Here’s why we should care about India’s occupation of Kashmir

Indian Army officer in Kashmir
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On 6 August, India cancelled key articles in its constitution which until now had granted autonomy to the region of Kashmir. Since then it’s initiated what can only be described as a military crackdown in the disputed territory. Below is a breakdown of the situation as it currently stands.

1. Communications Blackout

One of India’s first moves was a communications blackout, blocking internet and telephone access. India has used this as an opportunity to control news going out from the region. Although more recently India has partially restored communications, it has denied that there’s unrest in the region. This is despite the BBC and Reuters sharing video evidence of protests that took place on 9 August.

2. Detentions

Many activists, political leaders, and journalists have been detained since 5 August. The move reportedly followed a mass data-gathering exercise on mosques, journalists, activists, and civilians, which India carried out ahead of 5 August.

3. Abductions and molestation

Business Insider recently reported on troubling human rights abuses from Indian authorities. Hundreds of “very young school boys and teenagers” have reportedly been arrested and detained. Arrests took place during midnight raids on homes, where women and young girls were also allegedly molested.

4. Civil society and religious observance

In the wake of the unrest, Eid celebrations were muted and weddings have been cancelled en masse. On 16 August, worshippers were blocked from entering mosques for Friday prayers. The communications blackout is also reportedly putting patients at risk and blocking access to healthcare.

What does India want?

The dispute over Kashmir originated in the wake of the partition between India and Pakistan in 1947. Since then, the two nations have fought several wars staking their claim over Kashmir.

Most recently, though, India’s revocation of Kashmir’s special status appears to be motivated by Hindu nationalism. India’s ruling party, the BJP, and prime minister Narendra Modi espouse an ideology that places a conservative Hinduism at the centre of India’s national identity. Therefore, that Kashmir’s population is mostly Muslim is not unrelated to India’s ambitions in the region.

What can we do?

In response to the conflict, the BBC published an article asking if Kashmir is “a priority” for British Asians. Of the British Asians interviewed in the article, however, it’s difficult to say how many actually have a connection to Kashmir.

In the midst of this conflict, one thing we can do is listen to and amplify the voices of Kashmiris themselves. We must counter misinformation being put out by the Indian government to whitewash its military crackdown.

Moreover, what’s happening in Kashmir has often been compared to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, especially as Kashmiris must live in what looks increasingly like a police state. Therefore, just as with the Palestinian cause, the international community must respect and support the right of Kashmiris to self-determination. We can do this by joining demos and protests against the Indian government or writing to our MPs, asking them to raise the issue in parliament.

If Kashmir isn’t a priority for people in Britain, maybe we should ask ourselves: why not? What will it take for us to notice that Kashmiris are living under occupation, and that they deserve to finally be free?

Featured image via Wikimedia – Panky2sharma

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  • Show Comments
    1. Ere……so where is the UN? Words are cheap.

      Why is the RSS not denounced as a terrorist organisation….. does ethnic cleansing and gang raping of kids not count? Their manifesto is shocking!

      Does China not care about its 20% ownership of Kashmir or does it suit them for now?

      Support for the invasion seems to come from US and Israel. If correct, what are their opportunities?

      Is the world waiting for a Bosnia?

      We need a better system which reinforces violations with more than just words and ineffective sanctions. Russia was penalised over Ukraine yet no such move with India?

      It seems it’s a free for all. Can’t help feeling that this is all factored into Modi’s plan – create problems, raise tensions and blame Muslims. Not a nice man I suspect. Kashmir by rights should have passed to Pakistan on independence having, as it still does, a Muslim majority. It was only the weakness of the British who allowed the Hindu ruler to determine its fate against the interests of the Muslim population.

      I fail to see how Modi’s action helps the Kashmir majority -that is the majority in Kashmir – who are Muslim? Modi appears to be very much favouring one creed/religion in his policies so not clear why you think the masses have been disadvantaged?

      There should be some pressure on international community as well. If Kashmiri people are considered part of the world then the world should start getting involved. If Indian government was a fair government it would be using some kind of negotiations with local Kashmiris when changing laws. Instead of imposing these huge changes in a stupid way they should have involved the Kashmiri people in moving toward integration. Why is the RSS not considered a terrorist organisation? Just read their manifesto.

      The Indian government is not a fair government at all. Just get real. He made these changes at this time to ruin Eid for the poor people of Kashmir who spend the entire year to rear cattle and goats etc and sell them in markets at this time. To impose a curfew so no one could celebrate Eid and especially the poor who benefit from charitable food donations on Eid are going hungry today. So much for secular India.

      The illegal occupation of Kashmir by India should end. Sooner the better. UN Security Resolution 47 specifically demands that plebiscite should be held and the fate of Kashmir should be decided by the people of Kashmir. If India believes in “Might is right”, Pakistan Army should open its borders and allow those who want to fight against the illegal occupation of Kashmir.

