August 5th 2019 is the darkest day in Kashmir’s history as the government of India bypassed their supreme judicial authority i.e. Supreme Court of India’s rulings and their own constitution by repudiating Articles 370 and 35A. Post August 5th 2019 the semi-autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir was abrogated and the erstwhile state was bifurcated into union territories Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh. The demographic engineering was initiated and India has gradually enforced settler colonialism in Kashmir. As Kashmir is an UN-recognized international conflict, the UN Security Council’s several resolutions on the Kashmir issue make self-determination an intrinsic right of Kashmiris. By revoking Articles 370 and 35A and then integrating Kashmir, the Indian government is defying self-determination and violating international obligations.
Settler colonialism entails the displacement of indigenous communities and their replacement with outside settlers. In the previous century, Israel did this with Palestinians, and Australia did it with Aboriginals. India is the most recent addition to the league of settler colonialism in an internationally contested territory. Throughout the post-Partition period, India’s settler colonial project in Kashmir has been popular. Until the 1980s, its goal was to undermine Kashmiris’ political autonomy. Following that, until the tragic month of August 2019, it was to physically exterminate and internally remove the majority Muslim Kashmiris, who made up over two-thirds of the population, under the pretense of terrorism.
However, India’s settler colonialism is not new. It dates back to 1947 when the ruling Dogra elite killed Muslims in Jammu to eradicate the indigenous people and settle primarily Hindu groups. The Indian state has assigned blame for this genocidal violence to a variety of actors. The Jammu massacre marked the beginning of the region’s demographic changes. The Indian government blamed different individuals and groups for this genocidal violence. The Jammu Massacre was the beginning of demographic transformations in the region.
Now, India’s settler colonial project in Kashmir has intensified, with the goal of gaining control over the region’s fate. Kashmiris faced a communication blackout, fear, and the imprisonment of subservient leaders. The COVID 19 pandemic was used to further silence Kashmiri voices, preventing uprisings against the tyrants. Kashmiris recently saw the selling of heirlooms at low prices under a new property Act, which allows non-Kashmiris to exploit agricultural property for non-agricultural reasons. In the contested region, India enacted 165 legislations, bolstering the colonial legal order.
Amnesty International in its report in 2022 stated that since 2019, the Indian government has significantly increased its suppression of human rights. The Indian government has launched a savage onslaught on civil society and the media in Jammu and Kashmir, trying to silence dissent through the implementation of draconian laws, policies, and illegal practices.
In 2020 more stringent media policy was enacted through which the Indian government now has complete control over any kind of news emanating from the region. Indian authorities continue to suspend internet connectivity in various sections of Kashmir, often without notice. Furthermore, the Indian government’s sudden forced closure of the Kashmir Press Club in 2022 was a significant blow to the already deteriorating media pool.
Since 2019, the Indian government has employed draconian laws, such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), to silence dissent and target journalists, human rights practitioners, and activists. This law has been used against photojournalists and students supporting the Pakistan cricket team in a match with India. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) also known as “lawless law” and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) have been used to maintain a climate of terror and oppress the people of Kashmir.
According to the sources over 21,072 innocent Kashmiris including Hurriyat Leaders, political activists, lawyers, human rights defenders, and the leaders of religious, trade, and social organizations have been detained under these draconian laws since 2019. Over 780 Kashmiris are martyred by Indian Occupation forces and more than 2362 have been tortured.
Furthermore, the G20 tourism meeting in Srinagar was India’s effort to project a false sense of normalcy in the region. In a video message to Aljazeera, Mohammad Junaid, an academic, stated that India attempted to put on a veneer of normalcy by claiming that this is a done deal that the international community must accept. India is misusing its G-20 presidency by violating international law and trying to legitimize the undemocratic and unilateral annexation of Kashmir on August 5, 2019. According to Ather Zia tourism in settler colonial context is an extension of imperial politics. It is a process by which colonized lands are absorbed by hegemonic powers. Tourism enables Indians to further consolidate the Indian state’s authority over the territory that they have occupied. It reinforces the occupying force’s authority while emphasizing the colonizing power’s supremacy. As a result, the Kashmiri people are left without agency or a voice, existing merely to serve the needs of the Indian ruling elite. India’s purpose was to present a tranquil façade through G20 meeting in Kashmir while disregarding the harrowing reality that Kashmiris experience. It is consistent with Indian authorities’ greater goal of exploiting Kashmir’s resources and transforming the territory into a capitalist landscape, so benefiting the Indian state and imposing dominance over Kashmir and its population.
In a nutshell, Kashmir is more than a playground for oppressors; it is a land with resilient people who yearn for their freedom and have their own hopes and dreams for the future, which must not be disregarded or dismissed in the pursuit of the Indian state’s exploitative agenda. The International community needs to wake up now and recognize Kashmiris as humans just as they do for Ukraine and Taiwan. It’s not only them who are worthy of the title “human”, Countless Kashmiri lives are at stake, their existence, their dreams, their struggles, all matter. We demand justice, respect, and recognition for every soul there yearning to be seen as human and the International community must take strict action against India’s oppressive policies.