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With World’s Attention on Pandemic, India Tightens Grip on Jammu and Kashmir

Last week, New Delhi announced another controversial law which prescribes the procedure for issuance of a domicile certificate, which is a mandatory requirement for seeking jobs in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJK).

The new residency rules of ‘Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure), 2020’ allows those who have lived in IOJK for 15 years or studied there for seven years to apply for Kashmir residency.

Islamabad condemned and rejected the Indian government’s new attempt and said it is illegal and contravenes international law. As the recent step to change the demography of the disputed region, Jammu and Kashmir, India’s new move will further deprive the people of IOJK of their rights on their own lands.

The new law is also a clear violation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, international laws, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan.

The Kashmiri people have been struggling for 73 years since the day the British decided to end their 200-year rule on the Indian subcontinent and divide it into two separate nations: Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India. The process of partition in question was not simply because in addition to the British-controlled territories, the subcontinent also consisted of about 550 sovereign princely states ruled by local monarchs and other territories under French, Portuguese, or Omani rule. Kashmir is the sole unfinished agenda of partition and the only region of British India that has not become a part of one of the two countries or gained independence.

The Kashmiri crisis was one of the first issues brought to the U.N. in 1948 in the post-World War II era. It has been 72 years since the Kashmir dispute was first debated in the U.N., but a solution has yet to be reached. Actually, it was India that first went to the U.N. Security Council on Jan. 1, 1948. Through Security Council Resolution 39, the U.N. Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP), an observation mission, was established to investigate the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

On April 21, 1948, Security Council Resolution 47 was adopted concerning the Kashmir conflict. Accordingly, the UNCIP was mandated to arrange for a plebiscite: The Kashmiris were going to decide their future – either they would accede to Pakistan or India.

Even though Security Council resolutions are legally binding and remain on the Security Council’s agenda, India was belligerent, refused to cooperate and blocked the implementation of the plebiscite. Today, there are 11 Security Council resolutions for a free and impartial plebiscite under which the Kashmiri people could decide their own future. However, India doesn’t just block the way but also uses violent methods to continue its illegal occupation in Kashmir.

On Aug. 5, 2019, India had revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which granted Kashmir a special status and put IOJK under total lockdown, which is still ongoing after months. Following the strict measures taken due to the coronavirus pandemic, IOJK is in a lockdown within lockdown today.

Article 370, along with Article 35A, established special status for the disputed territory and defined a separate set of laws for the Kashmiri people in IOJK. They include limited citizenship, ownership of property and fundamental rights of the current residents of Jammu and Kashmir, which are critical for a plebiscite that has been held under the U.N.’s auspices. Due to this law, Indian citizens from other states could not purchase land or property in Jammu and Kashmir. It is all about to change now as India keeps following its illegal annexation agenda and setting new rules after revoking Article 370.

In 2014, India’s incumbent prime minister Narendra Modi pledged to integrate the state of Jammu and Kashmir into India as a part of his Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) propaganda for the 2014 general election. The BJP, along with its parent organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) movement, a Hindu nationalist group, attempted the abrogation of Article 370 after the election. In October 2015, however, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir ruled that Article 370 cannot be “abrogated, repealed, or even amended.” On April 3, 2018, the Supreme Court of India handed down a similar decision, declaring that Article 370 has acquired permanent status.

But in 2019, as part of the BJP’s election promise for the 2019 general elections, Modi once again promised to integrate the state of Jammu and Kashmir into India. At the end of the day, India revoked Article 370 on Aug. 5 last year and illegally annexed Jammu and Kashmir through a series of far-reaching measures. Deployment of further 190,000 additional troops made the number of Indian occupation forces in Jammu and Kashmir 700,000 then. And today, Jammu and Kashmir the most militarized zone and largest prison in the world.

The RSS, established in 1925, was and still is an extremist right-wing, Hindu nationalist and a volunteer paramilitary organization. Mahatma Gandhi’s murderer, Nathuram Vinayak Godse, was a member of the RSS. The RSS was banned after Gandhi’s assassination. However, the far-right organization got directly involved in politics and founded a political party, Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), the predecessor of the BJP. In the 1930s and ’40s, the BJS adopted the Hindu version of nationalism.

