The struggle goes on

Today is Kashmir Solidarity Day

Kashmir Solidarity Day has been observed since 1990 as a day of protest to condemn the Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir. The day is meant to express Pakistan’s full support and sympathy with the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir in their ongoing freedom struggle, and to pay homage to the Kashmiri martyrs who sacrificed their lives fighting for Kashmir’s freedom.

This year, the day is being observed in the backdrop of several cataclysmic anti-Muslim events. India has removed even the veneer of nominal statehood of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir State. It has begun to shout claims on even Gilgit-Baltistan. To irk Pakistan, India instigated  its stooge, the so-called Leh Apex Body,  to demand “the territorial control of Ladakh up to Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir: (What is Ladakh’s demand on Gilgit-Baltistan? | ExplainedThe Hindu, January 28).

While speaking at the parade ground of 11 Gorkha Rifles in Lucknow, India’s COAS Gen Manoj Pandey hurled threats to China and Pakistan. The city also houses the headquarters of the Central Command, which oversees India’s defences along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China’ India is hobnobbing with France and the USA to scuttle the CPEC and to encircle China. The USA and France have agreed to share with India the latest technology in the realms of military surveillance satellites, artificial information, and joint defence production.

India and France agreed to intensify their cooperation in the Southwest Indian Ocean, building on the “joint surveillance missions” carried out from the French island of Réunion in 2020 and 2022. France accepted India “as a base” for the manufacture and export of defence equipment for friendly countries in the region. The joint statement issued at the end of French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit after the talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that France is the first major Western military power with which India has conducted joint patrols under which Indian Navy P-8I maritime patrol aircraft were deployed to Réunion. “They [Modi and Macron]also welcomed the extension of those interactions in India’s maritime neighbourhood. These interactions may contribute positively to the securitisation of strategic sea lanes of communication.”

To stall the CPEC as a shortcut to the Gulf States, the UAE has already agreed to build a submarine tunnel from India to the UAE, and India’s gung-ho posture stimulated China to show its maritime and air power in the sea neighbouring Taiwan.

In marked contrast to India’s colonizing policy, Pakistan gives an iron-clad constitutional assurance to Kashmiris to re-craft their relation with Pakistan under Article 257 of its Constitution. It states: `when the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and that State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State’.

How has India stifled dissent? Through a host of draconian measures, India gagged digital and voice protests in disputed Kashmir. It barred Indian opposition leaders and journalists from visiting Kashmir during the European Parliamentary delegation’s visit to Kashmir. The visit was arranged and funded by India.

Indian forces fired   pellets (called `bird shots’) with pump-action shot-guns against unarmed protesters or stone-throwers, even women, and children five to eight years old. As a result, countless Kashmiris were blinded for life. The New York Times reported “the patients have mutilated retinas, severed optic nerves, irises seeping out like puddles of ink’. Doctors call them ‘dead eyes’. (“An Epidemic of ‘Dead Eyes’ in Kashmir as India Uses Pellet Guns on Protesters”, New York Times, 28 August 2016) A similar report in the Washington Post (12 December 2017) is no less poignant.  Indian forces continue to kill innocent Kashmiris in fake encounters and bury them in nameless graves en masse.

Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom is indomitable .  Let India realise it can’t stifle Kashmiris’ dissent. To stifle the Kashmiris fighting spirit, the Dogra (1846-1947) punished even Kashmiri children who played with slingshots (ghulail in Urdu) and stones (Muhammad Yousaf Saraf, Kashmiris Fight for Freedom). Struggle for freedom goes on despite Indian forces’ reign of terror (abductions, custodial deaths, rapes, arson, and pellet shelling). “While Mr. Modi may think he can control this volatile conflict on his own, he almost certainly cannot” (The U.N. Can’t Ignore Kashmir Anymore, New York Times, 2 October 2019).

Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister of the disputed state, once called Kashmir a Guantanamo Bay.  Kashmiri people remain prisoners in their own houses, their mosques deserted, while internet access is mostly blocked. Schools, markets and roads are almost deserted as people are not allowed to move freely. The apathy of the Muslim countries and international news agencies is not understood.

Irked by international-media censures on use of pellet guns, Gen Bipin Rawat, India’s ex-army chief, tendered a funny explanation. He says, ` Most of the eye injuries are caused because those pelting stones bend to the ground to pick up stones and because pellet guns are fired at the legs they get hit in the eyes’ (Indian Express, 17 January 2020).

Kashmir is a simmering cauldron. India’s entente policy may lead to a nuclear Armageddon. History tells that the ebbs and flows of Kashmiris’ resistance never ceased. Palliatives failed to stifle the struggle. A lasting solution is to allow Kashmiris to determine their own fate. An internationally disputed territory can’t be unilaterally annexed.

In marked contrast to India’s colonizing policy, Pakistan gives an iron-clad constitutional assurance to Kashmiris to re-craft their relation with Pakistan under Article 257 of its Constitution. It states: `when the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and that State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State’.

Fake cases continue to be registered against Kashmiri leaders.  Farooq Abdullah’s ancestral home was confiscated. Money laundering cases were registered against several Kashmiri leaders but they are all undeterred by Indian coercive tactics. Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Gilani died in captivity.

Amjed Jaaved
Amjed Jaaved
The writer is a freelance journalist, has served in the Pakistan government for 39 years and holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law. He can be reached at [email protected]

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