September Issue 2019
Valley of Death
Let’s get some facts straight apropos of the move by Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s government to annex Occupied Jammu and Kashmir by revoking article 370 and its allied article 35-A, and demote the ‘state’ to the status of Union Territory to be governed directly from New Delhi.
Firstly, within the ambit of India’s own constitution and the negotiated settlement between the Indian state and Jammu and Kashmir, the move is unconstitutional and has been done through a sleight of hand. This observation, it should be noted, is sensu stricto with reference to the standing of article 370 which granted Occupied Jammu and Kashmir a special status within the Indian Union.
It is imperative to point to the narrow sense of this ‘special status’ clause because Pakistan has never accepted either the so-called Instrument of Accession by Maharaja Hari Singh or the negotiated settlement that came into being between India and the Occupied State of Jammu and Kashmir, given the disputed nature of J&K whose people still await the application of UNSC and UNCIP (United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan) resolutions to exercise their right to self-determination.
Outside of the ambit of India’s own constitution, the move goes against both the UNSC resolutions as well as the 1972 Simla (now Shimla) Agreement. India cannot change the status of J&K by annexing the territory until the enacting of UNSC resolutions to determine what the Kashmiris under Indian occupation want. Similarly, the Simla Agreement clearly states that “Pending the final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation and both shall prevent the organisation, assistance or encouragement of any acts detrimental to the maintenance of peaceful and harmonious relations…”.
Corollary: Pakistan’s objection to India’s move is therefore related to (a) India’s annexation of an occupied territory and (b) the act of annexation being one that seeks to alter, unilaterally and against UNSC resolutions as well as bilateral understandings, the situation on the ground.
Two, since August 5, in the run-up to its illegal annexation of J&K, India has kept the Kashmir Valley under total lockdown and a communications blackout. It has inducted 200,000 additional troops in the area who have turned the Valley into a large prison. Protests have been met with suppressive tactics; hospitals are instructed to either not admit victims of violence by the security forces, or to discharge them quickly; death certificates are not being issued or, in cases when they are, the cause of death is not registered as injuries related to violence by the security forces.
Three, Genocide Watch has already issued a Genocide Alert with reference to Occupied and annexed Kashmir. The non-governmental watchdog says it has issued an alert by applying Professor Barbara Harff’s risk factors for genocide. It lists them with reference to Kashmir as:
1. Prior genocidal massacres and continuing impunity for such killings;
2. Continued armed conflict between India and Pakistan over border areas in Kashmir;
3. An exclusionary ideology of “Hindutva” – India as Hindu nation – by Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party ;
4. Authoritarian military rule without legal restraints imposed by civilian Indian officials;
5. Rule by a minority military force (Hindus and Sikhs) over majority Muslim citizens;
6. Cut-off of communications and outside access by internet, media, and trade;
7. Widespread violations of basic human rights – torture, rape, two-year detentions without charge, arbitrary arrests and deportations of Muslim political and human rights leaders.
Four, since August 5, India has resorted to shelling and firing across the Line of Control (LoC) on an almost daily basis and at least on one occasion used cluster munitions. A cluster munition is a form of an air-dropped or ground-launched explosive weapon that disperses smaller submunitions that are designed to kill personnel, destroy vehicles or scatter landmines. While India is not a signatory to the May 2008 Convention of Cluster Munitions adopted in Dublin, it is widely understood that a state will not use such munition where there is danger of collateral damage to civilian populations, which is the case along the LoC.
Five, India’s defence minister, Rajnath Singh, has said that while India remains firmly committed to the No First Use doctrine, what happens in the future would depend on the circumstances.
Singh’s statement, India’s earlier anti-satellite test and its development of MIRVs (Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles) clearly indicate that India is not wedded to no-first-use and its declaration is a political eyewash. Concurrently, it raises the possibility of India resorting to preemption against Pakistan through counter-force (specific targeting of military assets and other infrastructure) nuclear strikes. This serves to further destabilise deterrence between the nuclear dyad, especially if the graph of violence and retaliatory violence in Occupied Kashmir goes up.
Six, in case of retaliation in Occupied Kashmir by Kashmiri freedom fighters, India could plan and execute strikes against Pakistan; it could also do so by conducting a false flag operation and stage-managing conflict with Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan, as also Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, have already said so and briefed the international leaders about such a possibility.
In a New York Times op-ed on August 30, Khan wrote that, “If the world does nothing to stop the Indian assault on Kashmir and its people, there will be consequences for the whole world as two nuclear-armed states get ever closer to a direct military confrontation.”
Invoking a moment from history, Khan reminded the world that, “It is imperative that the international community think beyond trade and business advantages. World War II happened because of appeasement at Munich. A similar threat looms over the world again, but this time under the nuclear shadow.”
Khan is not presenting an alarmist picture. Modi, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activist, practices a Hindutva ideology. During his previous five-year tenure, Sanghis have slowly chipped away at whatever liberal-secular ideals India might have practiced. Having been returned to power even more resoundingly, Modi and his inner coterie want to move further down the Hindutva road. The Indian media, barring honourable exceptions, are going along with suppressing facts and deluging the viewers with alt-facts. As journalist Sidharth Bhatia wrote for Wire.In, “…journalists [in India] no longer see their roles as giving voice to the voiceless or demanding accountability from the ruling classes. How can they question the system when they are the system?”
Modi is doing unto India’s liberal-secular values, whatever they were worth, what Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party did to the Weimar Republic. And we all know where that led to.
Ejaz Haider is an executive editor at Indus News and also anchors his show. His twitter handle is @ejazhaider.