The eight million people of Jammu and Kashmir continue to suffer under a brutal Indian colonial occupation and almost continuous lockdown since August 4. Kashmiris residing outside the imprisoned state who have managed to speak to loved ones through infrequently available cell phone connections have learnt of horrifying tales. Relatives have died and they did not know. They could not even mourn their dead together.
There are other horrors inflicted on the Kashmiris. The nearly three-month long lockdown is taking its toll. How are people surviving without food, and more critically without medicines, especially those suffering from heart or kidney diseases? How are cancer patients coping? Hospitals are either shut or inaccessible because of barbed wires blocking streets and the huge military presence augmented by Hindu fascist thugs who have swarmed the state.
In mid-September, a group of five Indian women traveled to Srinagar to investigate. The group comprised three Hindu lawyers, one retired Sikh professor, and a Muslim social activist. Upon returning to Delhi, they held a press conference at which Poonam Kaushik, a lawyer at the Delhi High Court, spoke to the media and answered questions.
She recounted horrific tales of suffering. The Indian army raid people’s homes in the middle of the night. Kashmiris live in fear of the dreaded midnight knock. It only means trouble. The occupiers come looking for Kashmiri youth to drag them to unknown locations. If they cannot find the youth, they drag the father to prison. At least 13,000 Kashmiri youth have been taken away and locked up somewhere. Other sources say the total number is as high as 25,000.
Additionally, RSS thugs have swarmed the state, hunting for Kashmiri girls. These two-legged beasts have been given a license to do what they like to Kashmiri girls and women. Given that more than 11,100 Kashmiri women and girls have been raped since 1989, there are grave fears for the abducted Kashmiri girls.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his equally fascist henchmen shamelessly claim there is “calm” in Kashmir. This is the calm of the graveyard. India’s 900,000 colonial troops have been given carte blanche under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to shoot on mere suspicion. While not new — this act has been in force in Kashmir since 1990 — the latest crisis has further emboldened the unruly occupation troops.
In another twist, the colonizers have issued orders to families not to reinforce their house front doors. The thugs in uniform would like to break down doors with a single kick. People who have installed strong doors or gates also face imprisonment.
On the rare occasion when families are able to venture out to seek information about their sons or daughters, army and police personnel demand bribes. That, however, is no guarantee that they would get accurate information. Fear and uncertainty are pervasive.
October 27 has been historically observed as “Black Day” in Kashmir. This year, it assumed added significance. It was on this day in 1947 that the Hindu ruler of Kashmir supposedly signed the provisional instrument of accession to India. He had already fled the state as the masses rose up against him. The instrument of accession was signed under duress. India demanded it before agreeing to send troops although there is evidence that Indian troops were already in Srinagar on October 1.
This year’s Black Day evoked even more anger among the Kashmiris and their friends and allies worldwide. In the wake of India’s August 5 revocation of Kashmir’s special status pending its resolution through a referendum, the legal situation has been radically altered. The instrument of accession was signed between two states: Kashmir and India. Only Kashmir was legally entitled to abrogate this unilaterally, not India.
It is quite revealing that in Britain where there is a large Kashmiri community, the British government warned protesters not to go near the Indian high commission to protest. The police as well as London’s “Muslim” mayor first demanded that no protests should be allowed and then put restrictions on the demonstrators. The “mother of all democracies” has strange habits. The Kashmiris’ rights and legitimate anger are being sacrificed at the altar of trade relations.
Claims to democracy are meaningless phrases that remain subservient to the interests of big business and concentrated power. So long as they define it, democracy can be whatever they want it to be (except for a representative system reflecting the popular will): an ethnocracy in Israel and India, a special interest paradise in America, etc. The Kashmiris will have to be excused if they can’t wait for their basic rights forever.