By Karen Rodman
(Presentation at the February 5 webinar in Canada observing Kashmir Solidarity Day)
In November 2020, the Canadian government responded to three parliamentary petitions with regard to the situation in Indian occupied Kashmir.
This was the first time that Indian occupied Kashmir had been mentioned in the Canadian parliament in regard to the military occupation and human rights violations since the early part of the century.
The government response to these petitions was less than adequate.
It stated that Ottawa was monitoring the situation, that many restrictions had been lifted, but Canada “looks forward to restoration of normalcy and resumption of inclusive political dialogue in Jammu and Kashmir.”
This response missed the crucial point about the continued persecution of Kashmiri human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists.
It ignored that the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH & OMCT), Amnesty International, and the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights had issued statements requesting urgent intervention.
It even overlooked the fact that Amnesty India had to shut its operations as it was being targeted for speaking out on rights abuses in India and in Kashmir.
The government response indicated that “Canada looks forward to the restoration of normalcy and resumption of inclusive political dialogue in Jammu and Kashmir” and made reference to Ottawa following “political developments, including the implementation of the Reorganization (Adaptation of State Laws) Order or domicile law issued by the Government of India on March 31, 2020.”
Hardly adequate given that during this time, over 3.3 million domicile certificates have been issued by the occupying power—India—to its own settler population.
This follows the May 18, 2020 Indian Government notification of the Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure) Rules.
Since Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally disputed territory, this law, which entails forced transfer of populations and settlement, is in contravention of international law.
This population transfer is prohibited by Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and condemned by the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.
With the introduction of the new Domicile policies, the indigenous population of the region is under threat, and one step closer to genocide.
The introduction of new land laws, ending exclusive land rights of the indigenous people of Kashmir have paved the way for aggressive settler-colonization.
This legal framework was put into action immediately by the Government of India, and has shifted the demographics within a few months to one-quarter non-indigenous settlers.
To put this in context, it has taken a half century of similar shift to demography in the occupied West Bank of Palestine with less than one million settlers.
In a matter of months, a similar demographic change to one quarter settler population has been made in India’s colonization of Kashmir.
The Trudeau Liberal response that “Canada continues to encourage meaningful consultations with affected local communities and shares the aspiration that all communities in the region can live in peace, security and dignity” is pathetic.
The twentieth-first century settler-colonization is in hyper drive for the people of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Despite thousands of letters sent to the Canadian government, including to opposition parties, since August 2019, there has been minimal response.
However, with Marc Garneau’s recent appointment and mandate as Canada’s foreign minister, we are asking Canadians to write him about Canada’s silence, and the urgent situation in Indian occupied Kashmir.
The message is consistent in calling for the Canadian government to
1- Condemn the government of India’s Domicile Law, and its settlement-colonization underway in Jammu and Kashmir;
2- Request that India immediately restore 4G internet access;
3- With urgency given COVID-19, request that India ends pre-emptive imprisonment and free all political prisoners;
4- Insist upon compliance with international legal obligations as part of Canada’s ongoing relationship with India, especially in trade, defense, and counterterrorism; and
5- Proactively work with the UN towards implementation of self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Those who wish to write can do so here.
Karen Rodman is director with Just Peace Advocates, and a retired senior manager with 30-plus years with the Ontario Public Service, and was ordained by the United Church of Canada in 2015.
On October 22, 2020, a webinar explored “Canada’s Silence on Indian occupied Kashmir.” You can view it here.