August 5, 2020

By Umer Bin Ajmal

August 5 will mark the completion of an entire year of India’s unilateral decision of abrogating Article 370 of its constitution, which brought parts of the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir into its fold.

Under Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government, the Indian parliament firmly decided to move away from the promise that the country’s first Prime Minister (late) Jawaharlal Nehru made to Kashmiris.

It is not surprising that the promise made by a celebrated Indian statesman and a highly respected politician was of no value to the current political dispensation in India. It is a clear sign that under Modi, India wants to move away from whatever Gandhi, Nehru, and the republic’s founding fathers had envisioned for the country.

What happened on August 5, 2019, is a culmination of a five-year-old struggle on part of Hindu hardliners, their major political support base in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its champion of Hindu politics: Modi.

Since coming into power with a thumping majority in 2014, Modi made his government’s intentions clear when the Indian forces started carrying out operations aggressively in the disputed region of Kashmir. From Burhan Wani’s killing to abduction and inhumane torture of many Kashmiris fighting a legitimate struggle is a testament that what hundreds of thousands of Indian soldiers are doing in Kashmir is not just maintaining law and order but a clear attempt in quashing a genuine struggle for freedom.

To achieve this, Modi and his hardline Hindu followers look up to states like Israel and people like Adolf Hitler – as pointed out by Pakistan Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan in his address to the United Nations General Assembly session last year. What PM Khan warned the world is turning out to be true as not only Indian soldiers are given a free-hand to do whatever they want to in the scenic valley, but preparations are also being made to enforce a demographic change to reduce the Muslim majority in the region.

In July 2016, Muhammad Faysal, a journalist from Srinagar, wrote a first-person account of the situation on the ground in Kashmir with harrowing details. As he was volunteering at a hospital in Srinagar, Faysal wrote how a doctor at Soura Hospital told him that “they are shooting above waists, right in the chest and sometimes in the head … this hospital is a war zone.

Faysal saw another boy from Qaimoh, a southern town in Srinagar, being admitted to the hospital with a “punctured eye” right in front of him. The boy was wounded as his body was sprayed with pellets. The doctor, according to Faysal, said the boy won’t be able to see from one eye.

The actions of Modi’s hardline Hindu nationalist government are predictable, but what has been surprising is the world’s silence. To most of the Western world, that often claims to be champions of human rights, India is still considered as the world’s largest democracy.

Yet, when such a large democracy, which is often showed as a model for many developing nations, uses pellet guns – illegal to even use on animals – on Kashmiris, hold them in unlawful detentions, and kill fathers in cold blood right in front of their toddlers, the world continues to remain silent.

The reasons are simple: the world looks at India as a big market and a proxy to counter the influence of a rising China.

It is shamelessly apparent that for most of the world, economics and geopolitics is far important than the lives of hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris and their dignity.

A few months before the much-hyped visit of the United States President Donald J. Trump to India, a US-based advocacy group, Human Rights Watch (HRW), wrote to the US Congress detailing excessive use of force and human rights abuses carried out by Indian military personnel.

“Indian security forces have often used excessive force to respond to protests, including using pellet-firing shotguns as a crowd-control weapon, which have caused several protestor deaths and many serious injuries… Indian troops have seldom been held accountable for human rights violations that have occurred during counter-insurgency operations,” the HRW report said.

HRW’s Asia Advocacy Director John Sifton was among other witnesses who testified before the US Congress Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, but their concerns were ignored and soon the US president was in India, calling Modi a “tremendously successful leader” and hoping to crack a trade deal.

These are the signs of changing times, indicating a weakening of Western-backed international institutions that were established post-World War II.

The institutions that were established to ensure rule of law, protection of human and basic rights the world over are now struggling to effectively carry out their mandated tasks. What’s lacking is the motivation on part of most of the developed West to live up to the ideals envisioned for a globalized world many decades ago.

The failure of international institutions in ensuring the protection of human rights is a failure for the vision of a globalized world.

On August 5, it will be the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian government, depriving the region of its special status. India said it wanted to assimilate Kashmir into its mainland, but to this date, the region is deprived of basic rights, including not even having access to 4G internet.

While Modi and BJP would look to celebrate the undoing of Gandhi and Nehru’s India, Kashmir would be under curfew with only Indian soldiers representing an assimilation Modi’s India wanted to achieve.

Umer Bin Ajmal is a journalist from Karachi, Pakistan, and has been associated with the news industry since 2014. He is currently based in Aarhus, Denmark pursuing a master’s degree in journalism, media, and globalization. He tweets @umerbinajmal