The anti-racism movement, “Black lives Matter” (BLM) has created a global outcry from several quarters. While in the US, the place of origin of the anti-racism wave, a responding movement ‘All lives matter’ has taken off, British Pakistanis have taken notice of the slogan in order to draw attention to the plight of the Kashmiris in IHK, “Kashmiri lives also matter” in an interview is attributed to movie star Mehwish Hayat who is quite vocal about condemning Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir. During the premier ministership of PM Modi things have taken a fatal turn for the Kashmiris, but likely for the Indians as well. British Pakistani businessman and community leader Tarab Raja drawn attention to the situation in Kashmir when saying that the western world has recently woken up to the reality of Black Lives Matter but it also needs to pay attention to the ‘Kashmiri Lives Matter’ campaign that has been going on for a long time.
By revoking Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and getting the move rubber-stamped by the Indian Parliament afterwards India has interfered with the status quo of the disputed Kashmir territory, thus violating UN resolutions and international law. PM Modi divided the territory into two separate entities – namely Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh- while putting both so-called “union territories” under direct rule of New Delhi. By a stroke of the pen he dismissed an elected parliament of J&K as well as its government. Kashmiri politicians were put in house arrest. Such action by the “largest democracy of the world” vividly illustrates what kind of democracy we are talking about. In addition, anti-Muslim campaign organized by the “Ghar Wapsi” movement re-converting Muslims to Hinduism has been going for a while. Other laws that target the citizen status of Indian Muslims has added to the insecurity of mainly Muslims Kashmiris as well other Indian Muslims as well.
Violence has been present in Kashmir over the decades where half a million Indian soldiers are keeping the ‘law’. For many years Kashmir has become the largest open-air prison in the world. Lately a picture showing a three-year-old child sitting next to his grandfather’s dead body in Sopore town of Indian-administered Kashmir has stirred anger and frustration in the Muslim-majority region. The family of the deceased accused the security forces of killing the 65-year-old civilian after dragging him from a car which only had his grandson with him. Already one can read about young Kashmiris taking to arms and a new civil war seems in the making. Civilians who reject violence are caught in between and normal life is disturbed for everybody. As reported by a civil rights group, the “Coalition of Civil Society”. At least 229 people, including 32 civilians, have been killed in Indian-administered Kashmir in the past six months.
With the change of the political status of J&K the right once granted to Kashmiris under article 35(A) of the Indian Constitution that no outsiders can settle in the Himalayan region has also been scrapped and there is fear of an intentional ethnic change by the settlement of outsiders in Kashmir is current. Up to 25,000 people have been granted domicile certificates in Indian-administered Kashmir since May 18, supporting the fears of a beginning of demographic changes in the Muslim-majority Himalayan region. The certificate, a sort of citizenship right, entitles a person to residency and government jobs in the region, which till last year was reserved only for the local population. Kashmiri politicians across the divide have said the revocation of special citizenship rights was aimed at reversing the Muslim majority character of the region.
Apart from the dire situation of Kashmiri and Indian Muslims caused by India’s single-handed action to ‘solve’ the Kashmir issue to its own satisfaction another intention of the Modi government has come to light just recently. Ladakh has been separated from the rest of the former princely state and has come under direct rule of Delhi. That exposes the different ethnic and cultural character of Ladakh that is part of Chinese Tibet and, consequently, its population is Tibetan or a close mix of it. With Aksai Chin, another part of Tibet, already under Chinese administration Ladakh and the unresolved border issue between India and China takes a new central stand.
The first result of this is that India has again started its ‘forward strategy’, a policy that includes to advance military posts in the disputed border area as far forward as possible – a policy that in the late 1950s had been invented and led to the Indo-Chinese war of 1962. With India’s joining of the anti-China “Quad Alliance” shows Modi’s design not only to incorporate disputed Kashmir territory but to take in as much of disputed territory along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) which constitutes the de facto of not de jure border with China.
Such grand-standing of India in the region while hoping for support from the US and other QUAD powers is a logical furthering of India’s aggressive standing against its own population and in the region. During the last decades India has incorporated Sikkim and is claiming territory of Bhutan and Nepal.
This aggressive Indian policy has already endangered peace in the region. China is not going to stand by helplessly when its territory is encroached. Last month’s violent border clash between Indian and Chinese troops may be only a first step. Since then, China has placed sophisticated weaponry in the border region so as to be ready for further Indian attacks. International security experts caution that the Indian army is not adequately armed and trained for a military adventure and neither acclimatized in the numbers for a force requirement in a high mountainous region like Ladakh and the Himalayan border area. Cautioning that the ‘support’ from the US or other Quad members would be verbal, there seems to be a dangerous over-confidence rampant in India and there is a probability that any new military adventure would end the same way the 1962 war ended. At that time India was beaten miserably and had not China voluntarily withdrawn Ladakh could have been reunited with Tibet since then.
There is a dangerous situation brewing in India and along the Indo-Chinese border and the world is silent. With burning wars in Yemen, Syria, Libya and an unresolved bloody conflict in Palestine do we need another place where people are dying day by day and their lives are in constant danger? India must be stopped in its anti-China and its anti-Muslim designs. The former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognized disputed territory that cannot be changed single-handedly by India and such illegal Indian action has to be censored. When the international media are reporting about Ladakh they do that without even mentioning the vital connection to the Kashmir conflict, a sore wound in the body of South Asia that is damaging not only neighboring countries but first and foremost the Kashmiris. ‘Kashmiri Lives Also Matter’ is the message that should be taken in by the world.
The writer is a defense and security analyst