The boiling cauldron of Kashmir


Sultan M Hali

THE people of Indian Illegally occupied Kashmir (IIOK), trapped in lockdown, barbed wires and military barricades, are seething with anger a year after the forced lockdown. It has been more than a year since Jammu and Kashmir lost its special status and was annexed into the Indian territory. Amit Shah, the Indian Interior Minister, who is currently recuperating after having contracted COVID-19, perhaps a curse from the Kashmiris, announced the deathblow on 5 August 2019, in the Indian Parliament. A day earlier, the Kashmiris, huddled in fear were watching swathes of Indian military unrolling spool after spool of concertina wire, barricading houses, roads and streets, to incarcerate the hapless Kashmiris.
A year on, the Kashmiris have survived, at least the lucky ones. Scores have been bayoneted or shot for protesting or even venturing out for food. Who can forget the little boy tearfully sitting astride the dead body of his grandfather, who had been shot dead by the brutal Indian military for being out of his house? The world itself got engrossed in the aftermath of the global pandemic COVID-19 and human rights organizations put Kashmir on the backburner. The forced lockdown imposed by harried governments, should have made feel the world the pain and angst of the Kashmiris but they were too busy shedding tears on their own plight while IIOK suffered a double lockdown. Kashmir lost not just the Articles 370 or 35-A, it got gobbled up by a power hungry megalomaniac regime that wants to crush the Muslims in India and teach them a lesson.
They rationalize that Muslims ruled India for 470 years so they should now be taught a lesson. They forget that the Muslims ruled India judiciously, letting them practise their religion freely. Many Hindus rose to high positions during the reign of Muslims. The bigoted regime of Narendra Modi is blinded by odium and enforcing its Hindutva ideology, it is executing a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Mosques are being demolished to make way for Hindu temples. Cities named after Moghul Emperors are being changed to Hindu ones. The historic Babri Mosque, which was razed to the ground in 1992 has been declared as the site for a Hindu Temple. Modi chose the date of August 5 to launch the construction. The abrogation of Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution, paved the way for Hindus to be settled into the Valley of Kashmir. Domicile certificates are being doled out by the dozens to enable non-Kashmiris to acquire land, property, jobs admission in higher educational institutions and ownership of land.
The process started with monumental speed in pursuit of altering the demography of J&K, which till a year ago was the only Muslim majority state in India, but now stands demoted and divided into two union territories. Stories of trauma, sufferings, helplessness and monumental despair largely remain hidden from the gaze. But, rarely do memories of atrocity get buried forever. They continue to feed and fuel the volcano. The prospects of demographic flooding are locally engendering fears of the current dispensation in New Delhi replicating the Israeli model to subjugate the Muslims, while the rest become collateral damage. Kashmir may, however, shape differently from the Israeli West Bank. And, not because Kashmir’s calm can be confused for reconciliation.
The present calm essentially stems from use of excessive and novel means of repression including inducement of psychological terror. The absence of civil liberties, anxieties of demographic change and a feeling of impotence could gradually inspire a rebellion. The early signs are already visible. Though the officials maintain that militancy is being decimated and several top rebel leaders have been killed (among 120 freedom fighters in the first half of 2020), many continue to wield the gun. The number could well be on the rise. Kashmiris have braved atrocities, barbarism and repression since 1846. Ironically Kashmir’s history is striated with dates that bring forth grief: 1931, 1939, 1946, 1947, 1975, 1989, 1996, 2000, 2002, 2019, 2020. Right from July 31, 1931 — when the movement against the repressive Maharaja began with the killing of 22 Kashmiris outside the Central Jail in Srinagar — up to August 5, 2019 — when the entire Kashmiri leadership was packed off to the same Central Jail (when jails over-flowed, overnight thousands were put on transport planes and flown a thousand miles away to prisons on the mainland) — its dateline is replete with agony — which will surely reach a boiling point.
The cauldron is reaching a boiling point and Modi is culpable of the heinous rape of Kashmir. This time around, the Kashmiris will not sit still. In 1962, when the Chinese had given a sound thrashing to the Indians, Chinese troops advanced over Indian forces in two theatres, capturing Rezang La in Chushul in the western theatre, as well as Tawang in the eastern theatre. The war ended when China declared a ceasefire on 20 November 1962, and simultaneously announced its withdrawal to its claimed “Line of Actual Control”. The time was ripe for Pakistan to advance towards India-Occupied Kashmir and liberate it but the then Pakistani ruler Ayub Khan suffered from cold feet and the opportunity was lost. This time, opportunity beckons again. Because of Indian adventurism, Chinese troops have advanced in the Ladakh region and given a sound thrashing to Indian soldiers. The moment is ripe to liberate Kashmir from the illegal clutches of India if only Pakistan has the gall to take the initiative.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.