A Saga of Oppression: Kashmir

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The Indian court’s decision to sentence Yasin Malik, a Kashmiri freedom warrior, to life in jail is just another example of New Delhi’s violent oppression of Kashmiris’ right to self-determination and denial of their liberties.

Yasin Malik’s life sentence is the conclusion of the BJP’s long-standing strategy of either systematically torturing Kashmiri resistance leaders or targeting heroic Kashmiri leaders like Yasin Malik by imprisoning them for life on bogus accusations.

Some of the most renowned Kashmiri leaders who have been slain for the legitimate cause of Kashmir are Afzal Guru and Burhan Wani.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other human rights organizations have chronicled New Delhi’s ruthless approach, which has made life a “living nightmare” for 9 million Muslim Kashmiris.

The All Parties Hurriyat Conference has criticized the ruling, claiming that Yasin Malik has pursued peaceful and democratic measures of conflict settlement since 1994. Yasin Malik has been described as a “strong votary of conversation and talks amongst the concerned parties to the dispute, namely the people of Jammu and Kashmir, India, and Pakistan, and he has been doggedly and selflessly pursuing its settlement.” Despite this, he was apprehended, sent to Tihar, and subsequently convicted in fabricated cases under harsh laws for his political views on the J&K conflict and for voicing the people’s feelings.”

Islamabad made the correct decision by initiating a global campaign for Yasin Malik’s release. Islamabad expects that launching this campaign, would not only bring attention to the misery of Kashmiris but also to the world’s sleeping moral consciousness.

One may argue that in a world driven by geopolitical and geoeconomic concerns, such efforts will be ineffective.

Pakistan, on the other hand, must add its geostrategic weight to the Kashmiri people’s desire for independence. The forces of British imperialism perpetrated a major historical wrong against the people of Kashmir when, in 1947, the district of Gurdaspur was granted to India rather than the nascent state of Pakistan, in blatant violation of the principles of geographical contiguity and national self-determination. The subsequent British administrations never recognized or corrected this arbitrariness. This British injustice has been dubbed the “disputed legacy” of Jammu Kashmir by historian Alastair Lamb.

The incarceration of Yasin Malik is an outlier case of violations of Kashmiris’ right to freedom and denial of justice. To begin with, he was arrested in 2019 on completely false charges of “terrorist” acts, illegally raising funds, belonging to a terrorist organization, criminal conspiracy, and sedition.”

Second, following his capture, he was imprisoned without due process by Indian security personnel and held in isolation at the notorious Tihar Prison. There are convincing accusations that he was tortured while in police detention, including testimonies from his wife, Mishal Malik. He has been barred from communicating with his wife and nine-year-old daughter for the previous three years. Finally, Yasin Malik has been fighting his case on his own because he has not been given legal representation.

During the hearing, Malik stated that he had stopped using violence in 1994 and that he “would follow Mahatma Gandhi’s path of peace and engage in nonviolent political action.” The court stated that he had not undergone any reformation in its judgment. Malik may have surrendered his pistol in 1994, but he “never showed any contrition for the atrocities perpetrated previous to 1994,” according to the report.

India claims to be the world’s largest democracy, but its treatment of Kashmiri Muslims puts this claim to the test.

The increase of repression against Kashmiri Muslims must be seen in the context of the BJP’s determination in August 2019 to abolish the independent state of Jammu and Kashmir and absorb it as a Union territory directly governed by New Delhi. This was a clear attempt not just to end the disputed status of Kashmir, but also to alter its demographic composition by repealing Article 35 A, which recognized only state subjects as owners of the property.

Sumantra Bose’s new book, Kashmir at the Crossroads: Inside a Twenty-First-Century Conflict: “The Hindu nationalist government’s Kashmir policy focuses heavily on divide-and-rule, utilizing the socioeconomic and political heterogeneity of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir prior to August 2019.” Jammu Hindus are pitted against Kashmiri Muslims, and Ladakhi Buddhists are pitted against Ladakhi Muslims in this approach.”

Regardless matter how hard New Delhi tries to deny Kashmir’s Muslims their inalienable right to freedom, particularly their right to ancestral land, policies based on coercion are sure to backfire in the end.

New Delhi’s strategy of stifling dissent and protest in occupied Kashmir has already reached a dead end. Although Kashmiri Muslims appear to be lacking in cohesion and organization, their will to confront Indian persecution remains unwavering. Many in Pakistan have suggested that we should wait till the Modi era is through before returning to a discussion as a means of resolving the Kashmir problem fairly.

“The end of the Modi era would not in itself lead to a major change in Kashmir,” Sumantra Bose correctly observes, “in part because the BJP would remain in play as an opposition party and no doubt employ its ultra-hardline Kashmir card against its opponents… Whether India’s democratic and federalist framework can be salvaged from the Hindu nationalist attack is important to a better future in Kashmir. If it succeeds, the Hindu nationalists’ endeavor to depoliticize Kashmir as a political issue may turn out to be a blank slate on which to create a negotiated settlement.”

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