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Colonialism in Kashmir

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While the world is still busy combating the Corona epidemic, India has been slowly but surely enforcing settler colonialism in Kashmir, since renouncing its special semi-autonomous status and bifurcating the disputed region into two union territories in August 2019. At stake is not just the legal personality but also the demographic character of the contested state of Jammu and Kashmir and ethno-religious identity of its majority-Muslim people, writes Ishtiaq Ahmad.

Jammu and Kashmir is a UN-mandated international dispute. The UN Security Council has passed several resolutions that call for the holding of a free and fair plebiscite to determine the political aspirations of the Kashmiri people. This makes self-determination an inalienable right of the Kashmiris. Therefore, by revoking Article 370 of the Constitution, which granted the state of Jammu and Kashmir the special status, and then dividing and annexing it, India has violated its international obligations on the dispute.

The fact that Article 35-A was also revoked alongside Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is more worrisome. This is where both the scale and impact of India’s unilateral action on Kashmiri's demography and identity become quite obvious. Since August 2019, the Hindu nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken successive steps, blatantly in the cover of the COVID-19 pandemic that is symptomatic of its settler-colonial intent.

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Simply put, Article 35-A defined who could be the resident of the disputed region and allowed only them the right to own and buy property as well as have privileges with regard to employment and education. With this constitutional protection gone, the Kashmiri land is up for grabs.

Settler colonialism entails displacing the indigenous people and replacing them with the outside settlers. Israel has done this with the Palestinians in the past century and Australia with the aboriginals in the previous one. India is the latest entrant in the league of settler colonials in an internationally disputed territory.

As part of the saffron project, the Modi regime had started to fantasize the scenic Himalayan land for Hindu pilgrims and invite Indian investment there in the guise of tourism and development much before abrogating Article 35-A. In the past two years, it has openly encouraged non-Kashmiris to migrate and settle in the disputed territory and actually handed over large swathes of Kashmiri land to Indian investors and armed forces.

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A potent example of settler colonialism is the new Domicile Order, which has awarded almost half a million non-Kashmiris, largely Hindus, the residency status in the disputed region. Many of these new residents are the security personnel and their families. They have been given the same right to land ownership and equal share in jobs and opportunities, as Kashmiris enjoyed under Article 35-A.

The current population in the disputed territory is close to 14 million. For decades, with nearly three-quarters of a million soldiers and paramilitary deployed, Kashmir has rightly qualified as the world’s most militarized land. Human rights groups estimate that there is one-armed person for every 17 civilians and roughly seven armed personnel to every square kilometre of land in the region.

Indian militarization of the state of Jammu and Kashmir began with the eruption of insurgency in 1989. However, even before that, despite Article 370, the autonomy of the disputed region had been violated many a times through 47 presidential decrees and eight Governor Rules, which led to the introduction of a series of draconian laws such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Public Safety Act, and consequent arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Human rights groups estimate over 8,000 instances of extrajudicial killings since 1990, including nearly 2,000 during the period 2008-18.

In a sense, therefore, India’s settler colonialism project in Kashmir has been in vogue throughout the post-Partition period. Until the 1980s, its target was undermining the political autonomy of Kashmiris. Thereafter, until the fateful month of August 2019, it was to physically exterminate and internally displace the majority-Muslim Kashmiris, constituting almost two-third of the population, first in the guise of counter-insurgency and then, after 9/11, counter-terrorism.

Now, with full grip over Kashmiri destiny, the settler colonialism project has assumed a more sinister dimension. India had locked down the Kashmiris months before the COVID-19 pandemic locked down the world, through communication blackout, death and fear, and even imprisonment of pliable Kashmiri politicians. The pandemic has been the new cover for subjugating Kashmiri freedom voices, which in the worst of circumstances post-9/11 would give rise to youthful uprisings as a populous challenge to brute force.

More recently, the silenced and subjugated Kashmiris have seen their ancestral lands being sold at cheap rates through a new Land Act, which, besides new domiciles, empowers non-Kashmiris to re-purpose agricultural land, which constitutes 90% of the region, for non-agricultural purposes. In total, 165 Indian laws have been introduced in the disputed region and more are on the way to reinforce the colonial legal regime. A parallel territorial delimitation process is also underway to empower the majority-Hindu Jammu at the expense of the majority-Muslim Valley of Kashmir in a future political dispensation.

