Sultan M Hali
WHILE India celebrated the 70th anniversary of its independence on August 15, 2017, the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) observed Black Day and boycotted Independence Day celebrations. For seventy years, both India and Pakistan have enjoyed the fruits of freedom but the people of IOK have been shackled in slavery. According to the Independence Act 1947, the subjects of princely states were asked to exercise their option of joining either India or Pakistan.
Kashmir was denied this privilege because on October 27, 1947, India sent its forces to occupy Kashmir illegally and coerce the Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh to sign the letter of accession in favour of India. Volunteers from Pakistan including some members of the armed forces tried to liberate Kashmir from the clutches of India. They succeeded in liberating one third of the Valley when then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru approached the UN Security Council for a ceasefire. The UN obliged and passed Resolutions according to which the people of Jammu and Kashmir were to exercise their option of joining either Pakistan or India through a UN sponsored plebiscite. India accepted the UN Resolutions on Kashmir but later reneged.
Pakistan and India went to war in 1965 and 1971 but the fate of the Kashmiris did not change. In 1989, discouraged by the lack of action on the UN Resolutions and continued subjugation by the Indian forces, IOK decided to raise the flag of freedom. India retaliated brutally, deploying more than 700,000 forces to crush the rebellion. Indian armed forces have unleashed such a reign of terror in IOK that to-date more than 100,000 innocent Kashmiris have been martyred, thousands of Kashmiri women have been raped while thousands of Kashmiris languish in Indian jails because they raised their voice for independence, which was guaranteed by UN Resolutions.
Astride the ramparts of New Delhi’s Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi marked the 70th anniversary of India’s Independence with a pack of lies. Addressing the Muslim-majority of IOK, Modi declared that conciliation was a better option than “bullets or abuses.” On July 08, 2016, popular youth leader Burhan Wani was brutally gunned down by Indian Army in IOK. When thousands of Kashmiris came out in the streets, they were shot at with pellet guns which mortally wounded 200 boys and have blinded more than 3,500 Kashmiri youth. There is no reconciliation towards the residents of IOK. In April 2017, an Indian Army Major, Nitin Gogoi forcibly tied a young Kashmiri to the bonnet of his jeep, using him as a human shield, paraded him through the streets of Srinagar. Human rights activist were aghast but adding insult to injury, instead of reprimanding Major Gogoi, he was awarded the Chief of Army Staff’s Commendation (COAS) card for “sustained efforts in CI (counter insurgency) operations.”
No wonder then that the residents of IOK hoisted the Pakistan flag on August 14 and observed August 15 as black day. Curfew was imposed in the Valley and Kashmiri leaders were placed under house arrest. Modi’s government is trying to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir from its constitution and amalgamate it into India, which is against international laws and UN resolutions. Narendra Modi also made a plea for religious tolerance. This is pathetic, because since the advent of the BJP government in June 2014, religious minorities in India as well as the low caste Dalit have been persecuted and murdered. Human rights activists and even ordinary citizens have demanded an end to the brutality being meted out to Indian minorities. Muslims have been lynched and murdered under the plea that they were selling or partaking beef. Cows are sacred to the Hindus.
Targeting minorities has become a norm in Narendra Modi’s BJP government. Modi, who is an active member of the Hindu fanatic group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since the age of eight, called upon his Hindutva mentors to support him during the 2014 general elections. After ensuring Modi’s success, RSS demanded its pound of flesh and Modi had no option but to place Hindu extremists and his compatriots in RSS on high positions in the government and follow an agenda of targeting Indian minorities, especially Muslims.
India is constitutionally a country which follows secularism and comprises citizens who do not demur in raising their voice against vigilantism and extremism. More than fifty Indian nationals, mostly octogenarians, who had been in the forefront of the freedom movement, returned their national awards to protest the rising radicalism, which is gnawing at the roots of India’s unity. This was followed by a group of 1,000 international litterateurs and academics including the renowned scholar Noam Chomsky and numerous other intellectuals, who signed a petition addressed to Narendra Modi to stop extremism and targeting Indian minorities, especially Muslims.
Since fanatic Hindus remain oblivious to the persecution of Indian minorities, sensitive human rights activists have organized the ‘Not in my name’ movement to question the pattern of the attacks on the minorities in the country and the silence of the government over the killings and cases of lynching of Muslims and Dalits. Indian military veterans have also picked up the cudgel on behalf of the minorities. The message to Narendra Modi is loud and clear. If he does not want the residents of IOK to hoist the Pakistan flag on Aug 14 and observe Aug 15 as Black Day, he must ensure that the Kashmiris get their rights assured by the UN Resolutions.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.
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Sultan M Hali