The Government of India has annexed Jammu & Kashmir without the consent of the people of Kashmir. The decision comes as India suffers from a stumbling economy, unemployment, and social unrest. The ensuing distraction suits the hyper-nationalist posturing of the present government. It also feeds a form of colonial-style of exploitation that is pervasive in India, where multinational corporations are given a free hand to capture land and resources by holding local populations under the bayonet in the name of “integration and/or national interest.”
Such “national interest,” in Kashmir, is just a toxic brew of business interests, a majoritarian agenda and risky political adventurism in a place what Bill Clinton called “the most dangerous place in the world”.
Against this backdrop, it is amusing to read the Indian Ambassador to Turkey write in his piece, “Jammu & Kashmir: The View from India,” placing reliance on the Instrument of Accession. The Indian government has acted in breach of that very Instrument of Accession which it is now using to justify Kashmir’s “incorporation into India.”
The Instrument of Accession is, in any case, a contentious document. Even Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice, the legal advisor at the British Foreign Office, at that time, questioned the validity of the document.
However, it is an international treaty between two sovereign states and for the purpose of this response, even if its questionable validity is kept aside for a separate debate, the fact that the Instrument of Accession of Jammu & Kashmir itself is conditional and does not grant any absolute rights to the government of India to acquire land in Kashmir unilaterally, is wholly ignored.
A reading of section 6, 7 and 8 of the Instrument of Accession of Jammu & Kashmir clearly states that it does not give up Kashmir’s sovereignty to India, except on defence, communication and foreign affairs. The unilateral actions of the Modi government violate this Instrument of Accession - in violation of India’s own Constitution of 1950, in violation of the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir of 1956 and also in violation of the Instrument of Accord 1975.
“Siege vs saving lives”
The Indian government wants the public to believe that imposing a ban on internet, phone and even postage of letters is saving lives in Kashmir.
Today marks day fifty of the communication blackout in Kashmir. Many Kashmiris have not spoken to their families this entire time. Some have been lucky to have parents who can walk a few miles to the nearest police station for a working phone, wait in lines and speak for a few seconds, in the presence of government officers.
There is a health crisis developing in Kashmir despite Indian government claims to the contrary, due to this ban on all modern means of communication.
A petition filed before the Supreme Court of India, by oncologist Dr Sameer Kaul highlights the case of Bilquees Majeed Naqash from Ellahibagh, Srinagar, who was operated for astrocytoma tumour and now requires radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment. Without internet access at the hospitals, she has not been able to get treatment from her oncologists from the last month. That is not the only case in the petition.
The petition urges that at the very least medical and other essential centres be allowed to resume communication lines. Most hospitals host databases online; shipping of drugs and instruments, ordering, making payments and subsequent tracking of shipment all happen online; pharmacists rely on online delivery systems and baby food supplies and a host of other services that relied on online systems are all affected. Machines like MRI and CT scanners require constant updates from online servers.
The world must highlight the recklessness of the ongoing blockade. These indefinite bans must be viewed as arbitrary, sweeping and an unconstitutional violation of the fundamental rights of people affected.
“Diversity, Pluralism and Tolerance”
The talk of Kashmir’s integration into India’s “vibrant democracy” that values “diversity, pluralism and tolerance” omits that the integration is being forced upon the people of Kashmir at the barrel of a gun.
Eight million people have been placed under lockdown and are being denied fundamental civil liberties and human rights to integrate them into India, against their will. This conduct does not display tolerance or democratic values but rather reeks of a behaviour that befits a colonial occupier and not a liberal democracy.
“UN and mediation”
The ambassador reminds us of the Shimla Agreement and the UN resolutions concerning India and Pakistan regarding Kashmir. In doing so, the Ambassador forgets the people of Kashmir.
India is acting in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In fact, India’s Supreme Court, in the case of People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India has held that Article 21 of the Constitution of India in relation to human rights has to be interpreted in conformity with international law.
UN representatives have issued statements reminding India that these communication blockades were a violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right. Independent rights experts also called for a withdrawal of the restrictions citing that they are "without justification" and disproportionate.
The government of India will do a great service to the people of India if attention is focused on Indian states that have no armed struggle, no interference from Pakistan, no UN resolutions to deal with, and yet Indians living in these states live in abject poverty.
Kashmir, despite 72 years of political turmoil has around 10 percent of its population living under the poverty line, far lower than economic powerhouses like Maharastra and Gujarat, or India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh. The all-India average is 22 percent.
India is well acquainted with state-enabled exploitation of resources in the name of development. Replicating this model in an ecologically sensitive zone like Kashmir is disastrous for the people living there.
The Indian government has failed to show how Kashmir’s previously autonomous status has prevented development. Indian investment in Kashmir has never been restrained because of Kashmir’s autonomy. Indian luxury hotel chains already operate in Kashmir such as Indian Hotels Association, Taj luxury hotels, ITC hotels etc.
The narrative within India is clear – this move is meant to enable forcible demographic change, aimed at gaining free access to the natural resources of Kashmir. Kashmir has a distinctive mountainous topography and ecology. From newspaper reports, Indian companies looking to invest in heavy manufacturing, hydroelectric projects, infrastructure projects, real estate and tourism are already speculating.
A report highlights how the Indian states of Himachal and Uttarakhand, were subject to similar get-rich-quick corporate investment routes, and their environments have been devastated by unplanned construction, unmanageable traffic, resulting in the conversion of once-idyllic towns to urban slums and water-bodies have fallen prey to polluted waterways.
As Kashmiris, we reject this model of “development” that India is forcing on us.
The Indian ambassador makes sixteen references to “terrorism” without explaining why the Indian government has arrested or detained three former chief ministers of Kashmir, for the last fifty days, without any order or charges against them. Are they involved in terrorism?
Even the 600 political detainees have not been informed of any charges against them. The Indian government cannot explain why children in Kashmir are being arrested in night-raids.
Article 370 never imposed restrictions on the Indian military or counter-terrorism measures. India has always been free to conduct military operations in Kashmir. Does any official from the government of India care to comment on why Jammu & Kashmir Police has been disarmed, as reported by Indian media? If the issue was cross-border terrorism, then it makes no sense that local police were disarmed.
What India has done in Kashmir is morally reprehensible, at best, and colonial at worst.
In 1947, Indians believed that if they were successful in securing the accession of a Muslim-majority state into India, it would negate the two-nation theory of Pakistan, and validate India’s secular credentials. In this autocratic and undemocratic move, India has shown the world that they are unable to obtain the consent of the Kashmiri people to merge with India.
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