Occupying Kashmir

Ankita Chakraborty

The news came like a declaration of war: Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is gone. It gave the people of Jammu and Kashmir a measure of autonomy: a separate assembly, a separate flag, the exclusive right to residency and property-ownership in the state. On the morning of 5 August, the Indian home minister, Amit Shah, scrapped it. No Kashmiris had been consulted; none of them were informed in advance. No debate or deliberation took place. The next day the Indian Express, a supposedly anti-establishment newspaper, published a giant picture of Narendra Modi congratulating Shah under the headline: ‘History, in one stroke.’

In the days before, the Indian army had ordered all tourists and pilgrims out of Kashmir, emptying the valley of everyone but Kashmiris. Democratically elected leaders were arrested. Kashmir is now completely isolated from the world: phone lines, cable TV and the internet no longer work. Kashmiris are not allowed to talk to each other or to anyone in India. The police patrol the streets with megaphones, warning people not to come out of their houses. On Indian TV, we see images of reporters stopping men as they come out of mosques: ‘Are you happy about it?’ the reporter asks. The man replies, and the reporter then turns to face the camera: ‘He is also happy about it.’

‘Kashmir is not the property of India or Pakistan,’ Nehru said in 1952. ‘It belongs to the Kashmiri people.’ But the far-right Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the parent organisation of the BJP, has long insisted that ‘Kashmir belongs to India,’ and a succession of governments in Delhi have behaved as if it does for decades. To grow up in India is to grow up ignorant about Kashmir. And that such ignorance should persist in the Indian mind suits the RSS, which despises India’s secular constitution and our founding fathers: Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar, Patel.

In 2016, three students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi were arrested and charged with sedition for taking part in a protest to commemorate the executions of two Kashmiri separatists and for chanting Kashmiri freedom slogans. The debate moved out of student unions into the streets, where public opinion was shaped by propaganda. The TV news portrayed any form of dissent as ‘anti-India’. In the streets of Kashmir, the army, emboldened by these opinions, became more brutal with protesters. They used ‘non-lethal pellet guns’ – i.e. shotguns loaded with lead pellets – on the crowds. They injured three thousand demonstrators, blinding almost a thousand people. Kashmir changed that summer. Many of the militants now fighting in Kashmir have PhDs. They took up arms only when everything else, including their education in India, had failed them.

We are all now encouraged by the government to have a ‘stand on Kashmir’. What they really want us to do is cheer on the Indian army. You are for the army or against it; either a Hindu nationalist or ‘anti-India’. The media pitted the army against every Muslim in Kashmir: civilians, militants and politicians. Even attending funerals in Kashmir was branded ‘anti-India’. Kashmir was depicted as costing us something: our money, our army, our patience. Six months ago, when a local boy blew himself up killing forty troops, Kashmiri men across India were beaten up in retaliatory attacks. So much of our time since 2016 has been spent being told by the media that ‘Kashmir is a problem’, we have finally become a society fully invested in finding a solution – no matter how bloody it may be.

When soldiers are killed in Kashmir, the Indian papers publish their photographs; when civilians are killed, many of them teenagers, we are never shown their faces. In June 2018, the UN published its first ever report on human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir. It found that the army ‘used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries’. The Indian Express reported the story as ‘India lodges protest over rights status in Kashmir.’ This year, the UN published an update; the paper ran only the government’s response, on page 7. The case for Kashmiri self-determination has been all but erased. Together with the Indian government, the Indian media, too, occupies Kashmir.

Protesting against the occupation of Kashmir has never been ‘anti-India’. Kashmir was occupied by Indian troops in October 1947, two months after independence from Britain, but more than two years before the Republic of India was founded: the constitution came into force in January 1950. India is not the army; it is the constitution. If anything is ‘anti-India’, it’s the removal of Article 370. Today India celebrates the 72nd anniversary of independence from British rule. Occupied Kashmir remains under military lockdown.


  • 17 August 2019 at 6:24pm
    raf37 says:
    As a young boy scout in the fifties I helped out in demos in Karachi demanding Nehru stick to his promise of a plebiscite in Kashmir. It never took place for the simple reason he wld lose, and the irony of denying self determination to Kashmir while demanding the same from the Brits meant nothing to the good secularist. Years later in the UK a friend who had sneaked into Kashmir with the help of Sikh separatists showed me horrific pictures of citizens torn to bits by Indian Army explosives; I suggested he hold an exhibition in the Festival Hall to educate the UK public about barbarities of the Indian Army. I then read a book called A Frozen Silence which seemed to justify killings in the cause of Security. Still the UK public had no idea of the cruelty of Occupation. Now Modi, whose party has the Swastika as its symbol (what does Israel his mentor think about this?) and runs a cruel and cowardly hate campaign agst Muslims in India has moved more troops into Kashmir as a desire for lebensraum for Hindus. For the participants in two World Wars this shld be familiar, but for both nuclear powers a Kashmiri Mother of all Wars is very desirable; after the incineration of a few million people the East may sign a pledge of Never Again with their tears and join the West in wars abroad.

