Kashmir under siege; An inside view of the ‘open air prison’

Image result for Kashmir under siege
Activists from Pakistan’s civil society demonstrate India’s information blackout in Kashmir. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudhry)

by M. A. Sofi 8 September 2019

These are the first few lines I am writing in five weeks after this whimsical decision by the state administration to impose the longest ever curfew and shutdown of internet, mobile and other essential services in the valley which is unheard of anywhere in the civilized world in recent memory. And with the solitary aim to force-feed the world with the fakest-ever news of all time that ‘all is well’ over here in Kashmir! In the event of the present clampdown being allowed to continue for a few more days, I shudder to think of the possible consequences that would flow from such an eventuality as we will be face to face with a humanitarian disaster of unimaginable magnitude which is already beginning to become visible in the downtown areas of Srinagar and more pertinently, in the rural hinterland of the valley.

And all that because of the lethal combination of a poor understanding of and a prurient thirst for using violence – and it many avatars – in an effort to ‘resolve’ the Kashmir problem by those whose contempt for the people of Kashmir has blinded them to the need for sorting out the issues in Kashmir by adopting the means as dictated by international law and norms of civilized behavior. They have shown themselves to eminently qualify as street smart low level politicians on the ‘strength’ of their track record during the past five odd years of being in power in Delhi which has been used to severely undermine the otherwise inclusive, egalitarian and the democratic ethos of the country. As is their wont, they have done it again and this time to a terrible effect! Tamping down on the sentiments of a people who have been reduced to a toothless and voiceless entity, they have launched an unprovoked aggression on the people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir by doing the most stupid and outrageous act of brinkmanship that the history may well judge as political hara-kiri. With a massive security blanket thrown around the valley at an all-time high ratio of 1:8 – involving one soldier being deputed ‘to take care’ of eight civilians – it’s not surprising that no mass protests have been allowed to be reported from any part of the valley since that fateful day of Aug.5th, 2019 when the sanctity of the Indian constitution was violated in a most brazen display of arrogance and audacity by the government involving the revocation of article 370. It’s bizarre how the government is endlessly gloating over the ‘absence’ of violence in the midst of an unprecedented crackdown while strangely explaining it to the world as a tacit approval of the abrogation of article 370 by the people of the valley! The ever-so-ingratiating Indian media are not lagging far behind even as they claim to have conducted a survey showing a whopping 58% of the population in the valley supporting the move, a conclusion that is out of tune with the ground reality and that they would soon know is wishful, willful and whimsical! Such an odious interpretation of the uneasy calm in the valley that has been stage-managed by the govt. through its agencies including the Indian media should serve as ample testimony to the extent to which it has stooped in promoting utter falsehood to advance an agenda that is fissiparous, diabolic and devious to the core.

Shocking and provocative as this monumental perfidy surrounding the revocation of article 370 indeed is, it should hardly come across as surprising to those who understand how governance is being dispensed in the country since this government came into being more than five years ago! This is on account of the awful report card of the present government regarding certain flagship schemes that were rolled out with much fanfare during the past five years of its term in office but which, as we all know, have turned out to be a damp squib! Some soapy characters in the media even go to the extent of crediting the BJP having in its DNA to go for such sensitive but otherwise ‘ground breaking’ initiatives as demonetisation, GST and now the scrapping of article 370. However, what the whole country has learnt over the years is that actually it is in its DNA to milk the fault lines in the society to advance an agenda that is divisive and regressive and that goes against the grain of the country. Does it need to be reminded that it is they who have a long history of brutalities against innocent Indians in their thousands and who have been voted to power by the lynching goons precisely for these same reasons? Which is why they just can’t get themselves to do better than go for demonizing and killing of the voiceless Kashmiris and of the peace loving Indians and doing so in a manner that amounts to wanton subversion of justice and democratic propriety. And resorting to such immoral, unethical and illegitimate methods has been their most favorable approach to force their will, mostly by deceit, fraud and cunning. Now with the patently unconstitutional abrogation of article 370, the Indian presence in Kashmir reduces India as no more than an occupational force holding the land of Kashmir through armed intrusion of this land that was committed seventy two years ago. Having singularly failed to win the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir, they have now resorted to a tactic that portends an unprecedented spell of pall, gloom and unrest resulting from a long and protracted reign of violence which is not long in coming to take its toll in Jammu and Kashmir and even elsewhere in the weeks and months ahead.

