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Saturday, April 13, 2024

August Editorial Periscope: making sense of what is happening now in Kashmir

In this issue, Dr. Moeed Pirzada’s well-researched piece, “Kashmir, Gurdaspur, and Mountbatten” points out that design to forcibly take over  Kashmir was already there; he critically examines if Maharaja could have even thought of “accession” with India without the award of “Gurdaspur” to Indian Union in the Radcliffe Award of Aug 16, 1947.

August issue, of Global Village Space, remains dedicated to the human tragedy that continues to unfold in the Indian occupied Kashmir that saw a South Asian version of “Anschluss” on Aug 5, 2019. And through its diverse pieces, we attempt to make sense of what is happening now in Kashmir, connecting it with what had happened 70 years ago.

While “Anschluss”, for good reasons, remains an ugly word in human consciousness, what is happening in Indian illegally occupied Kashmir is far worse, absolutely frightening and perhaps unparalleled in modern history. When on Mar 12 1938, German Wehrmacht marched into Austria, it was doing an illegality and defying international order, but it received a rousing welcome on streets.

And the plebiscite that followed in April – yielding 99% approval – was no doubt a Nazi chimaera managed through thuggery and fraud, but the fact remains that Germans had massive support on the ground.

Modi’s Hindutva forces on the contrary – with million-armed men surrounding less than five million Kashmiri adults can still not imagine arranging even a fake welcome or “show plebiscite” – even for PR purposes.

In most parts of the valley even after one-year curfew-like situation prevails. Thousands – including legislators, journalists, lawyers, academics, businessmen and students have remained incarcerated over the last 12 months, almost 300 Kashmiris have been shot in the first seven months of 2020, thousands of acres of land is being grabbed by Indian army and other state institutions and a relentless process of bringing demographic change – through new domicile laws – is being pushed with the abrogation of 35-A and Art. 370.

Given total control on information flows from the occupied territory, very little of this tyranny can be revealed to the world. From Pakistan, even talking to a Kashmiri journalist can land him in a detention centre – few are willing to take the risk.

Modi’s Hindutva controlled India is all set to muzzle and convert Kashmiris into a minority in the land of their ancestors. Every conqueror is bad; but in case of occupied valley and adjoining areas goal appears to regress Kashmiris step by step, into proverbial “Red Indians”.

The stage for this “final solution” has been carefully set over the past two decades when after 9/11 Kashmiri insurgents and their supporters from across Pakistan were accepted as “terrorists” by a Washington led world willing to ignore ground realities because of its strategic interests.

Pakistan under intense international pressure – mainly from the US and its allies – squeezed and shut down all potential avenues of support to the Kashmiris that were struggling against increasing repression. New Delhi lectured the world – that was willing to believe – that how all problems in Kashmir are due to cross border interference.

Delhi’s real challenges emanated from the manner in which 80% Muslim majority state was forcibly and fraudulently merged into Indian Union against the flow of its history, its sense of identity and natural principles of justice -as explained in-depth by Dr Moeed Pirzada in, “Kashmir, Gurdaspur and Mountbatten”.

By 1989, when a full-blown insurgency emerged in occupied Kashmir, New Delhi had run short of political options. But something else also happened. Kashmiris assertion of their separate identity had run parallel with the rise of Hindutva consciousness across India that, from the 1980s onwards, started to define India as a “Hindu Rashtra”.

Ram Janmabhomi movement’s final culmination in the demolition of Babri mosque in 1992 helps explain this massive transformation.

On Aug 5, 2020, when Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of Ram Mandir on the site of demolished Babri mosque syncing it with the first anniversary of “Kashmir’s Anschluss” he was deliberately sending a message to Kashmiris, Indian Muslims and his Hindutva supporters.

Washington led the world, irrespective of its strategic goals, expected New Delhi to fix things once Pakistan stopped supporting Kashmiri freedom struggle. In all humility, one may conclude that western governments, media and think tanks were unable to grasp the real challenge in Kashmir – and how problem lied in the “DNA” of Indian control over Kashmiri lives and identity.

Now when New Delhi – under its new Hindutva masters – has unmasked its real face and intentions, there is no one around to honestly admit that they were fooled because they wanted to be fooled.

Yes! There have been rumblings in the UN system, human right organizations have shown some concern, liberal media in the US and the UK write more often on Kashmir, civil activists across India do tweet, Arundhati Roy has exhausted her vocal cords, and Pakistanis have done a lot of impotent chest-thumping.