Indian settler colonialism in disputed Kashmir ultimately aims to create a new Kashmiri identity through displacing and excluding the indigenous Kashmiris and handing over their land and resources to new Indian residents for colonial exploits. Unless the world rises to the occasion to preserve international law and protect Kashmiri self determination, Kashmir as we have known with its peculiar demography, ethnicity and identity may soon become a footnote of history.

The author is an academic and author, who served as the vice chancellor at Sargodha University and the Quaid-i-Azam Fellow at St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

Kashmir

Kashmir: A festering dispute

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Our government came into office in 2018, focused on fulfilling the promise of delivering Naya Pakistan to our voters. We wanted to provide education, jobs, and better health care by leveraging our connectivity infrastructure to foster regional trade and investment. We knew that this would require a peaceful neighborhood, writes Pakistan Foreign Minster Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Accordingly, shortly after his election, Prime Minister Imran Khan declared that Pakistan "will take two steps towards peace, if India takes one." He hoped that Pakistan and India would fight poverty instead of each other.

Unfortunately, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India has no interest in peace. India's ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, is steeped in the racist, hate-filled Hindutva creed of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary organization whose founding fathers wrote admiringly of Hitler and Mussolini.

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The BJP government thrives on inciting hate and violence against religious minorities - especially Muslims - and builds political capital by saber rattling against Pakistan. Indeed, India's penchant for brinkmanship brought our two nuclear-armed countries to the brink of war in February 2019. If tragedy was averted, it was only because of Pakistan's restraint and no thanks to India.

We thought that a close brush with war would have sobered the Modi government. But we had underestimated the extent to which RSS ideology had infected the Indian government's DNA.

New Delhi continued to spurn Pakistan's offer for dialogue on the core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir as well as other issues that bedevil our relationship. Prime Minister Modi, it appears, confused Pakistan's desire for peace with weakness.

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On Aug. 5, 2019, India imposed an armed siege and communications blackout on Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK). Since then, thousands of Kashmiris, including minors, have been arrested and tortured. Popular Kashmiri leaders, like the 91-year-old Ali Shah Geelani, have always been at the receiving end of Indian state repression. This time India did not even spare those political leaders, including three former chief ministers, who are seen by ordinary Kashmiris as enablers of the Indian occupation.

More than 8 million Kashmiris remain inmates in the largest open-air prison camp in the world today, with 900,000 Indian military and paramilitary forces standing watch over them. No credible observer or human rights organization can visit them lest their voices be heard. India has forbidden U.S. Senators from visiting Kashmir. It has detained and deported a sitting British Member of Parliament because she had criticized Indian human rights violations in Kashmir.

Since August 5 last year, the first anniversary of India's military siege and lockdown in IIOJK, its security forces have killed 390 Kashmiris. In 2021 alone,

some 85 Kashmiris have been murdered in extra-judicial killings. Indian security forces routinely stage fake encounters to kill young Kashmiri protestors, and use pellet guns against women and children, blinding and maiming hundreds.

As Pakistan had warned, the Indian government is proceeding with the enactment of illegal measures to effect demographic change in Kashmir. The displacement of the local population by non-residents in an internationally disputed territory is a violation of international law and, in particular, the Fourth Geneva Convention. The entire spectrum of Kashmiri political leadership has rejected these moves by the Indian government to create "settler colonies."

Mr. Modi's actions have landed India and the region in a cul-de-sac. Baffled with its inability to crush the Kashmiris' struggle for self-determination, India is looking for a new generation of collaborators from among the Kashmiri leadership to lend a gloss of legitimacy to its occupation. Meanwhile, a systematic campaign to erase the Kashmiri people's religious, cultural, and linguistic identity continues apace.

This, too, shall fail -just as all other attempts at quashing the Kashmiris' demand for independence have failed.

What will the Indian government do then? Will it resurrect the familiar bogey of "cross-border terrorism" to smear the Kashmiri freedom struggle? Will it manufacture another crisis with Pakistan to deflect attention from the never-ending stream of scandals (including the recent revelations about India's attempts to spy on Prime Minister Imran Khan) that keep rocking the BJP government?

India harbors ambitions to be a great power. Indeed, it has powerful champions who want to help India become a great power, but look the other way when India makes a mockery of the democratic values and human rights that they espouse.

