The writer is an
analyst and the
President of All
On the 27th of October ‘Black Day’ 75 years ago, India without any legal justification, forcibly took control of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Since then, the Indian Occupied Forces are mercilessly killing innocent and unarmed Kashmiris, vandalizing their properties, and indulging in other inhuman acts. India’s decision to allow voting rights to any Indian citizen living temporarily in Indian-Occupied Kashmir has again ignited anger and fears of yet another attempt by the Hindu nationalist government to change the demography of its only Muslim-majority region. It is expected to add about 2.5 million more voters on top of the 7.6 million existing voters – a whopping 30 percent increase. According to the 2011 census, of the 12.5 million total population in Indian-administered Kashmir, Muslims comprise 68.31 percent and Hindus 28.43 percent. More than seven million of these residents live in the valley, 97 percent of them Muslims. 20-25 lakh new voters will be added to the electoral list, those who have no connection with J&K. The last electoral roll revision in J&K was done on January 1, 2019, three years ago. Political parties (NC, PDP) have alleged that BJP will import voters to win the election. They are claiming that since BJP cannot win the hearts of J&K people, others will be brought in and asked to vote to increase its voting percentage. The abrogation of Article 370 gave rights Indian Citizens the to Vote in IOK. Before the abrogation of Article 370, many were not allowed to vote in J&K marginalized groups, West Pakistani refugees, and Dalits. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is an unresolved agenda of Britain and a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. Both the parties acknowledged the disputed status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the UN Security Council resolutions of August 13, 1948, and to which on January 5, 1949, both the two countries are considered a party. UN resolutions are remained operative and cannot be unilaterally disregarded by either party. As agreed in the UN Security Council resolutions peaceful and bilateral negotiations would be made between India and Pakistan over the future status of Jammu and Kashmir. Since 5th August 2019, the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35(A) has given Kashmir conflict a different dimension. It has not only changed the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) but also compromised the safeguard of the demographic status of IOK as a Muslim-majority state in India. An alliance of Kashmiri political parties said that the inclusion of non-locals in the region’s voter list was an attempt at electoral demographic change, after India’s election commission allowed troops stationed in Kashmir to cast votes in local legislative polls. The region is claimed in full but ruled in part by nuclear arch-rivals India and Pakistan, who have fought two wars over control of the territory.
The 27th of October ‘Black Day’ as 75 years ago, India without any legal justification, forcibly took control of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Since then, the Indian Occupied Forces are mercilessly killing innocent and unarmed Kashmiris, vandalising their properties and indulging in other inhuman acts.
Kashmir’s special autonomous status was granted by Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which for seven decades was the basis of India’s complex relationship with the region. Article 370 allowed the region to have its own flag, freedom to make its own regulations on permanent residency, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, and to bar Indians from outside the state from settling there. With the constitutional change, Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir were split into two federally governed union territories. The announcement that outsiders will be allowed to cast votes in the next polls has raised fears not only in Kashmir but also in Hindu-dominated Jammu, there is a sense of fear among the people, and the fear of the political parties in Jammu and Kashmir is justified given the way the Modi administration has acted since 2019. Until August 2019, voting rights in Indian-administered Kashmir were restricted to its permanent residents only, guaranteed under Article 370 of the Indian constitution that gave the disputed region – The law forbids Indians from outside the region from permanently settling, buying land, and holding local government jobs. In the years since the Indian government has introduced a controversial domicile law that grants citizenship rights to every Indian living in the region for more than 15 years. New laws making every Indian citizen eligible to buy land in the region were also passed. Since 2018, Indian-administered Kashmir is without an elected government and is being ruled directly by New Delhi through a handpicked administrator. The BJP is so insecure about support from genuine voters of occupied Jammu and Kashmir that it needs to import temporary voters to win seats, none of these things will help the BJP. For the last seven decades, Indian-administered Kashmir was ruled by Kashmir-based political parties and has had a Muslim chief minister who enjoyed political dominance over the region. However, since coming to power in 2014, Modi’s government has promised its supporters a Hindu chief minister there. In May this year, Modi’s government announced a new electoral map for the region which the residents said was aimed at disenfranchising and disempowering them. The new map increased the number of assembly seats in the Hindu-majority Jammu area by six from 37 to 43, while the Muslim-majority Kashmir part of the region received just one more: 47 in place of 46. That was the move skewed in favor of the Hindu-majority Jammu and accused the government of violating the universal criteria of considering the population of the area in drawing electoral seats. The decision to bring in more voters has shaken the Kashmiris and the next move could be to ask them to leave their homes. It will ensure complete disempowerment of the Muslim community. Already through many laws, they have been turned into a political minority. The eventual goal is forced demographic change, dispossession of Kashmiris, and the erasure of Kashmiri as a political identity. The Indian government’s moves fit the classic methods of settler colonialism where rights are offered to non-native settlers through executive fiat and not based on the democratic choice of the Indigenous people. Over the last three years, every single decision on Kashmir has been taken from New Delhi without the consent of Kashmir’s people.
