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Mapping an Annexation of Kashmir

Mapping an Annexation of Kashmir
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It’s been 12 months. A complete abrogation of democracy and an unconscionable suppression of civil and democratic rights. The killings and the dehumanization of the indigenous people, massive extraction of resources under the guise of development and a forcible demographic change are being carried out. Democracy has been denied to Kashmiris for the last seven decades and today Kashmiris are facing an existential threat in the face of India’s settler colonialism.

Sahir Bilal

Kashmir is a dystopia of post-apocalyptic age. What would George Orwell have made of the Kashmir situation in 2020? What Orwell says to us about Kashmir today? Orwell captures some sense of living in today’s Kashmir with extensive government overreach, mass surveillance and repressive regimentation of all persons and behaviors by the Indian state in Kashmir. In Kashmir, the Indian state exists for the sake of its power in a kind of sadomasochistic relationship that grinds down an entire population to perpetuate its power. Since August last year, the Indian state has embarked on a war-footing mission to perpetuate a drastic demographic change in a predominantly Muslim majority region. The lethal policies, which the Indian government is implementing since the curtailment of regions’ special autonomous status last year, will bring tectonic shifts in Kashmir society. Kashmiris are rightly incredulous that the BJP-led regime is committed to empower Kashmiris because they are abreast of the nefarious designs of the right-wing party. As the first anniversary of the scraping of Kashmir’s special status is approaching, here is a factual analysis of the various policy-changes brought into yoke post abrogation of article 370.

New Domicile law

The Muslim-majority region of Kashmir was stripped of its semi-autonomous status by India in August 2019, with thousands of politicians and activists arrested. The relegation of J&K from a state with special status to a separate union territory gave a direct control on the territory and more powers to the central BJP-led government via the appointment of Lieutenant Governor. It practically limits the autonomy of the state legislature of J&K that was awarded to it via Article 370 of the Indian constitution. The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Order disempower the state legislature of J&K from ascertaining ‘permanent residents’ and their right to employment, as was provided under Article 35A of the Indian constitution. The order is nothing but another step by India to settle the non-indigenous population in the valley by changing the domicile laws. Under the new domicile law, those who have resided for 15 years in Kashmir are now eligible to become permanent residents. India is systematically paving the way for forced demographic change in Kashmir, thus institutionalizing a system of domination over indigenous populations. The order is a clear violation of the 4th Geneva Convention. Observers warn that the new Domicile Law could permanently alter the demography of the disputed region and “17.4 lakh people can certainly acquire domicile rights, which constitute roughly 14% of J&K’s population of 1.23 crore in 2011.

The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Order disempower the state legislature of J&K from ascertaining ‘permanent residents’ and their right to employment, as was provided under Article 35A of the Indian constitution.

New Education Policy

According to newly introduced Education Policy 2020, ‘the government intends to give due preference to reputed players in the field of education willing to set up universities in J&K. The government will facilitate allotment of land in UT from the specified available land bank. It will coordinate with the concerned departments for the required approvals and clearances to facilitate the process of setting up educational institutions in J&K. Now the private players from outside the Kashmir will be incentivized to set up educational institutions in J&K. The new education policy aims to whitewash the local history and rewrite the textbooks to represent an obfuscated narrative suitable for the present Government of India. The Narendra Modi government has repeatedly been accused of ‘saffronising’ education – particularly by rewriting history textbooks.

New Media Policy

The policy of harassment, intimidation and threatening of journalists for highlighting people’s issues has frequently been reported in J&K. With the introduction of New Media Policy, the government seems to have given this policy of intimidation an official sanctum. Jammu and Kashmir administration approved the new Media Policy-2020 stating that it was meant for effective communication and public outreach. The Media Policy-2020 allows the Directorate of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) to “examine” the content of print, electronic and various other forms of media for “fake news, plagiarism and unethical or anti-national activities.” The new media policy has rendered J&K newspapers into government handouts. The new policy gives J&K administration powers to decide what is ‘fake’, ‘unethical’ or ‘anti-national’ news, and to take legal action against the journalist or media organization concerned, including stopping government advertisements and sharing information with security agencies.

The new policy has been described as an attempt ‘to kill journalism’ and a ‘remnant of the colonial era.’ This is an attempt to control the narrative and throttle freedom of press, speech and expression. It is a severe threat to the freedom of the press in J&K. This is state censorship where the government will decide what to publish and what not to.

The new media policy has rendered J&K newspapers into government handouts. The new policy gives J&K administration powers to decide what is ‘fake’, ‘unethical’ or ‘anti-national’ news, and to take legal action against the journalist or media organization concerned, including stopping government advertisements and sharing information with security agencies.

The BJP-led central government has curtailed Kashmir region’s special autonomous status on the premise that complete integration of the erstwhile state with the Indian union will usher a new era of peace and development in this part of the world. Almost a year has passed since India’s unilateral move to redraw the new political map of the restive valley; peace is not only elusive but fragile, to say the least. A recent report by Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a local human rights group, says Kashmir saw 229 killings in the first half of 2020, which includes 143 militants and 32 civilian deaths. The massive witch purge by the Indian military to wipe out militancy in Kashmir has given rise to a perturb order of complete anarchy and lawlessness. Kashmir is witnessing the longest internet blackout in modern history. August 5 of this month will mark a year without high-speed internet in Kashmir. The human rights violations here are alarming now. With covid19 plaguing the world, people here must have access to tools necessary to fight this disease. However, the current dispensation is furthering its settler colonialism in the pretext of enforcing lockdown and saving people’s lives. Without adequate resources and internet access, the covid19 is likely to take a heavy toll in the region with an already fragile health system.

A complete abrogation of democracy and an unconscionable suppression of civil and democratic rights. The killings and the dehumanization of the indigenous people, massive extraction of resources under the guise of development and a forcible demographic change are being carried out. Democracy has been denied to Kashmiris for the last seven decades and today Kashmiris are facing an existential threat in the face of India’s settler colonialism.

The revocation of the special status deepens anxieties in Kashmir. Locals fear increased level of violence once there will be influx of outsiders into the muslim majority region. For centuries muslims and Kashmiri pandits, hindus in local parlance, are living in peaceful coexistence in a harmonious relationship. But the ongoing settlement of outsiders in the valley is seen as an assault on the identity of Kashmiris. Even though the conflict in Kashmir is rooted in territory but it has a strong psychological dimension as well. As tensions continue to rise in Kashmir after the shocking revocation of article 370; fear has, once again, gripped the valley of Kashmir. The mental health burden of this militarization is reflected in the general psychology of the already anxious population.

It’s been 12 months. What did the revocation of the Kashmir’s special status achieve. A complete abrogation of democracy and an unconscionable suppression of civil and democratic rights. The killings and the dehumanization of the indigenous people, massive extraction of resources under the guise of development and a forcible demographic change are being carried out. Democracy has been denied to Kashmiris for the last seven decades and today Kashmiris are facing an existential threat in the face of India’s settler colonialism.

The author is a Research scholar at Central University of Kashmir.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not reflect the stand or policy of Oracle Opinions.

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