It is incumbent on the international community to call India out on its atrocities against the Kashmiri people and push it towards a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute. While a tenuous ceasefire has held across the Line of Control since February, the situation remains tense. And with the situation in Afghanistan rapidly deteriorating, renewed regional tensions over Kashmir are in no one's interest.

There is only one solution. India needs to reverse its actions of August 5, 2019, and create conditions for a result-oriented dialogue with Pakistan and the legitimate representatives of the Kashmiri people towards the resolution of this long standing dispute.

The people of South Asia - one of the poorest regions in the world - yearn for peace, prosperity, and a better future for their children. They should not be held hostage to India's stubborn refusal to face reality: that there can be no peace in South Asia without the peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

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Kashmir

Despatches of a Kashmiri

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Ghaazi Zindabad, an alumni of Business School, University of Kashmir, who teaches and writes Public Administration, Management & Governance, gives a personal despatch from Kashmir.

Someone has to create a character and change the script, now!

The pipe-dream of Azadi (Utopian Freedom) was sold to us & planted in our callow conscience in the tempestuous 1990s. Remember the 90s anthem, that was blared from the loudspeaker of mosques...

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Ghaazi...Ghazi Zindabad!

Hind Ko Kar Barbaad...Ho Kashmir Azad! Ghaazi...Ghazi Zindabad!

As a naive child, l too hummed the-then popular anthem. I too thought, some Ghazi (Messiah) from Pakistan would come riding on a white-horse, & win us Azadi with a stroke of his mighty sword.

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We - a band of juvenile boys - would venture out in procession, sing the anthem in unison, & wave the Pakistan flag with fervour & gaiety.

Ah! That feeling of naive awesomeness...A senior who led our band-of-boys would often quip: "Ye cha paak tehreek...tawai che paak jazbaat yewan."

(It's a pious movement that we're a part of, & no wonder, it fills our bosom with bliss.) I, then, studied in Jesus Saviours School, located at Magarmal Bagh, Srinagar.lt was a school run by Christians.Albeit, we were only taught academics, having nothing to do with Christianity or Islam or Hinduism.

All decked-up, in my school uniform, in my crisply ironed white shirt, grey trousers & green blazer, l was heading to my school, early morning.Mom always accompanied me.Carried my overweight bag on her shoulders, only to return it to me at the yawning school gate.She would part away, after a parting-peck on my cheek.Mom's way of telling me, "son, don't weep, l would be back soon, to take you home."

Someone, from a crowd, running in our opposite direction, said...

"Jesus Saviours schoolas lagovuk bamb" (Jesus Saviour's School has been bombed.)

Mom held me tightly to her chest, my overburdened school bag slung over her shoulder, & briskly we ran back home.

Thank God! Nobody had died. No kid. No teacher.

I was admitted to Minto Circle School at Raj Bagh, Srinagar.My studies continued.Mom besides doling out a peck on my cheek, every day, unfailingly...unfailingly made sure, l remained a bright boy in my classroom...ln all this, l missed Meena mam, my favourite at Jesus Saviours. O God! I thought she was a God-sent angel.

She was so pleasing on the eyes and spoke with the finesse of the moon.

The Gazi, however, was right in blowing-up our school.After all, it was about our Imaan (faith). You see nothing comes in-between the lmaan and a Muslim, least a lousy (missionary) school. Duh!

So, we continued to hum the popular anthem in unison, we continued to flash-the-flag. The Azadi was just round the corner. That's what we were told!

One fine day, after our school, we went to Lal Chowk, to buy Sports Star magazine...We could barely read it, however, our sole interest lied in the photographs of cricketers published in it...More of Pakistani cricketers, of Saeed Anwar, of Wasim Akram, of Waqar Younis, of Aqib Javaid, of Saqlain Mushtaq...We would take out the cuttings, paste them on our diaries, & then take humungous pride in possessing the diaries.We kept them in our school bags perpetually, flaunting them at the slightest of provocations. Ah! Those were the days.

While l was buying the latest edition of Sports Star, right nearby Ghanta Ghar (the iconic Clock Tower), a grenade was hurled upon the military men stationed there.The grenade was way off the target, in the process killing & maiming scores of civilians...I saw men, Kashmiri men, falling down, splattered in blood all over. I froze with Star Sports magazine in my hands, and my school bag on my back...Somebody, from behind, dragged me inside a shop, a bookshop.We remained inside it, for it seemed an infinitely longish period of time.