    • 27 August 2019 at 11:40pm
      Chris says: @ raf37
      Fact check alert for @raf37 !
      Raf37 - you do need to get your facts right...Firstly neither the BJP (Modi’s party) nor it’s parent organisation, the RSS use the swastika as their symbols. The BJP’s symbol is a lotus flower and the RSS’s symbol is a saffron flag . A simple wiki search will confirm this. Secondly the swastika comes from Sanskrit, has it’s roots in Hinduism and even today for Hindus symbolises prosperity and good luck. The Nazi’s adopted it during the 1930’s. Reverence for the swastika symbol in Hinduism and other Asian cultures, in contrast to the West's stigmatization of the symbol, has led to misinterpretations and misunderstandings of Swastika, especially amongst the lesser informed.

      The history of article 370 and 35-A and its abrogation is a bit more nuanced than you suggest. Saying that creating a lebensraum for Hindus is a driver behind the abrogation is an ill-informed simple minded comment. There are as many Muslims in India as there are in Pakistan !

    • 29 August 2019 at 1:12pm
      raf37 says: @ Chris
      Just read your comment. One para devoted to the swastika. Ask the jews how they feel about its origin and whether this reassures them about its later use. If it has no value, we might as well have it now as decoration, hunh?? As for yr point re muslims in India 1 billion or less, ask them how they feel en masse in India. The Sacchar Committee several years ago ( a hindu bunch of Judges) decided that muslims in India were treated lower than the Scheduled castes. I have seen numbers of muslim villages in UP living in destitution even before Modi. Please also find me one muslim - kasmiri or no - who is jubilant about Modi's conduct re 370, and I will easily find you thousands who veer elsewhere. Cannot you foreigners understand that you agitate about people's will ad nauseam in UK but shut your minds to the same abroad, whether in Palestine or India. Hypocrisy in Britain has a long lineage ever since you exiled Byron. Cheers.

  • 17 August 2019 at 8:19pm
    BRIJ MOHAN says:
    Pakistan occupied 1/3rd of Kashmir soon after India's Balkanization in 1947. Don't pervert history, please!

  • 23 August 2019 at 1:51am
    cb284 says:
    Population of the Kashmir Valley is less than 10million. The notion that such a place can ever attain "independence" stuck between the 2 largest states of the World (not to mention Pakistan, whose population just overtook that of Brazil at 210 million) was always a pipe dream. I suppose this is what you get when you're living a life of "medieval simplicity" in your isolated valley (with concomitant clueless leadership about the choices on offer and what statehood means) and the Colonial Power decides to evacuate in a matter of months as they did in 1947.

  • 28 August 2019 at 9:29am
    Amit Ghosh says:
    Very one sided and biased. The students he is talking about gave slogans about 'breaking up India'.Likes of him regularly talk loudly about armed forces atrocities on civilians without any repressive acts from the government but never says a word about terrorist activitees against army personnel or civilians. Only two days ago two goat-herds were killed and they were not army personnels. He does not talk about separatist leaders who send their children abroad for studies ( some to Delhi and other places in India some to far away saudi Arabia) while regularly ordering closure of Schools or burning them down. Ankita is NOT the only person who knows about the history of Kashmir ,only problem is his bias and his mischievous one sided narration. Shame on him.

    • 29 August 2019 at 1:23pm
      raf37 says: @ Amit Ghosh
      Perhaps you might feel differently if Hyderabad had been occupied by Pakistan troops - having acceded to Pakistan - (of half a million Muslim soldiers) and used force with 'extreme prejudice' agst majority Hindus who protested and even fought back - terrorism is the only way out for occupied peoples alas - ?? My friend, the numbers killed by Indian soldiers and those terrorists is gynormously different. And the terrorists do not rule the country or its countryside, It is the Indian Army. Their soldiers do not hide out in hovels or forests bur roam the streets with bravado. I still find it abhorrent how citizens living in peaceful lands have no fellow feeling for people who have to live under inhuman conditions imposed upon them by force. There is no mentem mortalia tangunt anymore.

Read more