This is unprecedented in Kashmir’s history, while foreign regimes have ruled Kashmir, they have not generally sought to replace the native people with a new population. Kashmiri political parties are concerned that the inclusion of 2.5 million new voters in the Muslim-majority region will permanently disenfranchise Kashmiris. If 2.5 million BJP voters come from the outside, what value will remain for the voters of Jammu and Kashmir? The BJP is oiling the wheels of settler colonialism in Kashmir. This latest hegemonic move is free for all, and it is geared towards the full and final dispossession of indigenous Kashmiris. According to an analytical report, it said that the killing of 95,686 including 7,147 in custody from January 1, 1989, to September 30, 2020, speaks volumes about the ‘Goodwill gesture’ of the brutal Indian forces towards the Kashmiri people. The report also mentioned the destruction of 110,367 civilian properties including houses and structures and gang-rape/molestation of 11,219 women by the troop during the period to expose the reality of the Indian Army’s Sadbhavana-like operations. The burial of martyred youth in military-run graveyards without funeral prayers on the pretext of the COVID-19 pandemic is another example of the Indian Army’s way of treating Kashmiri people. Indian troops continue to fight anti-Kashmiris in Kashmir, and nearly 1 million soldiers are posted in the region. Although Military personnel must vote only in their native states as is the current rule, there are fears that if Indian soldiers sign up to vote, it could further sway politics away from Kashmiris and increase tensions. The fallout of voting rights to non-J&K residents will be that tomorrow’s assembly will be in the hands of outsiders. The number may go up to 5 million or 10 million, occupied J&K’s identity is facing a direct assault.
The Modi government is pursuing a plan to change the identity of the Muslim-majority state the way Israelis did in the Palestinian territories. Jews inflicted extreme suffering on Palestinian Muslims but could not erase the Palestinian Muslims and the same is with Kashmir. No matter how much they suppress the Kashmiris, they cannot erase them or their resolve, and the BJP’s evil designs would not succeed. India’s motive behind this recent move was to disempower Kashmiris and wipe off their political identity. The Modi government had already cleared the way for outsiders by transferring Kashmiri Muslim officers out of Kashmir Valley. Non-state and non-Muslims have been appointed to the highest posts in police and administration. Regrettably, even the UN is not in a position to play any positive role without the support of the pro-Indian powers enjoying veto power. That is a stark reality. The international community and the UN, if they ever feel their obligation towards them as per the UN resolution that the Kashmir dispute could be resolved. Pakistan for which Kashmir is an unfinished agenda of the partition will and must continue to persist with its moral, political and diplomatic support to the freedom struggle in IOK as long as it does not succeed. Kashmiris who have always foiled India’s nefarious designs would fight the move tooth and nail and would continue to play their role on every front to thwart the nefarious ambitions of India. Voting rights to aliens is not the final resolution of Kashmir, the final resolution of Kashmiris is to be a part of Pakistan as per the aspirations of Kashmiris, and no power on Earth can stop it.