Who in the World Will Stand Up for the Muslims in Kashmir?
CJ Werleman on why India’s revocation of its agreements with Pakistan over Kashmir is so concerning in light of a lack of condemnation from the international community.
At a time when the democratic world is under siege from ultra-nationalist and authoritarian forces, the largest democracy on the planet – India – declared its intention to be anything but when it announced that it had revoked Kashmir’s special status and its previous agreements with the Muslim-majority territory.
Democracies don’t die at the ballot box or in the light of day. They die in the dark and they die when the voices of the majority are silenced, which is precisely what New Delhi has done in revoking Article 370 of its constitution and putting eight million Kashmiris under total lockdown for the past four days.
When the international community can no longer summon the will or muster the stomach to sanction or punish the enemies of freedom and individual liberty – including violators of human rights and international law – it’s not only democracies that die, but also people too. And with that understood, Kashmir’s eight million Muslims have become the world’s forgotten people, a reality India is now seizing upon.
In the past week, India has invoked a phoney terrorist threat; deployed a further 38,000 soldiers to add to its already 500,000 strong security force in the valley; detained more than 100 Kashmiri political figures, including former chief ministers of the state; and has blocked all communications by shutting down the internet and phone lines, so that the people of Kashmir are unable to share their suffering and angst with the outside world.
Indian security forces have instantly turned Kashmir into the world’s largest prison, as New Delhi puts into action its aim of changing the region’s demographics, which is a polite way of describing ethnic cleansing and succinct way of announcing that a new Hindu nationalist settler-colonial project has begun.
Military outposts and bases will be turned into settlements; settlements will be turned into mini-cities; land will be seized and stolen from Kashmiris and given to Hindu Indians, while Muslim citizens of this new Indian-controlled state will be denied the same rights that have been afforded to their colonisers.
If this story sounds at all familiar, it’s probably because you’re thinking of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
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Naturally, eight million Kashmiri people are understandably panicked as they’ve already lived under India’s brutal military rule for decades. A recent 560-page report submitted to the United Nations revealed how India has used torture as an “instrument of control”, with Kashmiri detainees and prisoners routinely subjected to water-boarding, electrocution, sleep deprivation rape and sodomy.
Titled Torture – Indian State’s Instrument of Control in Indian-State of Jammu and Kashmir, the authors of the report found that more than 70% of the torture victims were civilians.
“Muzaffer Ahmed Mirza from Tral and Manzoor Ahmad Naikoo were subjected to insertion of a rod through their rectum,” reads one of the more than 400 testimonies documented in the report. “It caused multiple ruptures to their internal organs.
“While Mirza died after a few days in the hospital of lung rupture, Naikoo had to undergo five surgeries to finally heal the wounds he received due to this torture. Apart from insertion, a cloth was wrapped around Naikoo’s penis and set on fire.”
If leaders of Muslim-majority countries won’t stand up for the rights of their religious brothers and sisters in Kashmir, then who ultimately will?
When Kashmiris aren’t being detained, tortured and harassed by Indian security forces, they’re being fired upon for merely protesting against their plight. If they’re not shot dead, they are permanently blinded by Indian pellet guns. In the past half-dozen years, more than 3,000 Kashmiris have sustained eye and facial injuries from this weapon.
More troubling still is that the international community is, yet again, responding to Kashmiri fears and suffering with callous indifference. Its concerns are pretty much confined to hoping Pakistan and India don’t end up nuking each other into oblivion.
US President Donald Trump has said he’ll intervene on Kashmir but only if asked by both India and Pakistan, telling reporters on Thursday that “it’s really up to Prime Minister Modi” to accept the offer of mediation. But the last thing New Delhi seeks is mediation on Kashmir. It seeks only domination and colonisation in the disputed territory.
Whereas the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has expressed its “deep concerns” and condemned “illegal Indian actions” in Kashmir, the leaders of Muslim-majority countries have been conspicuously mute or worse, as typified by Saudi Arabia refraining from taking a position on recent developments and with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) praising New Delhi by arguing that India’s revocation of Article 370 will “improve social justice and security and confidence of the people in the local governance and will encourage further stability and peace”.
It should be noted that the UAE is one of 11 Muslim-majority countries to have expressed support in a recent letter for China’s anti-Muslim activities in Xinjiang, including the banning of Islam and detainment of more than three million Muslims in concentration camps.
So, all of this brings us to one salient question: if leaders of Muslim-majority countries won’t stand up for the rights of their religious brothers and sisters in Kashmir, then who ultimately will?