plan of India. Pakistan, which is considered to be life-line for the support of Kashmiri freedom movement, has exhibited a lackadaisical approach towards the problem. The country has failed to shun ad-hocism in their policies and discernible effects cannot be noticed. In fairness to Pakistan, it is possible that considering India’s political clout and somewhat antagonism of the West towards Muslim countries, tangible results for the Kashmir problem may not be easily achievable. Nevertheless, the absence of any pragmatic steps that could challenge the Indian narrative and draw the world’s attention to the crimes against humanity committed by the Indian forces, is vexing. The point to be noted is that the ‘Kashmir problem’ is part and parcel of the electoral process in India. Elections are won and lost on this issue, which finds space in the manifesto of all political parties. This is antithetical to Pakistani elections, where Kashmir is never included in the long- or short term objectives of any political party. Although Pakistan claims Kashmir to be the jugular vein, unfortunately, it is not the cornerstone of its foreign policy. What Kashmir is crying for is an expedient, practical and realistic approach for this protracted and incessant issue.
With Pakistan caught in its political crisis and lingering economic problems, it is heart wrenching to acknowledge that, in the present scenario, there appears to be no end to sight to the miseries of Kashmiris. It seems that the right of self-determination as promised by the United Nations Security Council to the people of Kashmir will remain a forgotten and unfulfilled agenda.