Kashmir under Siege

The Kashmir conflict, which dates back to the partition of India in 1947, remains an ongoing struggle. The region is claimed by both India and Pakistan, leading to a multitude of challenges for the people of Kashmir, particularly concerning their land and citizenship rights. In October 2020, the ‘Kashmir Scholars Consultative and Action Network (KSCAN)’ published a report titled ‘The Plight of Kashmiris under India’s Occupation: A Report on Land and Citizenship Rights.’ The report sheds light on various issues, including the revocation of Article 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution in August 2019. These actions abolished the special status and autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, dividing it into two union territories directly ruled by New Delhi. Consequently, Kashmir has witnessed a series of restrictions, including a lockdown, communication blackout, mass arrests, torture, killings, disappearances, media censorship, and curbs on civil liberties since August 2019.

Furthermore, the enactment of new laws and policies has facilitated demographic change, land grab, environmental degradation, and cultural erosion in Kashmir. These measures have enabled the settlement of non-Kashmiris, leading to the dispossession of native Kashmiris from their land rights and undermining their identity and heritage. The passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in December 2019, which discriminates against Muslims and excludes them from acquiring Indian citizenship while granting it to non-Muslims from neighboring countries, has fueled fears among Kashmiris of losing their citizenship and becoming stateless. The COVID-19 pandemic has further compounded the humanitarian crisis in Kashmir. It has increased the vulnerability of the population to infection and death, while also providing a cover for further repression and violence by Indian forces.

In conclusion, the report emphasizes the need to end India’s occupation and colonization of Kashmir and recognizes the Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination. It calls upon the international community to intervene and hold India accountable for its human rights violations in Kashmir. 

The Indian government’s approach to the Kashmir issue has been characterized by inhumane practices, human rights violations, and suppression of dissent. Access to land is a significant concern for the people of Kashmir. The government has implemented laws that favor non-Kashmiri individuals and corporations, making it challenging for Kashmiris to acquire land or engage in agricultural practices. The Land Acquisition Act grants the government the power to acquire land for public purposes without adequate consultation or compensation for landowners, leading to the displacement of many Kashmiri farmers who have lost their land to non-Kashmiri entities or government projects. Additionally, the establishment of enclaves where non-Kashmiri individuals can buy land has contributed to demographic changes in the region.

Citizenship has also become a contentious issue for Kashmiris. The repeal of Article 370 in August 2019 eliminated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, allowing non-Kashmiris to purchase land and settle in the region. This has instilled fear among Kashmiris that they will become a minority in their own land. The Indian government’s policies in Kashmir have resulted in the suppression of dissent and gross human rights violations. The communication blockade imposed in August 2019, which shut down internet and phone services, has severely hindered the people of Kashmir from accessing essential services and communicating with the outside world. Additionally, the detention of political leaders and activists has further stifled dissent and curtailed freedom of speech. 

Addressing the plight of Kashmiris under India’s occupation requires a comprehensive and multifaceted approach. The Indian government should implement fair and equitable policies regarding land and citizenship rights that benefit all residents of the region. Restoring communication services and releasing political prisoners are crucial steps towards enabling the people of Kashmir to express their views freely and participate in the democratic process. It is also essential for international organizations, such as the United Nations, to play an active role in resolving the conflict and addressing the human rights violations in Kashmir. The humanitarian crisis faced by Kashmiris under India’s occupation demands urgent attention. The Indian government must address land and citizenship rights, restore communication services, and release political prisoners to ensure that the people of Kashmir can live with dignity and enjoy their fundamental human rights. Simultaneously, the international community must fulfill its responsibility in resolving the conflict and ensuring justice for the people of Kashmir.

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