On Tuesday 19 May a new law paved the way for Indian Hindus to settle in Kashmir, a move largely condemned as illegal under international law. Then on Saturday, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi left no doubt as he delivered a defiant speech on his cruel treatment of Kashmiris. All these steps cement the Indian Consul General Sandeep Chakravorty’s suggestion back in November to build Israeli-style Hindu settlements in Kashmir.
How did we get here?
Kashmir is a disputed territory which is claimed by both India and Pakistan. At the time of partition in 1947 as a majority Muslim state the people wanted to join Pakistan, but the ruling Maharaja of Kashmir was Hindu and gave preference to India. From September-November 1947 a massacre of Muslims in Kashmir was carried by extremist Hindu and Sikh groups, driving many Muslims into Pakistan and causing an influx of Hindus and some Sikhs. This change in demography was aimed at changing the will of the people towards joining India.
A revolt by the majority Muslims in Kashmir seeking independence from India in the late 1980’s saw many Kashmiri Hindus driven into India. India and Pakistan have fought 3 wars over Kashmir and its issue stands between both countries normalising relations.
The recent problems all started on 5 August 2019 when the Modi government revoked the special status of Kashmir. Curfews were announced on Kashmiris, their internet cut off, leaders arrested and travel restricted. The world has no idea what atrocities may have taken place as journalists and humanitarian aid workers were kicked out.
This was followed by an announcement that anyone who in the last 70 years has spent a cumulative 15 years in Kashmir from India or 7 years in Kashmir for students or 10 years in Kashmir for Indian officials, can get domicile certificates. This will likely include soldiers, who have helped occupy Kashmir, and their families, meaning a massive change in the demography of Kashmir in favour of Hindus.
Previously no land could be purchased by Indians or Pakistanis in the Indian or Pakistani side of Kashmir. While the rules still stand on the Pakistani side in Azad Kashmir, the 5 August announcement meant Indians can now buy land in Kashmir. This resonates of how Israeli settlers moved into Palestinian land by buying their land from them.
Hindu settlers from mainland India can take advantage of older laws which will mean lower classes can take advantage of free education and cheaper accommodation. Anuradha Bhasin, executive editor of the Kashmir Times, questioned “Are they trying to get back Pandits who left for other parts of India, say, a century or more ago?”. Concerns have been raised that these moves are aimed at swelling non-Muslim numbers in Kashmir.
These underhand tactics as well as rising Islamophobia have not gone unnoticed by the Arab nations. Recently several, usually politically silent, Emiratis from the UAE condemned the Modi’s government. Condemnation came from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait too.
Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Pakistan Give Statements in Support of Kashmiris, condemning Indian brutality
In the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) meeting in December 2019, the issue of Kashmir was central to discussions. The Organisation, run in Saudi Arabia, held the meeting in Makkah where the Secretary General of the OIC, Dr. Yusuf Al Othaimeen, stressed that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most important issues on the OIC agenda.
The OIC then appointed a special envoy for Jammu and Kashmir and extended their support for the “people of Jammu and Kashmir for the realisation of their legitimate right to self-determination, in accordance with relevant UN resolutions” and called on India to allow global rights groups to allow access to Kashmir.
Then in December, Saudi Arabia pledged to help resolve the Kashmir dispute. The Saudi Shura Council Chairman Abdullah Mohammad Ibrahim aal-Ash Shaikh visited Pakistan with a delegation to discuss the issue of Kashmir. The Saudi Shura Council has the authority to propose laws to the King of Saudi Arabia and his cabinet. They said the OIC would hold an OIC meeting in Islamabad soon. A move backed by both the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
In February 2020, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan demanded the Kashmir issue be discussed again. After all the pressure put on India in the last OIC meeting and no response yet to whether this has had any affect on India, his plea was rejected.
It was unclear if pressure from the Arab states was swaying the Modi government in any way. A Government Minister, Anurag Thakur, called on Hindus to return to Kashmir. Then a BJP leader asked for a tribunal for historical “atrocities” against Hindus in Kashmir but not for those against Muslims in Kashmir.
Ram Madhav, the Government’s national general secretary responsible for Kashmir said that they are helping 200,000-300,000 Hindus return to Kashmir. Under the guise of helping Kashmiri Hindus return, army and government officials and other Hindus from all over India will be allowed to become citizens of Kashmir. The Indian army then demanded the Kashmiri administration to sell 17 acres of land to it for accommodation of Indian soldiers.
Modi’s Utter Disregard of Arab Pressure and UN
On Saturday 30 May, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a speech to mark a full year of his second term. One would think he may shy away from referring to the oppressive steps his government has taken in Indian-Occupied Kashmir but this was not the case. Not even the recent wrath of the Arabs seems to have stopped him from showing off his showing off his draconian steps in Kashmir.
His speech has left no doubt that the Hindu settlements will go ahead to change the demography of Kashmir to favour Hindus. It has long been suggested by Pakistan that an independent vote take place in Kashmir where Kashmiris be allowed to vote if they want to join India, Pakistan or become an independent State. Once the demography of Kashmir is changed, such a vote would be meaningless as Hindu-settlers from India would be allowed to vote as citizens.
It seems that the world is about to be faced with another Israel-Palestine situation in Kashmir. It is also becoming clearer that the Kashmir issue is not going anywhere and will continue to cause rifts in world relations with India.