August, a month of powerlessness and repression, has indeed been unwieldy for the people of Kashmir valley since 1947. A year ago, on 5 August 2019, an ugly development took place when India scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s unique status, as given in the Indian Constitution’s Articles 370 and 35(A). The dissolution of these constitutional articles was another step towards the full annexation of Kashmir, a development that was used at the detriment of Kashmiris to obtain widespread support in India.
In order to change the demographic position in Jammu and Kashmir, India took measures in reverse to fill the Muslim majority valley with non-Muslims. In terms of the citizens of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), the Hindu nationalist government in India is completing violating political and democratic rights. Long before the surge of COVID-19 pandemic, Kashmir was lockdown for all social and political activities. From last year, the Modi government has closed down all telephone lines and internet networks.
Modi’s government, led by fascist Hindutva segments, has utilized pandemic to introduce politically motivated domicile rule, which has instigated apprehensions because it is raising fears of the beginning of demographic changes in the Muslim-majority Himalayan region. As per new domicile law, “those who have resided for a period of 15 years in Indian-administered Kashmir or studied for a period of seven years and appeared in Class 10/12 examinations in educational institutions located in the region are now eligible to become permanent residents.”
The citizens of Kashmir have unanimously resisted efforts to alter the demographics of this area after the introduction of domicile provision. The BJP government is aggressively seeking to clear the way for non-Kashmiri citizens to establish a permanent settlement in IIOJK. While Kashmiris have shown apprehensions on the issue of permanent settlements, the experts are claiming that it would trigger “demographic flooding.”
When India and Pakistan gained their independence, New Delhi initiated a campaign to change the demography of IIOJK. The majority of the Muslims in Poonch district was met by Indian siege in 1947 that led to Muslims being massacred in Jammu. How many Muslims died during the siege is not certain, but it is estimated that from 20,000 to 200,000 were killed and more than half a million were forced to relocate in Pakistan. Then again in August 1953 India politically interfered to change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir while arresting Sheikh Abdullah, who became PM of Jammu and Kashmir in 1948. Following his arrest, hundreds of protesters were murdered in demonstrations. Then again in August 2008 riots erupted, when Indian forces viciously killed fifteen peaceful Muslim demonstrators. These regretful events are just the tip of the iceberg, since the past 30 years, almost seventy thousand people have been killed, at least eight thousand have missing. Whereas, the extrajudicial torture cases are in hundreds and thousands incarcerated by Indian military forces.
In IIOJK, the constant fear of demographic change has existed for decades and this apprehension is further intensified by Hindu right-wing groups openly calling for a change in the demography of Kashmir and integrationist politics. India has initiated a planned strategy to replicate the West Bank pattern of colonization like Israeli model in Kashmir, towards the displacement of local citizens, particularly Kashmiri Muslims through new settlers, to exert hegemonic influence. When attending a conference with the Kashmiri Hindus, a serving Indian diplomat in America claimed that “Kashmiri culture is Indian culture; it is Hindu culture” and he lauded Israel’s inhuman strategy of dealing with West Bank settlements.
Kashmiris have been living in terror of an ambiguous status given by the Indian Government for over 70 years and always feared for the expected change in the demography and status of IIOJK. Such anxieties have now been completely justifiable and deepened, which were perceived to be ridiculous and unwarranted at one point by the international community. In the backdrop of the recent security situation in IIOJK, the international community has shown no apprehensions, perhaps because of its ability to establish commercial and security ties with India. In breach of International Law and UN resolutions, India’s unconstitutional and undemocratic reforms in IIOJK are creating a serious breach of human rights.