At Granville, a Western Sydney suburb, on Kashmir Black Day, October 27, Lee Rhiannon spoke about the ongoing crimes of the Indian military and the Modi forces against the residents of Indian Occupied Kashmir. Her speech covered the growing speculation that the USA government wants to secure land in Ladakh, in Kashmir, in order to operate a military spy base to target China. Lee identified the need for the federal Labor government to speak up about human right abuses, against Indian Muslims and other minorities, committed by Modi forces.

We gather together today to mark Kashmir Black Day.  I believe it is very important that we collectively  remember these anniversaries. We must honour those who have died and those who have suffered and recognise that the international community has a responsibility to stand with the people of Jammu Kashmir to help ensure that their right to self-determination is achieved 

On this day, October 27, 75 years ago Indian troops came to Jammu and Kashmir. They perpetrated shocking crimes as they imposed settler colonial rule, effectively denying the people their right to self determination. Innocent Kashmiris were killed, properties destroyed and ugly atrocities committed. 

We also need to note that this barbarity perpetrated by the Indian military forces was stepped up in August 2019 when the Modi government suspended the special status of Jammu Kashmir that had previously been recognised under the Indian Constitution.

This anniversary provides us with an opportunity to assess the state of global solidarity with Jammu Kashmir. I believe more people are learning about the plight of Kashmiris – and that is a big plus. 

However, in terms of winning more voices to our global call for self-determination and an to end human rights abuses we need to be frank – our success has been limited. This is not just because India maintains about 900,000 troops in this region and is therefore very successful in suppressing news from this region.

The Modi regime is effectively being propped up by western powers, willing to ignore the blatant crimes being committed in order to cultivate a major trading partner. The crimes being overseen by the BJP government are also being ignored as the West is keen to secure the support of an ally to back their confrontation with China. 

This policy of “support India at all costs” should be a matter of concern for all of us. The US appears to be cultivating this relationship with serious implications for the people of Kashmir. Yun Sun, Director of the China Program at the US think tank, the Stimson Center, has commented that  “the India–US partnership may actually have enabled and emboldened India, giving it added confidence to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy and to press ahead with military infrastructure construction” in the region.

There are worrying reports that the USA government is in talks with the Modi government to secure land in Ladakh where they could operate a military spy base to target China. The BJP forces could well be attracted to providing such assistance to the US. The speculation is that the deal for India could involve more weapons from the USA and more favourable trade agreements. 

Before I leave this topic — just a comment on may work . It is important that the role of the US on the sub continent is closely analysed. However, it is hard to find information so if anyone comes across useful sources I would appreciate hearing from you.

Australia is one of the western nations that is failing the people of Jammu and Kashmir and members of various minorities across India. Unfortunately on this front nothing changed with the change of government here. The new Labor government is closely following the previous conservative government’s approach of – speak no ill of India’s human rights abuses. 

Ironically the approach of both former and current governments stands in sharp contrast to how they treat China. While China is heavily criticised for its human rights abuses, as it should be, the Morrison government was silent on the Modi government’s actions in Kashmir and the human rights abuses of Muslims and other minorities in India. 

It would be most disappointing if Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong followed the approach of former foreign minister Marise Payne who shut down any questions about Kashmir by dismissing it as a bilateral issue to be settled between India and Pakistan.

The pressure should be on Senator Wong now. If she can stand up for Muslims in China why can’t she stand up for Muslims in Kashmir and the rest of India. 

Last month the Foreign Minister spoke about the UN’s report into China’s mass detention of Uighurs. She described it as “harrowing reading” noting that the report found credible claims of torture and ill-treatment.

Surely it is time that Senator Wong acquaints herself with the deteriorating situation facing the two hundred million Indian Muslims. There are numerous reports about the human rights abuses they are suffering along with other minorities such as Dalits, Adivasis and Sikhs. I am sure she would also find many of  these contain harrowing reading. 

 Indian Muslims have faced discrimination in employment, education and politics for decades. The situation has been deteriorating since the Modi government was elected in 2014. The BJP at a federal and state level have embedded their prejudicial policies against Muslims and other minorities into the nation’s legal system. Laws that systematically discriminate against Muslims and other minorities are resulting in shocking crimes. Extreme Hindu nationalist groups are attacking minorities with impunity.

The situation is so serious that in 2019 Genocide Watch issued a Genocide Alert for Indian Occupied Kashmir. In 2022 Professor Gregory Stanton, who predicted the Rwandan genocide of 1994, warned of a similar conflict in India, wherein Muslims could become the target for acts of genocide.

Just because Australia wants to expand trade with India should not be an excuse to ignore human rights abuses, attacks on democracy and incidents of genocide. Diplomacy can be a mix of positive engagement involving trade and other exchanges, and critical dialogue. 

A comparison with Australia’s relation with China is informative. The website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade states – “Australia raises a wide range of human rights issues with China including freedom of expression, freedom of religion, treatment of political prisoners and ethnic minorities … torture, the death penalty, and the rights of legal practitioners and civil rights activists.”

The section on India on DFAT’s website makes no mention of human rights. Surely that needs to change. Our relation with India should not just be about what the Australian government judges works for this country. I think the phrase I just read out that applies to China would be totally appropriate to be included on DFAT’s “India country brief” website. 

Today Kashmir Black Day is an occasion to reiterate our commitment to stand with the people of Jammu Kashmir and to step up our International solidarity to help build a mass movement that will help put pressure on western powers to speak out about human rights abuses and advocate for peace with justice in this region. This is the path to help Kashmiris achieve the right that all people should enjoy – the right of self-determination.

Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.