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Wed 16 October 2019
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CJ Werleman on why the international community’s waning interest in the violations occurring in Kashmir at the hands of Narendra Modi are so dangerous for its eight million Muslims.


In scrapping Article 370 of its constitution – and Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status last month – India succeeded in doing what human rights activists have failed to do for decades: putting India’s human rights violations in Kashmir onto front pages around the world and into the homes of television viewers everywhere.

Six weeks on, New Delhi has deployed thousands more troops and shutdown all communications in and out of the disputed territory. But it’s clear that the world is fast losing its renewed interest in Kashmir – which spells increasing trouble for eight million Muslims.

If anti-democratic regimes with authoritarian tendencies or character have learnt anything in the new multimedia, post 9/11 world, it is that their crimes against humanity can outlast our collective outrage, so why stop doing what they’re doing?

The international community’s stubborn refusal to end Bashar al-Assad’s mass slaughter in Syria – where more than one million people have been displaced; its unwillingness to provide security and repatriation for 750,000 Rohingya Muslim genocide survivors in Myanmar; its callous indifference towards the Saudi-led coalition’s war crimes in Yemen; and its silence as China carries out the largest persecution of a religious minority – Uygur Muslims – since the Holocaust, has led India to believe that it can get away with whatever it pleases in Kashmir too.

New Delhi has calculated correctly that its anti-democratic move in Kashmir will quickly disappear from newspaper coverage, thus reinstating Kashmiris as the world’s forgotten people. It is said that democracy dies in darkness – so do people.

If the public are kept angry about everything, they will ultimately be outraged by nothing. 

Indian security forces are carrying out egregious human rights violations in Kashmir, from arbitrary arrests to denial of freedom of movement. There have been accounts of torture and pellet gun shootings of unarmed protesters. These crimes are met only by muffled calls for India and Pakistan to reopen a dialogue over the occupied territory.

A recent Reuters report found that more than 3,800 people in Kashmir – including supporters of political parties, journalists, lawyers, teachers and human rights activists – have been detained without charge by Indian security forces. In most cases, family members have no idea of their whereabouts or status.

“Anyone who has been detained in Kashmir without evidence of a crime should be immediately and unconditionally released,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said. “It is essential for the authorities to allow every detainee access to lawyers and family members.”

As these families await to be reunited with their fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles, credible accounts of torture are as frequent as they are widespread, with one 26-year-old Kashmiri man telling the Associated Press how Indian soldiers came to his village at midnight, arresting him and a dozen others.

Then they gave me electric shocks, again on my genitals and wounds,” he said. “One of them said ‘I will make you impotent’… I can’t eat properly anymore. I don’t go into the room my wife sleeps in anymore. It’s better to die with a bullet than undergo such torture.”

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Night raids, illegal detentions and torture is how India suppresses and controls eight million people who don’t wish to be occupied and controlled by the Indian military. A recent report presented to the United Nations documented 432 torture cases in Kashmir from 1990 to 2017 and found that 70% of the victims were civilians.

Since the international community expressed shock and alarm when this report was made public in February, and then did nothing meaningful to address or investigate it further, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that New Delhi has calculated that the world will do nothing to prevent the human rights violations occurring in Kashmir today or tomorrow.

Our collective inability to maintain justifiable outrage towards perpetrators of state terrorism and human rights violations is well observed by dictators and illiberal regimes of all stripes. One only has to analyse the way in which US President Donald Trump determines the American public’s outrage of the day from one tweet to the next. He, like India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is all too aware that, if the public are kept angry about everything, they will ultimately be outraged by nothing. 

Injustices are resolved only by sustained and mobilised anger. That Kashmir is fast moving from the forefront of the international community’s mind to a mere afterthought must count among the worst news stories to emerge from the valley since its latest nightmare began.

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