Two years ago the Indian government took total control of Kashmir. Since then the Modi’s forces have escalated attacks on the people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The fightback of the Kashmiri people has been heroic. The global Kashmiri solidarity movement is growing as reflected in the many events held to mark the second anniversary of India’s August 5 lockdown of Kashmir. I spoke at a number of events, including an International Webinar on Kashmir’s Self-determination and Demographic Engineering in IIOJK.
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.
The fifth of August will forever remain an ominous day in the Jammu and Kashmir calendar. The people of this region have faced seven decades of extreme human rights abuses, and acts of genocide. Much of this has ben caused by India’s intense militarisation of this region and India’s own involvement in terrorist activities.
Then two years ago the Modi government stripped Kashmir and Jammu of their statehood and imposed direct rule from Delhi. Overnight Kashmiris lost their last freedom – they no longer could determine their own laws. They could not protect their rights as minorities.
I wish to pay tribute to local Kashmiris, the local journalists and local activists who over the past two years have stepped up their protests and their resistance. Sadly many have died. So many have suffered. I believe we have a responsibility to publicly stand with the people of Kashmir.
There is good news on this second anniversary of India’s total takeover – the global solidarity with Kashmir movement is growing. In the past few days there have been events across all continents calling for self-determination for Kashmir and social media has been awash with the slogans #LetKashmirDecide #RedForKashmir #StandWithKashmir and many more.
This welcome increase in global support for Kashmir brings with it the realisation that we need to step up our work for the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination and to achieve this it is essential we provide an understanding that it is the current BJP rulers of India who are the major obstacle to achieving these endeavours.
I would like to offer a comment about how we describe the crimes being perpetrated against the people of Jammu and Kashmir. I think we need to be upfront and talk about India’s acts of genocide in Kashmir. The founder and president of Genocide Watch, Dr Gregory Stanton, has been very clear on this point. These are his words:
“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 “So many of the early stages of genocide are already present.”
The violence, the harassment, the killings perpetrated by Indian forces and their discriminatory laws add up to genocidal acts. This is occurring because Kashmir is seen as the only majority Muslim state in India and the BJP is intent on promoting Hindutva – an ideology committed to establishing the dominance of the Hindu way of life.
Genocidal acts are not limited to Kashmir. The attacks on Muslims across India are on the rise – lynchings, deaths in custody and disappearances. This is a reminder that winning Kashmir’s self-determination is directly linked to confronting the crimes of the Modi government and speaking up for the rights of Muslims and all minorities in India.
In making these comments I am not raising criticisms of the Hindu religion or or any of the religions practised in India. I think the secular democratic outlook that has been the foundation of the modern India state is to be fostered and celebrated. My concern lies with the extremism of Hindutva and how it manifests politically, legally and socially. .
Many of India’s new laws are sinister and some a reminder of an ugly past history – there is the criminalisation of interfaith marriage and plans to remove the citizenship status of millions. Both these developments target Muslims.
Leading progressives and intellectuals and many ordinary citizens, who support Kashmir, have been arrested under the oppressive Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. This law enables the Modi government to set aside civil liberties and fundamental rights and freedoms and detain or criminalise an individual.
Then there is the push to change the demographics of Kashmir to achieve a majority Hindu population. This has been a long term plan of the Modi BJP forces. In 2015 the then Home Minister Mr Rajnath Singh presented a plan to settle between 200,000 and 300,000 non-Kashmiri Hindus in Indian Occupied Kashmir.
The new domicile laws that the BJP pushed through last year have been described as enabling the colonisation of Jammu and Kashmir by Hindu Indian settlers. It is now easier to become a Kashmiri resident and claim the right to vote, work, buy land and own property.
We need to note how these activities mirror those of Israel, where the number of Israeli settlers is now at three quarters of a million. It is a ruthless way to subjugate a people.
To change Kashmir’s demographics the Indian authorities have issued over 1.8 million domicile certificates to non-Kashmiris. I don’t have the data to make a comparison of the number of settlers with the overall population for India and Israel. But whatever Modi’s plans are I think they are accurately described by Haseeb Drabu, a former finance minister of Jammu and Kashmir. He said this manipulation of the Kashmir population is converting “a demographic majority into a political minority”.
The future of Kashmir is also bound up with the intense militarisation of the region. Let’s remember the neighbours of Kashmir – Pakistan and China, as well as India are all nuclear armed nations. This is the most concentrated militarised region in the world. India has about one million troops in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the surrounds.
These developments pose a threat to the peace and security of the subcontinent and indeed the world. This should be a concern to world leaders. However, rather than India’s allies like the US and Australia advocating peaceful coexistence they are encouraging the Modi forces to engage in military exercises under the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (known as the Quad) that brings together Australia, the USA, Japan and India.
Worryingly the relationship between India and Israel is exacerbating the militarisation 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, as well as weapon purchases. Israel promotes many of these weapons as “field tested” – meaning tested on Palestinians. Soon that could also mean tested on Kashmiris.
I outline these international relations that the BJP government engages in as these allies of India have a vested interest in keeping Modi as a close ally. This helps to explain why the human rights abuses in Kashmir gain so little attention from western governments. It is a fair conclusion that the likes of Australia and the US do not want to embarrass India, which they judge to be a valuable ally in their disputes with China.
Meanwhile similar violations of the human rights of Rohingya Muslims living in Myanmar and Uyghur Muslims in China are regularly taken up at a government to government level by Australia and the US. As they should be. But why not call for the human rights of Kashmiris to be respected?
India should be condemned for its excessive military spending. Particularly when you consider that billions of dollars are desperately needed to meet the needs of its own citizens still living in poverty. But under Modi’s seven year reign every year more money has been squandered on the military.
Over the past week, thanks to extensive investigative work by the Pegasus Project, an initiative of Amnesty International and Citizen Lab linked to the University of Toronto, we have started to learn about the extent of illegal surveillance activities by the Israeli company, NSO Group.
Human rights workers and journalists have been targeted through their smart phones that were hacked using Pegasus spyware sold by this company. Activists supporting the Kashmiri struggle may also have been targeted.
The Pegasus Project obtained a leaked list of 50,000 phone numbers. Hundreds of numbers were linked to people on the subcontinent. One of the numbers potentially spied on was a number used by the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
These hacking revelations reveal an Israeli surveillance industry that sells spyware to repressive regimes that could include the Modi government.
I believe that those of us committed to building a global Kashmir support campaign need to closely follow the Pegasus Project disclosures. This work appears to be very relevant to help us understand the tactics used by Modi and his BJP forces. Lives could be put at risk by this surveillance.
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.
I think a priority for the global Kashmir support campaign is that we need to work to change the dominant narrative about India – the Modi forces cultivate an image of colourful, friendly, incredible India. We need to elevate the truth to reflect the reality of life for Indian Muslims, Dalits, Tribals, Communists, Christians – and all the minorities who suffer under Hindu extremism.
Another priority is we need to work out how we handle our differences. I think it is urgent that we unite around an overarching demand – when we fought South African apartheid our demand was clear – end apartheid. What is our key demand for Kashmir?
I believe our point of unity is self determination for Kashmir. We already have a hashtag for it #LetKashmirDecide I am not being frivolous. I just want to emphasis our movement needs unity. There is clearly a lot of complexities but we need a clear objective.
Let’s together build a movement similar to that which supported the great anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa last century and today’s Palestinian solidarity movement.
We need to work together with a united voice for the rights of Kashmiris to be respected and honoured and for those perpetrating crimes against the men, women and children of Jammu and Kashmir to be charged and prosecuted.
We have a lot to do. Thank you.