PM Imran Khan has repeatedly coaxed Muslim world to take a strong position from OIC’s platform – apparently, this has strained his country’s relations with powerful Saudi friends who claim leadership of the Muslim world but want the Ummah to remain silent because of their commercial interests in Delhi.

Bottom line is: with a strategic relationship with Trump’s Washington, trade ties with most of the world and arms buying bonhomie with those hypocrites who had lectured the world of “Liberte, Égalité and fraternite”, Modi’s medieval India is marching ahead with something that could not have been expected at the beginning of 21st century.

Yet, what is happening should disturb all civilized human beings. Between 2005 and 2011, thousands of mass graves were discovered only in three districts of occupied Kashmir. These were soon identified to be young Kashmiri men killed in fake encounters by Indian forces and buried in unmarked graves as terrorists.

An uproar led to investigations that were soon shelved. But the macabre strategy was not new. In August of 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir, with active help from Maharajas of Patiala and Kapurthala, unleashed ethnic cleansing and forced migration of his Muslim subjects in Jammu – resulting in almost half a million deaths changing the composition of Jammu’s population forever.

The goal of this terrorism was to create an enabling environment for the accession of his princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (almost 80% Muslim) with Hindu India prompting tribal incursion from the erstwhile NWFP.

These “Raiders in Kashmir” provided the pretext for Mountbatten’s controversial “Instrument of Accession”; in this issue, Pirzada’s well-researched piece, “Kashmir, Gurdaspur and Mountbatten” points out that design to forcibly take over  Kashmir was already there; he critically examines if Maharaja could have even thought of “accession” with India without the award of “Gurdaspur” to Indian Union in the Radcliffe Award of Aug 16, 1947.

This detailed article puts under a microscope the popularly held belief that Maharaja Hari Singh wanted to stay independent in 1947. This piece helps understand the outright thuggery that was then employed to seize and forcibly occupy a Muslim population against the principles mutually agreed for the partition of British India – leaving deep wounds that finally resurfaced in the insurgency of 1989.

While international law expert, Hassan Aslam Shad, considers Pakistan’s new political map (showing all of Jammu and Kashmir and the state of Junagadh as Pakistan) a masterstroke, historian Dr. Bangash disagrees.

In a thoroughly well-researched piece, a tour de force, Dr. Yaqoob Khan Bangash, author of “A Princely Affair: Accession and Integration of Princely States of Pakistan” points out that both India and Pakistan in the last 12 months have issued seriously flawed maps. Notwithstanding their political considerations, they needed to show a better understanding of geography and history.

Dr. Bangash points out that the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir only had suzerainty over “Gilgit Wazarat” and not on the larger Gilgit Agency – thus Hunza, Nagar, Chilas, Koh Ghizr, Ishkoman, Yasin and state of Punial were never part of the state of J&K and maintained direct relations with British India; he argues that at least Pakistani cartographers should have known it.

Justice Manzoor Gilani who studied and practised law in Srinagar before moving to Azad Kashmir in 1976 reminds his readers that 35-A was brought in by Maharaja in 1927 to address the concerns of Kashmiri Pandits who wanted to preserve their privileged position by restricting the entry of professional classes into the state – mostly fear of Punjabi Muslims and then after 1950 it was something Pandits detested, and now its abrogation is being used to change state’s demographics – by tempering into the legal concept of “state subject”.

Saad Rasool, though a legal mind, brings in a totally different perspective. He points out how the fascism unleashed by BJP, RSS and VHP under Modi is, in turn, hurting India’s image, its political cohesion and regional relations. RSS and BJP have taken most Indians on such an emotional roller coaster that they might not have realized how the hatred unleashed by Modi is affecting Indian social and political fabric.

Hindustan has never been a nation-state; it’s a multi-national, multi-religious and multi-ethnic mosaic and the fanaticism unleashed by Modi and his cohorts to force a single monolithic identity upon one-fifth of humanity is affecting India as was demonstrated during the Anti-CAA riots.

Pakistan has never witnessed a moment of respite since June 2014 when Modi’s BJP took power – but in the last 12 months, Delhi has seen increasing strains with China, Nepal, Iran and even Bangladesh. Will this realization help Indian intelligentsia to correct course is not clear.

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