5th July marks a year long anniversary of the Indian imposed lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir. With the abrogation of Article 370 (a provision in the Indian constitution giving a special status to J&K) and a prolonged paramilitary occupation through the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Kashmir has been subjected to constant violence, terror, and authoritarianism.
The actual history of the post-colonial integration of the princely state of J&K is, in itself, riddled with controversies. In brief, India ‘acquired’ Kashmir through rigged elections, manipulation of the Kashmiri government, and blatant disregard for Kashmiri’s calls for an Azad (free) Kashmir.
Since then, India has strived to legitimize its military rule in Kashmir through careful ‘othering’ of the Kashmiris and misrepresentation of the issue in mainstream Indian media.
Here is a list of the violence caused by the militarization of Kashmiri borders:
- Proliferation of ‘fake encounters’ and arbitrary killings by the police officials . What are ‘fake encounters’? These are arbitrary killings of innocent Kashmiris by the hands of the police officials. These killings are then fabricated as a defense against Islamic fundamentalism and a fight against jihadist terrorism. Innocent people are kidnapped from their homes, killed for bounty by police officials, and are then depicted as terrorists who needed to be killed.
- Violent McCarthyism. The language used to instruct the AFSPA is charged with violence and religious profiling. See: “‘fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area’ if that officer believes it necessary ‘for the maintenance of public order.’”
- Internet shutdown and severe violations to freedom of speech. During a time when the entire world is dependent on the internet for their education, jobs, and seeing loved ones, Kashmiris are forced to live under internet blackout. The aforementioned McCarthyite suppression of free speech means that anyone who protests or speaks out against violence is labeled as a terrorist and instantly persecuted.
- Overlooked increase in violence against women. Rape as a weapon of war has been excessively used in Kashmir by state policy officials and military personnel. In most cases, sexual violence is used as a tool to silence communities into subjugation. This report by Human Rights Watch provides an analysis of the historical development of violence in Kashmir. Worst of all, the army still enjoys impunity from any crimes committed while stationed in Kashmir.
None of these violations mentioned are endemic to the Kashmir conflict. At moments of distress and instability, the state always acts out to protect its own legitimacy to use force. India, like several other states, has used force repeatedly to legitimize its actions in Kashmir. As stated by Giorgio Agamben: “force becomes transformed from a means to the end of law, into law itself.” Kashmir is, sadly, no exception.
If India really wants Kashmir to accede to integration, it needs to do so through cultural diplomacy and not be a forced paramilitary rule.
So, how can you help?
At the moment, due to extreme militarization of the Kashmiri borders by both India Held Kashmir and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, there is not much we can do directly to help the Kashmiri people.
We can only pressurize India (as well as Pakistan and China – although from my view their intervention is primarily reactionary to India’s control of Kashmir) to withdraw from Kashmir or at least restore internet access and access to basic human rights in the region. We can only use our privilege to be able to speak out to draw attention for those being regularly silenced by the government. #4GforAJK