The RSS still stands today, and it is the world’s largest voluntary organization. Its political extension, the BJP party is the largest political party in the world. Narendra Modi, who is the first prime minister outside of the Indian National Congress, is a member of the RSS.

The RSS’ political philosophy is based on the principles of “Hindutva” that means the supremacy of a religious-ethnic Hindu state and implementation of hardcore Hindu principles. Hindutva is not Hinduism, but “Hindudom”. Hindutva’s motto is “Hinduizing all politics and militarizing Hindudom.” The members of the RSS believe in racial purity, racial superiority. They also believe they are an Aryan race. Golwalkar, the RSS’s second Sarsanghchalak (Supreme Leader), said in his book “Bunch of Thought,” which focused on Hindu nationalism, “[Nazi] Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.”

Hindutva is an oppressive and extremist ideology of imposing the supremacy of Hindus over the millions of people of other religions such as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism as well as other minorities. It is also a threat to Sikhism. Today, in India, around 200 million Muslims, 30 million Christians and other minorities are treated as second-class people.

Modi’s first term as India’s prime minister marked years of increasing lynching of Muslims, Christians, and other minorities by far-right Hindu mobs. Since his second term started, almost every day, we see the same violence on the streets of India. Besides, there is increased Hindu violence against the Kashmiris in the IOJK. The U.N. Human Rights Council has condemned the human rights violations committed by India in IOJK many times. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet asked for access to the IOJK through two reports in 2018 and 2019, highlighting excessive use of force and pellet guns, use of torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and rape as an instrument of suppression.

The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons and the Jammu and Kashmir coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) released a report, “Torture: Indian State’s instrument of control,” and revealed that there have been more than 500 cases of water boarding, electrocution, dunking detainees’ head in water mixed with chili powder, beating with sticks and burning with rods, heaters and cigarette butts in the IOJK. International human rights organizations have launched solidarity campaigns with Kashmir people, condemning the revocation of the resolution on Aug. 5, 2019, while Hindu nationalists celebrated the illegal act. Genocide Watch voiced alerts last year.

Since 1989, over 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed by Indian occupied forces. According to official figures, out of these, more than 7,130 people have been murdered in Indian custody, 109,380 structures have been destroyed, 22,910 women have been widowed, 107,775 children have been orphaned and more than 11,125 women have been raped and gang-raped by Indian occupation forces. More than 7,000 unnamed mass graves have been discovered with thousands of victims of fake encounters. Indian occupied forces have picked up underage children in the middle of the night, according to the witnesses. Some 10,255 Kashmiri youth have been injured due to deliberate use of pellet rounds.

Today, the humanitarian nightmare in the IOJK is worsening day by day. Emboldened by international silence towards its illegal annexation agenda and motivated by ideological compulsions, Indian aggression is increasing systematically. The emergency situation in the IOJK requires urgent humanitarian organizations to play a role in this regard.

It is disappointing to see that India is not the only one closing the doors on any solution, but the U.N. seems to be doing the same today. The silence of the U.N. and the ineffectiveness of the U.N. Security Council is just further evidence of the problematic structure of the organization, which has failed to fulfill its claims to protect global peace in many conflict zones. The apathy of the world and non-implementation of Security Council resolutions have paved the way for Kashmiris to take up arms opposing India’s brutality, and India subsequently used the tragedy of 9/11 as an opportunity to label the Kashmiri struggle for freedom as a form of terrorism.

Sadly, the world was ready to buy it. Regardless, the fact that both Pakistan and India are nuclear powers should scare the U.N. enough to compel them to get involved in the Kashmir conflict. The two countries, which have already gone to war three times, now have nuclear weapons to contend with, and the subcontinent is heating up again.

Merve Şebnem Oruç is an award-winning Turkish journalist and columnist for Daily Sabah and HABER. She is on Twitter here.