I returned home, not telling mom, as to what l had witnessed.The oozing blood stayed with me though.

The grenade hurling by Ghazi and killing & maiming of innocent Kashmiri men, was bound to happen.It was the price we had to pay for our Azadi.Collateral damage, nothing much. Duh!

Fast forward to 2021!

In Kashmir, we refer to an un-married young-lad as Mahraaz (groom)...the nom de guerre is assigned out of affection, and to slyly let-know the lad that it's time to look for a gorgeous bride.

25 YO, Aakash Mehra...the only son of Ramesh Mehra, the owner of the much thronged eatery, Krishna Dhaba...was a Mahraaz.

A Ghazi, shunned his customary white horse, and rather choose to ride a bike; & suddenly appeared at the Krishna Dhaba.Shooting young Aakash, thrice, in his gut & intestines.injuring him acutely, & eventually snucking the life out of him.

The discourse on Facebook & Twitter wasn't condemnation of such dastardly crime, albeit, the trolling was about...As to how after the abrogation of Article 370, the non-locals were eying the land and meadows of Kashmir?

And, so, the hapless Aakash, the Mahraaz, was killed in cold blood, for good. Duh!

Barely two days later, yet another Ghazi of old returned.This time donning our Pheran (a loose over-garment worn during winters).He plucked an assault rifle from underneath the Pheran, & literally at point-blank range, pumped bullets into constable Suhail & Yousuf. Needless & heartless to say, both the non-combatant policemen died.

This meticulously carrying-out of so-called Jehad (Holy War) was caught on CCTV camera.

Crystal clearly! The pumping of bullets & killings of Suhail & Yousuf was conspicuously carried-out in broad-day light. This time around the Gazi was identified too.

Regardless of that, the argument gaining ground on K-Twitter was...Oh! the attack took place at Baghat on the high-security airport road...& so how could any militant sneak into the security-zone, & accomplish the feat? Conversely, it meant, that police conspired to kill it's men by themselves, so to malign the Tehreek (freedom movement).

ln 2021, Kashmir has to fathom, it has been bruised & battered by whosoever was at the helm-of-affairs.

While in mainstream, Abdullah's & Mufti's were adept in nepotic practices, & took turns in swindling public exchequer.ln seperatist camp, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik et al, chipped-in & chipped-away with their piece-of-pie.

ln-between, the shrewed bureaucracy, kept pecking away, clandestinely!...And, this all was euphemised as 'status quo'...The status quo that succesive dispensations at New Delhi looked the other way.Literally giving a blank cheque to the nepotic mainstream, to the nefarious seperatists, & to the non-challant bureaucracy.

To the brazen 90's & to the blusterous 2000's, hitherto, we have lost three generations...their health, their education, their livelihood, their connectivity, thereby their life and liberty...No more please! No more! Someone has to create a character and change the script, now!

Hope against hope!

The author is an alumni of Business School, University of Kashmir, who teaches and writes Public Administration, Management & Governance, and can be reached at a[email protected]

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What Kashmiris think about their future: Optimism vs conflict

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Although violence and conflict in a region may have negative impact on feelings of safety, well-being, and future prospect schools it still appears that people in Kashmir region in both India and Pakistan seem to be optimistic. Past research in the domain of future prospects and well-being in ethnopolitical conflict zones where residents face violence usually are pessimistic and demonstrate low sense of well-being. In a first of its kind survey that examined data from both sides of LOC in Kashmir region results demonstrate that majority of the population is optimistic about their future. Additionally, they all felt that they were better off than their previous generation. In the backdrop of COVID, where most of peaceful world seems rather gloomy and pessimistic but the conflict zone of Kashmir appear rather optimistic and happy, write Professor Dheeraj Sharma, Director, Indian Institute of Management-Rohtak and Professor (on leave), Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, India and Professor Farrah Arif, Faculty, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan.

