Raja Muhammad Sajjad Khan
KASHMIR is an internationally recognized disputed area and conflict is an international armed conflict. The constitutional coup on 5 August 2019 is not only a piece of legislation that was introduced and implemented but it had increased the sufferings of the people of IOJK. Before introducing this bill in the Indian Parliament on 4th August 2019 all telephone networks and internet services were shut down. There were almost 800,000 Indian forces stationed in IOJK, besides these forces, additional forces were deployed. Political leadership and activists were put behind the bars or under house arrest. From 5 August curfew was imposed, communication was blocked and businesses were forcefully closed by the forces. For the last one year, IOJK has been under strict lockdown and after COVID-19 the people are facing double lockdown.
On 5 August 2019 estimated 8.8 million mobiles were blocked and over 6,600 people including 144 children were arrested. Pro-freedom leadership including Muhammad Yasin Malik, Shabbir Ahmad Shah, Masarrat Aalam Butt, Syeda Aasiya Andrabi, Nahida Nasreen, Fahmida Sofi, Mian Abdul Qayoom, Nayeem Ahmad Khan, Mohammad Aiyaz Akbar, Altaf Ahmad Shah, Peer Saifullah, Mehrajudin Kalwal, Farooq Ahmad Dar, Dr Abdul Hameed Fayaz, Maulana Mushtaq Veeri, Abdul Samad Inqilabi, Abdul Ahad Parra, Muhammad Yosuf Mir, Muhammad Rafiq Gania, Feroz Ahmad Khan, Dr Qasim Fakhtoo, Muhammad Ahsan Untoo, Zahoor Watali, Syed Shahid Yousuf Shah, Syed Shakeel Yousuf Shah, Maulana Sarjan Barkati, Bashir Ahmad Querishi, Hayat Ahmad and Asif Sultan were arrested. Syed Ali Gillani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq are under house arrest. Even the pro-Indian political leadership and former chief ministers were put behind bars.
The Kashmiri prisoners were shifted in different jails of India. In January 2020 internet service was restored but was limited to 2G. During the last one year, Kashmiri industry suffered a loss of 5.3 billion US dollars. The fruit industry suffered a lot, 1.35 lakh metric tons of fruit got spoiled due to restrictions on transport. Almost 1.5 people earning through transport are jobless. Almost half million people had lost their jobs. The educational institutions are closed and 1.5 million students are without education. According to a report published by KMS, the Indian troops had martyred 192 Kashmiris including 4 women during the last 11 months, at least 1326 people were critically injured due to the use of brute force including firing of bullets, pellets and teargas shells by Indian military, paramilitary and police personnel on peaceful demonstrators and mourners in the territory. The report revealed that these killings rendered 9 women widowed and 22 children orphaned.
The troops damaged over 935 houses and structures and molested or disgraced 77 women during the cordon and search operations across the occupied territory in the period. Indian forces are continuously targeting civilian population on the ceasefire line areas of Azad Kashmir. In the last six months, 13 civilians (six male and seven female) were martyred, 125 injured and 228 houses were damaged by unprovoked shelling of Indian forces. According to reports of JKCCS during this period at least 302 Cordon and Search Operations (CASOs) and Cordon and Destroy Operations (CADO’s) were conducted. The Indian forces are using COVID lock down to suppress people of Kashmir. FIRs against 2303 people defying the lockdown rules were registered in one month, of these, 1691 were arrested in Kashmir. Apart from arresting people, 1295 shops and vehicles were also seized for defying lockdown. 396 police officers and personnel were awarded commendation certificates and monetary rewards for their handling of COVID-19. No such rewards have been given to any doctors or paramedical staff. After the lockdown due to outbreak of COVID-19 was announced, the medical staff in IOJK increasingly came under attack of Indian army while visiting localities for conducting tests.
India is using different tactics to suppress the struggle of people of IOJK for the right to self-determination. This constitutional coup is the replication of Israel’s model and it is a blatant violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. The new domicile law could permanently alter the demography of the disputed region and 17.4 lakh non-Kashmiris can certainly acquire domicile rights. The Indian government had decided to begin the delimitation (redrawing of boundaries) of electoral constituencies on the basis of area and not population, which is likely to give Hindu-majority Jammu more seats, will reshape the local political dynamics. BJP is also proposing to fill 24 seats reserved for AJK, GB and Ladakh by fielding Hindu and Sikh refugees from AJK settled in Jammu. Indian Government is using COVID-19 as an opportunity to fulfil its desires to change the demography of Kashmir, the decisions of enforcement of new domicile law, new construction policy and delimitation of constituencies were taken during COVID. International community should play a meaningful role and take practical steps to stop genocide and demographic changes in Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. — Concluded.
—The writer is PhD (Law) Scholar at IIU, Islamabad.