      It is not constructive or conducive to a rational and objective debate to reduce the entire conversation and make it about Pakistan. As an Indian I am extremely concerned, as should all Indians, that the very carefully crafted fabric of the Indian constitution, on 5 August 2019, was ‘torn to shreds’ by an act of anti-constitutional vandalism by a BJP government. We need to remove facts from the fiction: The entire population of Kashmir valley are under a draconian lockdown, confined to their homes, or placed under arbitrary arrest, in breach of the due process rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. It would appear from this action that the entire Muslim population of Kashmir are now defined by the India as either; terrorist, or enemies of the state, or Pakistanis under occupation of the Indian Army and its paramilitary forces in a disputed part of Kashmir controlled by India. The Muslims of Kashmir are either accepted as patriotic citizens of Indian or enemies of state, India cannot have it both ways. In either scenario there is now a problem that PM Modi and Mr Amit Shah have created. Leaving the issue of 370 for time being, as no doubt the Supreme Court of India will look at the PIL & other related petitions concerning 370. The state of J & K has been truncated and reduced to a Union Territory (UT), which itself is unprecedented (to best of my knowledge never happened before in India), UT is given statehood, but the other way around.

      I suggest my dear Indian friends (Robert included) read the preamble and documents in relation to the accession of Kashmir and 370 as India (Nehru) made a solemn compact with the people of Kashmir, that binding agreement was broken in the most shameful manner by a BJP government on 5 August 2019. The voices of the people of Kashmir were silenced, but despite that number of opposition members of the Indian Parliament made eloquent and inspiring case on their behalf, in particular; Hon. P Chidambaram, Hon. Shashi Tharoor, Hon. Manish Tiwari, Hon. Kapil Sibal and Hon A. Owaisi. In contrast, the performance and speeches in the Pakistan Parliament were lamentable, uninspiring and were mainly fighting among themselves about their petty and narrow self-interest, sadly shameful. I say with pride that; the defence of the interests of the Muslims of Kashmir came from not from Pakistan from within India by the above-named members of the opposition benches.

      The Kesavananda Bharati judgement. (case citation: (1973) 4 SCC 225) is a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of India that outlined the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution.[2] Justice Hans Raj Khanna asserted through this doctrine that the constitution possesses a basic structure of constitutional principles and values. The Court partially cemented the prior precedent Golaknath v. State of Punjab, which held that constitutional amendments pursuant to Article 368 were subject to fundamental rights review, by asserting that only those amendments which tend to affect the ‘basic structure of the Constitution’ are subject to judicial review. The basic structure doctrine forms the basis of power of the Indian judiciary to review, and strike down, amendments to the Constitution of India enacted by the Indian parliament which conflict with or seek to alter this basic structure of the Constitution. The 13-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court deliberated on the limitations, if any, of the powers of the elected representatives of the people and the nature of fundamental rights of an individual. In a sharply divided verdict, by a margin of 7-6, the court held that while the Parliament has “wide” powers, it did not have the power to destroy or emasculate the basic elements or fundamental features of the constitution.

      H R Khanna has given in his judgment that the Parliament had full power to amend the Constitution, however, since it is only a “power to amend”, the basic structure or framework of the structure should remain intact. While as per the aforesaid views of the six learned Judges, certain “essential elements” (which included fundamental rights) of the judgment cannot be amended as there are certain implied restrictions on the powers of the parliament.

      According to the Hon’ble Judge, although it was permissible to the Parliament, in exercise of its amending power, to effect changes so as to meet the requirements of changing conditions, it was not permissible to touch the foundation or to alter the basic institutional pattern. Therefore, the words “amendment of the Constitution” in spite of the width of their sweep and despite their amplitude, could not have the effect of empowering the Parliament to destroy or abrogate the basic structure or framework of the Constitution.
      This gave birth to the basic structure doctrine, which has been considered as the cornerstone of the Constitutional law in India.

      This judgement ruled that Article 368 does not enable Parliament in its constituent capacity to delegate its function of amending the Constitution to another legislature or to itself in its ordinary legislative capacity.[20] This ruling made all the deemed constitutional amendments stipulated under the legislative powers of the parliament as void and inconsistent after the 24th constitutional amendment.

      S.M. Sikri, Chief Justice – held that the fundamental importance of the freedom of the individual has to be preserved for all times to come and that it could not be amended out of existence. According to the Honourable Chief Justice, Fundamental rights conferred by Part III of the Constitution of India cannot be abrogated, though a reasonable abridgment of those rights could be effected in public interest. There is a limitation on the power of amendment by necessary implication which was apparent from a reading of the preamble and therefore, according to the learned Chief Justice, the expression “amendment of this Constitution”, in Article 368 means any addition or change in any of the provisions of the Constitution within the broad contours of the preamble, made in order to carry out the basic objectives of the Constitution. Accordingly, every provision of the Constitution was open to amendment provided the basic foundation or structure of the Constitution was not damaged or destroyed.

      I respectfully rest my case.

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