The Kashmir region has seen conflict since 1947 as both India and Pakistan have been laying claim to the territory. The approximately 225,000 square kilometre region has seven distinct entities. There are two entities controlled by Pakistan, namely, Pakistani Kashmir (Called as Azad Kashmir by Pakistanis and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir by Indians) and Gilgit-Baltistan (Formerly Northern Areas). Government of Pakistan passed an order in 2009 that resulted in creation of Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly and Gilgit-Baltistan Council. Both these areas are more nearly hundred percent Muslim. With Gilgit-Baltistan being nearly three quarters Shia till 1980s. There are three areas controlled by India, namely, Ladakh region, Kashmir Valley (called Kashmir by Indians and Indian Occupied Kashmir by Pakistanis), and Jammu region. Ladakh region has non-Muslim majority (Hindus and Buddhists make up about 53% of the population) but has 45% Muslims most whom are Shias. Since, 2019 it is now a union territory of India on the basis of act of Indian parliament. Jammu region has nearly two third of Hindu population. Kashmir valley has 97% of Muslim population. Jammu region and Kashmir valley are also now union territories of India on the basis of act of Indian parliament. Two entities in this region are controlled by China. The Akshi Chin region and small area that is north of Uprang Zilga River in Gilgit-Baltistan province that border with Xinjiang province of China has been under the control of China since early 1960s. Sino-Pakistan Frontier Agreement and Sino-Pak Boundary Agreement of 1963 resulted in exchange of land between Pakistan and China north of Uprang Zilga river. Akshai Chin region is now being controlled by China since Indo-China war of 1962. The religious distinctiveness, cultural complexity, and regional complexity make this a very unique geo-political issue.

The region has seen significant violence resulting in death of more than 40,000 residents in last few decades. LoC is usually a very tense place and with Chinese adventure in the eastern sector this region has become even more complex and conflicted.

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This region has had major armed conflict in 1948, 1962, 1965, 1971, and 1999. Furthermore, the region continues to experience turmoil on regular basis due to cross-border hostilities between India, Pakistan and China. Two weeks ago there was a conflict between India and China resulting in loss of more than 20 Indian troops and more than 35 Chinese troops.

Consequently, in an attempt to understand the hopes of the residents of this region we undertook a survey to understand what did the resident of this region think about their current state in terms of health, education, and infrastructure. A survey was conducted on a randomly selected sample of 1425 individuals residing in region of Kashmir both on Indian and Pakistani side. The survey was conducted in the prevailing COVID situation in different location. A total of 396 responses were collected from Pakistan side of Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. Also, 1029 responses were collected from Indian side of Kashmir, Jammu, and Ladakh.

It is interesting to note that most of the residents feel that they are better off than their previous generation in terms of health, education, and infrastructure. Also, they are optimistic about their future. Significant percentage of residents of this regions hope to migrate to other part of the countries for better future of their children. However, it is evident from the results of the survey that their trust in the government is relatively low. The resident of this regions feel that while their expectation have not been met but still hope for a better tomorrow. Significant percentages of residents feel that people in other parts of the country are better off than them in terms of health, infrastructure, and educational facilities. This may probably be the reason for them to contemplate migration to other parts of the region to avail better facilities. Overall, the most interesting outcome of the survey is the resident of the region are generally happy and now further efforts are needed from the government to augment the health, educational, and infrastructure facilities to further elevate the happiness and well-being in the region.

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QUESTION

LADAKH

%

INDIAN SIDE OF KASHMIR

%

PAKISTAN SIDE OF KASHMIR %

GILGIT BALTISTAN

%

JAMMU

%

I am more optimistic than my parents' generation.

82.61%

69.89%

68.97%

56.60%

80.15%

I expect more good things to happen to me compared to my parents' generation.

80.12%

68.82%

66.90%

57.55%

77.90%

I think I am better off than my previous generation.

77.64%

65.95%

64.14%

54.72%

74.91%

I am happy with the government in my area.

75.57%

59.14%

48.97%

30.19%

68.91%

I am happy with my life in my area.

61.49%

54.12%

53.45%

21.70%

53.93%

I intend to move to another location for employment.

18.84%

40.86%

51.03%

51.89%

38.95%

I intend to move to another location for better life.

29.19%

39.78%

52.76%

54.72%

26.59%

I intend to move to another location for the better life of my children.

26.71%

37.28%

54.83%

56.60%

27.34%

I have better employment opportunities than my previous generation.

72.26%

65.95%

65.17%

31.13%

67.79%

I am satisfied with the current health facilities in my region.

74.53%

67.03%

54.14%

27.36%

70.41%

I think the infrastructure in my region is much better compared to my parents' generation.

78.47%

73.84%

53.10%

28.30%

76.78%

I think the educational facilities in my region are better compared to my parents' generation.

82.40%

72.04%

55.17%

33.02%

78.65%

*The view expressed in the article are personal

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