By Sharon Zea Rincon, Blog writer

As of August 5th, the Jammu and Kashmir, a region administered by India that has seen relentless conflict for the past 70 years, was stripped of its autonomy by India. Fighting began when India and Pakistan became independent in 1947 and both wanted control over Jammu and Kashmir. The majority of citizens in Jammu are Hindus while the majority of the Kashmir population is predominantly Muslim. When the Hindu Maharaja chose to be independent, Pakistan sent in militia causing the Maharaja to accede to India. India and Pakistan have argued over who has claim to the land leading to Resolution 47 of 1948 by the UN Security Council — which mandated Pakistan to remove militia and India to reduce the presence of their armed forces. However, most indigenous Kashmiri desire the right to self-determination and autonomy and fought for that right in 1984 only to be crushed by Indian forces. Shortly after, fighting between Kashmir Muslims and Hindus intensified while the Indian military targeted and killed Kashmir Muslims. According to the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, there have been over 70,000 killings as of 2016

The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi justified his actions by stating that it would end separatism and reduce terrorism in Kashmir. He also stated that Kashmiris would be given better access to education, health care, and employment and that in the future, they would be able to elect their own representatives. The region has now been split into two and is governed by New Delhi. A state of emergency was declared and all tourists and foreign students were ordered to evacuate. To cover up any recent or protests, the government has cut off all communication between Kashmir and the rest of the world by removing all internet and telephone lines. A strict curfew has been put in place and those who break it have been arrested or killed. The Indian government has sent approximately 38,000 troops to the Kashmir Valley to enforce these new changes. Children who were protesting were placed in state custody for reform programs, which directly violates the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child. Over 20,000 Kashmiris are currently under house arrest and numerous people have gone missing. To lessen the reported death count, doctors have been ordered to refuse treatment to people injured by the Indian army or to discharge them immediately. Death certificates are allegedly not being issued.

The actions of the Indian government are effectively working to remove Kashmiri culture and land autonomy. The United Nations Rights of Indigenous People requires the Indian government to involve the Kashmiri people in important decisions that affect them since Kashmiris are identified as sovereign indigenous people under the Free, Prior, Informed Consent principle. The Kashmiris were not given a chance to voice their opinion on this matter and were stripped of their autonomy and land without a say. Additionally, the UN resolution in 1948 stated that Kashmiris had the right to self-determination, although at that time it was on whether or not to assent to India or Pakistan. In 1949, Article 370 was established, which officially declared Kashmir as a semi-autonomous constitutional region. This status granted them independence in all issues except for defense, communications, and foreign affairs. Now that India has revoked Article 370, non-Kashmiris are allowed to buy and settle on Kashmir land, which was previously forbidden under the Kashmiri constitution. This is seen as an attempt to insert a larger Hindu population into Kashmir to combat Kashmiri and Muslim dominance in the area. 

There is an underlying anti-Muslim sentiment beneath all of these events. Not only do Kashmiri people deviate from the cultural norms in India and speak a different language they also differ in religion. Most people in Kashmir practice Islam while 80% of the population in India identify as Hindu. Many Indians resent the dominance of Muslims in Kashmir and the difference in religion has led to communal tensions. This mentality and deliberate use of military force to reduce the Muslim citizens of Kashmir has been occurring for years. The Indian government has massacred thousands of Muslim Kashmiris since 1947. There is already a deep divide between Hindus and Muslim citizens so arrests and murders with no explanation by the military is worsening relationships between the two groups. Prime Minister Modi refers to these actions as part of a goal to end terrorism and bring wealth to Kashmir. Both leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which the Prime Minister is a part of have referred to the occupation of Kashmir as a “Final Solution” which alludes to violent imagery and evokes fear for the wellbeing of the people of Kashmir. 

Already India’s behaviour resembles several of the ten stages of genocide outlined by the International Alliance to End Genocide. The ten steps which typically occur include classificiation, symbolization, discrimination, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, persecution, extermination, and denial. Thus far, Kashmiri Muslims and Hindu and Sikh Indians have been categorized into two groups leading to an “us versus them” mentality in the region. Discrimination is prevalent as Kashmiri citizens have been systemically denied access to proper education and healthcare amongst other things by the government. Muslim citizens have been dehumanized and labelled as terrorists or criminals for belonging to their religious group. 

The rights Kashmiris once held as citizens of India and as recognized sovereign Indigenous people have been violated by the Indian government. The safety of Kashmiris is now at risk. The Canadian government should warn the Indian government not to kill more Kashmiris before the situation further escalates. This situation must be disarmed because there is also the threat of a war between Pakistan and India over Jammu and Kashmir. Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, has written about the severity of the situation in the New York Times stating that India must take their troops out of Kashmir and engage in conversation with all stakeholders including Kashmiri representatives. Until then, Pakistan and India grow closer to nuclear war over this issue. Mr. Khan asks for the international community to condemn the actions of India to prevent further deaths in this already dangerous situation. World leaders must speak up against the atrocities and repression in Kashmir, and Canada should step up and stand with the Kashmiris citizens. 

To read more about STAND Canada’s policy recommendations, click here!

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