Kashmir and the reality of ethnic cleansing

With India scrapping Article 370, it won’t only be military that will persecute Kashmiris but also ordinary citizens

Dr Moonis Ahmar August 30, 2019
(Photo: REUTERS)

Following the unilateral Indian act to revoke the special status of India-occupied Kashmir (IOK), Pakistan is repeatedly warning the world of predictable genocide and ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the occupied state by Indian occupation forces as well as the RSS and Shiv Sena thugs. At stake is the survival of 9 million Kashmiri Muslims living under Indian detention since August 5th. Revocation of Articles 370 and 35(A) under the Presidential Order “Reorganization of Jammu & Kashmir” tends to remove the last hitch in transforming the Muslim majority in the occupied region into a minority.

Genocide Watch has warned of ethnic, religious and racial cleansing of Kashmiri Muslims by the Indian military and paramilitary. Recent human history is replete with examples of how the instrument of organised rape of women from occupied territories was used and how the defiant population was massacred by the military. Rape was used as an instrument of state policy in former Yugoslavia by the Serbian forces against Bosnian Muslim women during the 1990s; by the military of Myanmar against Rohingya Muslim women in 2017; and now by the Indian military against Kashmiri Muslim women.

The Indian state has failed to learn lessons from the policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing which was pursued in the past by militaries in different parts of the world. India must understand the lesson of the history that despite its 800,000-strong armed force, it will not be able to crush the nine million Kashmiri Muslims who are facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the form of curfews, communication lockdown and shortage of essential commodities, including medicines.

According to a news report “The Indian Troll Army’s Obsession with Rape” by C J Werleman published in TRT World, “The Indian military has already demonstrated its willingness to use rape, sodomy, and torture as an ‘instrument of control’ in Kashmir, as documented in a 560-page report submitted to the United Nations. With India scrapping Article 370, it won’t only be the military that will persecute the Kashmiri people, but also ordinary Indian citizens if threats made by Indian politicians and Hindu nationalist online trolls are carried out.” The most dangerous aspect of the policy of genocide through ethnic cleansing and mass rapes by the Indian military is the patronage it gets from the government and ultra-Hindu nationalists who are desperate to change the demographic complexion of the Valley by allowing mass rape of Kashmiri Muslim women under state patronage.

One can examine, from three angles, the policy of the Indian state to humiliate and degrade Kashmiri Muslims by raping their women. Firstly, the so-called euphoria has prevailed after 5th August among Hindu Indian men for now being able to settle, buy property and marry Kashmiri women. On August 10th the Chief Minister of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, an old diehard Hindu nationalist, openly suggested men from his state to acquire wives from Kashmir. He stated in his speech, “Now some people say, Kashmir is open, they [brides] will be brought from there. But jokes apart, if [gender] ratio is improved, then there will be a right balance in society.” He was heavily criticised by Indian gender-based and human rights organisations for such an irresponsible statement promoting sexual instincts among Hindu men desperate to find a bride from Kashmir. For some Indian nationals, it is a lifetime opportunity to permanently settle in J&K, own a property and vote in local assembly elections. The dangerous part of that euphoria is the thinking which is prevailing among ultra-Hindu nationalists to transform the demographic complexion of the Muslim majority valley of Kashmir by displacing local population and forcing others to migrate to AJK.

Secondly, with time voices of dissent and anger are also being raised in India today against excesses committed in J&K and the vicious plan of the Indian state in collaboration with the military to punish Kashmiri Muslims by degrading their honour. The use of rape as a weapon by the Indian state will further augment hatred against India amongst the Kashmiri Muslim population and as evident in similar cases of the past, New Delhi will have no goodwill or soft corner even among moderate Kashmiris. When Rahul Gandhi, along with Ghulam Nabi Azad and leaders of eight other opposition parties, were stopped by the Indian military to exit the Srinagar Airport, one can understand the gravity of the situation. A month of unabated atrocities against unarmed Kashmiri Muslims is enough to fill their hearts and minds with anger and hate against India. Only the Indian public’s opinion, by breaking its silence, can help reverse the August 5th J&K Presidential Order. Are the Indian pro-democracy and secular forces aware that under the cover of cordon, siege and search operations conducted at night, the sanctity and honour of the Kashmiri Muslim women have been violated? Rapists and thugs of the RSS and Shiv Sena are sent to the Valley to humiliate the Kashmiri population by targeting Muslim women? Acts of rape, killings, torture and the use of pallet guns against innocent Kashmiris are being documented and when India will withdraw from the Valley, it will not be able to have any influence there for several generations.

Thirdly, in a situation when the Kashmiri Muslims under the Indian occupation are facing the worst kind of human rights’ violations, it is high time for Pakistan to practically support them. When in March 1971, the Pakistani state launched a military operation against the pro-Awami League Bengali population, India exploited the situation and assisted the freedom movement in then East Pakistan by directly intervening militarily. Should we not come out of our comfort zones and lead the resistance against the Indian occupation of the Valley?

If India is able to get away with its illegal acts of August 5th and silence the Kashmiri Muslims revolt for good, the blame will be on Pakistan for leaving the beleaguered Kashmiris in the lurch. Pakistan’s poor economy, evils of corruption, nepotism and bad governance along with the government’s vendetta against opposition leaders will not help render practical support to the persecuted Kashmiri Muslims in IOK. Kashmir cannot be liberated from the Indian occupation by mere slogans or protest marches, it needs enormous sacrifices from Pakistan in the real sense.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2019.

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