What kind of a leadership do you expect to be provided by those who are ever willing to capitulate to the public mood, rather than lead the public from the front on the path of peace, progress, prosperity and good behavior? With blood on their hands following the unprecedented violence during the worst communal riots engineered by them against the Muslims of Gujarat in 2002, it is futile to expect them to do better than spread hate and disaffection among the people of India, a tactic which, as we all know, has paid them such handsome dividends throughout their political journey. Doing what they have done in the country over the past five years and in the J&K state in particular, and by adopting means which are entirely unconstitutional and malafide, they have helped create a situation that would inevitably lead to further chaos and strife in the region and beyond. A reference to the supreme court of India of this latest move by the government involving the repeal of article 370 would render this move null and void and bad in law, provided of course, those sitting in judgement were honest and upright and had the courage to stand up to the authority while sticking to the pith and substance of the said article. While this is not the occasion to evaluate the pros and cons of the said article in terms of the desirability of its retention or otherwise, the fact is that it is thoroughly illegal and unconstitutional to tinker with it, till the disputed nature of the Kashmir issue was resolved once and for all. The cloak and dagger manner in which the bill has been rushed through in the parliament speaks of the real intentions of the present government which is working overtime to follow and fulfill the agenda set forth for it by their ideological masters in Nagpur. Seeking to seal the deal by forcing its hand in the parliament through what are manifestly unlawful and unconstitutional means while deploying 0.8 million troops in the valley, lest people rise in revolt, reveals a fascist mindset that sets great store by fraud, stealth and impropriety.

One can’t help feel startled by the legal advice having been sought from and proffered by the legal luminaries of India to the Modi-government involving the implications of the abrogation of article 370.  As per the terms governing the instrument of accession between Jammu and Kashmir and the union of India, the revocation of article 370 would entail an automatic ceding away of J&K from India, unless, of course, the same was recommended by the constituent assembly which, in any case, is no more in existence. Also there is a view that a careful perusal of the guidelines of the Indian constitution does not empower even the state assembly of the J&K state to recommend the abrogation of the said article in the event of the nonexistence of the constituent assembly. And how upon earth would the state governor have locus standi in the matter is anybody’s guess! In any case, pending the final resolution of the K-issue, article 370 was designed to act as a bridge connecting Kashmir with the rest of India which has now finally caved in. Its removal from the Indian constitution cannot be conceived in the absence of the resolution of the Kashmir issue between the principal parties to the dispute involving India, Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir. To make sense of the previous assertion, it should help to explain it by means of an analogy drawn from mathematics. The implication on the relationship of the J&K state with the union of India prior to and after the abrogation of article 370 from the Indian constitution is akin to the validity of a mathematical statement under a certain set of conditions which ceases to hold true once  (some of) the given conditions are dropped! As such, all possible means to tinker with the said article are doomed to remain bad in law, morally repugnant, ethically unsound and in violation of the international law which obligates both India and Pakistan to determine the future of Jammu and Kashmir by reference to the people of the state through the right to self-determination under the aegis of the United Nations, or through dialogue.

In this hour of deep distress and crisis in Kashmir, the need is surely for calm, camaraderie and concern for the welfare of each other while doing everything it would take to avoid falling into the trap laid out by our oppressors. It’s time to save our lives and not to throw ourselves to the wolves who have no compunction in feting themselves on our blood. Having been catapulted to power while commanding an overwhelming support from a large section of the Indian society, they are ruling India right now with absolute contempt and disregard for human rights, human dignity and human lives. The whole world knows of their track record on this count right since their early forays into power politics in the late eighties. The recent spate of mob lynching of Muslims in India is part of the same design to ‘show them their place’ with the greater plan of eliminating them from the soil of India lock, stock and barrel. Abrogation of article 370 is part of the same fascist design!