The Kashmir Institute of International Relations organised a webinar, “Colonisation of Kashmir, mechanisation and Impacts, story of Kashmir after 5 August 2019”. It was held on July 14. Below is my speech. My talk examines some current developments in India, the impact of Covid in Kashmir and explores the relationship between India and Israel, In my concluding remarks I consider how we can strengthen the global Stand With Kashmir movement.
Thank you to the Kashmir Institute of International Relations for organising this event.
I am speaking to you from Sydney, Australia. I am on the traditional land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation – one of the many tribes that make up the First Nations of this land. The struggle of First Nations or Aboriginal people is similar to the struggle of Kashmiri people – resisting colonisation and fighting for their right to determine their own future. Self-determination is a fundamental human right.
I appreciate the opportunity to join this webinar. It is vital that we show our solidarity with Kashmir and Jammu and help build a global support movement. It has been wonderful that all the previous speakers have also emphasised the need for a strong social movement to help achieve Kashmiri self-determination.
In my talk I would like to recap what happened in August 2019 when India stepped up their attack on Kashmir. I will examine some current developments in India, the impact of Covid in Kashmir and explore the relationship between India and Israel; and then some concluding remarks about how we strengthen the global Stand With Kashmir movement.
In 2019, the Modi government imposed a lockdown on Kashmir. Article 370 of the Constitution, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, was abolished. Phone and internet services were cut. The clear intent was to limit global awareness of the crimes of the Modi government against the Kashmiri people being covered by overseas media outlets.
I wish to pay tribute to local Kashmiri journalists and activists who have risked their lives to report on the impact India’s total take over has had on health and education services, the local economy, and people’s day-to-day lives. They have detailed the extent of the killings, disappearances, harassment of women, and many other crimes carried out by Indian armed forces.
One of the many tragedies of India’s action against Kashmir and Jammu has been the increased militarisation of this region. In August 2019 the Modi government sent in tens of thousands of additional troops. This boosted the number of Indian army, air force, paramilitary, and special forces personnel in Kashmir to close to one million. This poses a massive security risk for the world as well as the subcontinent and obviously Kashmiris themselves.
The COVID pandemic has hit Kashmir hard and the response by health workers has been impeded by the Indian government’s policy to this region. The Health and Human Rights Journal in April 2020 reported that the low-speed 2G internet India had imposed on Indian Occupied Kashmir and Jammu stops health workers from accessing public health guidelines and research on COVID, including denying them accurate updates on transmission in the region. It makes contact tracing, as a strategy to prevent the spread of the COVID virus, next to impossible.
In considering how we support the Kashmiris’ struggle for self-determination we need to also analyse the tactics of the Modi government in the rest of India.
The BJP party under Modi’s leadership is using its power to attack the groupings it judges to be its enemies. I am referring here to Indian Muslims and the nation’s progressive forces. Leading intellectuals have been arrested under authoritarian legislation such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Muslims, many who have families resident in India for generations, are being targeted by citizenship laws designed to remove their legal standing as citizens. Police officers who responded to the 2020 May violence in Delhi participated in the killing of 52 Muslims.
Then there is the ban on interfaith marriages; the increase in lynchings of Muslims; and the rise in Muslim deaths in custody. The building of the Ram Mandir temple on the site of the Babri Masjid mosque and the BJP’s push to introduce a universal civil code, that would effectively victimise Christian and Muslim minorities further demonstrate what the Modi government’s policy of Hindutva – Hindu extremism – is doing to India.
The seriousness of this situation is slowly gaining more international attention.
The founder and president of Genocide Watch, Dr Gregory Stanton, has spoken about the very real threat of genocide in Indian Occupied Kashmir and Jammu.
Dr Stanton said , “We believe that the Indian government’s actions in Kashmir have been an extreme case of persecution and could very well lead to genocide,” and also “Kashmir is under military rule and it is a very clear pre-genocidal situation …”.
These comments, from a respected international expert, should ring out a warning across all nations about what is happening in Kashmir and Jammu.
Dr Stanton is an authority on genocide and ethnic cleansing. He worked at the US State Department during President Bill Clinton’s term. He drafted the United Nations Security Council resolutions that created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Burundi Commission of Inquiry.
Personally I wish that the movement for Kashmiri self-determination was already stronger but there is much we can take heart from. In 2019 an international conference in support of the Kashmiri struggle for self determination was held in the British House of Commons. I was fortunate to be able to attend and speak at this event. Support in Britain was huge.
Although Covid has limited our work for Kashmir, webinars like this one have helped build a global awareness of India’s crimes against many communities on the subcontinent. Some Australian politicians have hosted similar events.
However, there is another worrying development. The Modi government is cultivating the support of Israeli political leaders. While this has surprised some as India was traditionally a supporter of Palestine’s right of self determination – not dissimilar from Kashmir and Jammu’s demands – it fits in with the current government’s supremacy policy of Hindutva.
The close relationship between India and Israel has worrying implications for the peace and security of the subcontinent and the very future of Kashmir. India is the largest buyer of Israeli military equipment. For the decade 1999 to 2009 military trade and bilateral cooperation between the two nations was worth about $US9 billion. This involves joint military and security training and sharing intelligence.
There are many insidious aspects to this relationship. Indian security forces work closely with Mossad, the notorious Israeli intelligence agency. Israel advertises that its military equipment is “field tested” – this means tested on Palestinians. Cooperation between the Israeli Defence Force and Indian military forces is extensive. This is not only impacting on Kashmiris in terms of an escalation of India’s use of sophisticated armaments against local people but with the issue of Kashmir’s demographics.
For many years India has been assisting military personnel to retire to this region. New laws have been passed, including a new domicile law. Indian authorities issue “domicile certificates” to Indians and non-residents, entitling them to residency rights and government jobs. This is a form of settler colonialism achieved through demographic change in India’s only Muslim-majority region.
Tragically the threat of Covid is being used as cover by Indian forces to advance this form of occupation. This is how a school teacher in Srinagar recently described what is happening – “Giving land, homes and jobs to Indian soldiers and their families is how India will try to change the demographics here – no different to what Israel has done with its settlers in the West Bank.”
India’s consul-general in New York in November 2019 was reported to have spoken at a private gathering about population changes his government was advocating in Jammu and Kashmir, where he said “If the Israeli people can do it, we can also do it.”
And there is an ugly role for the Indian army – military personnel are often the actual settlers and they help settlers to be effectively the first line attack troops in establishing these settlements. The worry is that in following the Israeli model Indian troops will turn military outposts into small settlements; small settlements into large settlements, which in time become towns that expand in size with shops, schools and hospitals backed by 24-hour military security.
The people of Jammu and Kashmir are facing a shocking situation. Having been denied their right to self determination for over 70 years they are now facing an escalation of Indian settler colonialism. And this is happening when the world is focused on an international pandemic health crisis. The attention of many potential supporters for Kashmiri human rights and right to self determination is distracted.
I think our priority needs to be on building an international movement to amplify the voice of Kashmir for their rights to be respected and honoured and for those perpetrating crimes against the men, women and children of Kashmir to be charged and prosecuted.
We need a movement similar to the great anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa in the latter decades of the last century and to the Palestinian solidarity movement that today is mobilising the support of millions of people around the world.
If our demand for Azad Kashmir is to ring out with strength and passion we need to change the narrative of colourful, friendly, incredible India to reflect the reality of life for Indian Muslims, Dalits, Communists and Christians. This is critical to strengthen the Stand With Kashmir global movement.
Today’s webinar I believe is an important part of that process.