India let the genie in the bottle out (August 5th 2019)


2 Years ago, the Valley of Kashmir was drowning in rumours. Not the kind of “gossiping” rumours targeting a bad behaving celebrity or a cheating boss. Instead, Kashmiris were discussing life and death and the thin line between. Most people feared that if India was left unchecked again, nothing will ever be the same.

The final days, leading up to August the 5th, were filled with question marks and a tangible worry. Goodbye letters flooded social media and messages from Kashmiris in distress filled all timelines. In the midst of a chat with Kashmir, August the 4th, 19.37 to be precise, India pulled the plug. Pindrop silence and time stopping right there. India broke all printed laws that day and also later changed or tried to change the demography by issuing domicile laws. It took 50 years for Israel to build 600,000 settlements and one month for India to issue 400,000 of these certificates after having changed the law.

International bodies condemned and world media woke up, at least partially, from its 7 decades sleeping beauty slumber. Suddenly the headlines covered enforced disappearance, extreme use of torture, frequent killings and the iron curtain surveillance, choking all voices calling for freedom.Reports emerged about young men being tortured and put on loudspeakers to install fear in the rest of the villages and a state of emergency, with India controlling every aspect of life on the ground as well as targeting all critical voices online, emerged. For years social media have colluded with Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and every Kashmiri voice or supporter have been targeted by a tail of harassers and now also rather neutral voices internationally were attacked, warned or even suspended.

When we today commemorate 2 years since the day India illegally enforced complete silence in Kashmir, there are two major things to reflect upon and also capitalise on.

The first is the significance of India’s behaviour and the arsenal of fake news, surveillance and coercion it needs to unbridle, to keep the occupation in place. Let’s for a second think about the fact that the whole Valley had to be cut off from the world, people snatched on the streets for a Facebook post or merely being a Kashmiri, thousands arrested, tortured or put behind bars for months and even years. India wouldn’t need to do these “efforts” if it had the hearts and minds of the peoplebeating for them, right? The truth is that the people of Kashmir have shown with all clarity that they have no interest in accepting Indian occupation. Despite obstacles that would turn most people into obedient pawns, they have resisted the saffron banner, not only with arms, but with a popular uprising that never ended and words of resilience and determination in all available platforms. With protests on the ground, the diaspora rising up to call out the atrocities and with funerals turning to massive manifestations of defiance, one 73 years long referendum has actually been held right in front of our eyes.

The second note is even more important. 2 years ago, India slammed all doors in Kashmir, arrested everyone whispering discontentment and implemented domicile laws to quickly change the demographics and make it impossible for Kashmiris to protect their land. It was an illegal and highly arrogant move, but this arrogance has backfired in more ways than India predicted. Instead of the expected smooth ride, there has been more media coverage than ever on Kashmir. The diaspora has taken the issue to all platforms and so has Pakistan, with anunflinching exposure of the issue in all international forums and on every occasion attainable. The revelations by the Indian Chronicles alsolaid bare that for almost a generation, India has been waging a hybrid fake news war against Pakistan to intensify its attempts to isolate the latter regionally as well as internationally. Essentially the fake news conglomerate functioned to control the narrative on Kashmir. In many ways, it was a prolific war, but August 5th changed the parameters and installed new strength in the resistance against both the occupation and the justifications to keep it intact.

Empires always have the hubris to think they are indestructible, when in fact they are always unsustainable.

~ Marianne Williamson

2 years ago, India released the genie in the bottle with its illegal move to revoke the special status and sink the Valley in darkness, thinking that it could convince the world that Kashmiris love India and gladly obey to be colonised and occupied. That conceited move proved the unsustainability in oppression and opened a barrage of opportunities to highlight the injustice and call for not only a reversal of the illegal step to revoke article 370, but once for all settle the Kashmir dispute according to the will of the Kashmiri people. Pakistan has repeatedly offered to make that happen. The world is now waiting for India to come to sense and act according to international law and with moral maturity.

This week the vice president of the European Parliament (including 15 members) directed a letter to the EU Commission’s president and its foreign policy chief concerning the “worrying humanitarian and human rights situation in Kashmir.” The letter stated: “As a champion of universal human rights, fundamental freedoms and the ruled-based international order, the EU must raise its voice against the violations of human rights affecting the people of Jammu and Kashmir”.

Clear words. “EU can’t back down” on Kashmir. Neither can we and the rest of the world. The genie will never jump back into the bottle again, even if that’s what India most of all hopes for.All the funerals of the Valley’s martyrs, from Burhan to Manan,were irrefutable referendums, but it’s time for the people of Kashmir to have their will and legal right to self-determination fulfilled also by the UN.