WORLD’S LONGEST PEACETIME SIEGE AND LOCKDOWN IN KASHMIR IN 2019-2020

World Conflicts
WORLD’S LONGEST PEACETIME SIEGE AND LOCKDOWN IN KASHMIR IN 2019-2020
Author: MARINA ZUCCA

from Italy.

WORLD’S LONGEST PEACETIME SIEGE AND LOCKDOWN IN KASHMIR IN 2019-2020

  • Background

The division of Kashmiri territories has long and deep roots. This region lies in North of India and Northwest of Pakistan. These two States are trying to exercise their power over the area since many decades ago.

The region of Jammu and Kashmir was one of the princely States, born after the British colonization. The situation changed in 1947, with the India Independence Act. This Act enabled the region to choose whether to become part of India or Pakistan. The third and chosen option was to become independent. This decision was changed during October of the same year, when Hari Singh, the head of the Muslim majority, signed the “Instrument of Accession to India”, allowing India to control the region of Jammu and Kashmir. A first armed conflict between India and Pakistan started and the United Nations Security Council was firstly involved on the 1st January 1948. Twenty days later, the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) was constituted in order to investigate the human rights violations committed by both governments. At this regard, the UN Security Council issued the resolution 47, aimed to “bring about a cessation of the fighting and create proper conditions for a free and impartial plebiscite to decide whether the State of Jammu and Kashmir is to accede to India or Pakistan”. Thus, the resolution did not properly provide for the opportunity to become independent.

Afterwards, the ceasefire was decided in July 1949, in 1951, the mandate of UNCIP was finished and the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) was established.

The abovementioned plebiscite never took place and the situation in the territories of Jammu and Kashmir remained the same as the moment the ceasefire was declared, dividing the area through the so-called “line of control”. According to the UN, the territories were divided in following parts: “Pakistan controlling the Muslim-majority western and northern areas of Jammu and Kashmir, called Azad (“free”) Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan (previously called the Northern Areas) respectively; and India retaining control of the Kashmir Valley with its overwhelmingly Muslim population, the Hindu majority region of Jammu13 in the south and Muslim-Buddhist Ladakh in the east. These three areas together constitute the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir”.

Throughout the decades, the ceasefire has been violated in different occasions. After 1989, the dispute between India and Pakistan has been exacerbated and it still not solved. In 2016, due to the killing of Burhan Wani, leader of the Hizbul Mujahidin, by the Indian forces, the protests broke out, involving a higher number of people than in the past. In the same year, the United Nation Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued its first report focused on the situation.  It highlighted several violations of human rights happened in the territories of Jammu and Kashmir, related to the blockades of internet and mobile services, restriction of freedom of expression, assembly and other kinds of violence. All these violations have been unpunished and have increased public dissatisfaction, mostly against the Indian government deemed widely guilty for these abuses.

 

2 A nightmare come true: how lockdown started

It might seem impossible or unreal to live in a territory without internet nor freedoms. Nowadays, internet is a fundamental service, used by almost 4.57 billion people as of April 2020. India has left about 8 million people without any kind of communication, bringing them to a worse situation than that of many other States have tackled during the covid-19 pandemic.

Before talking about the lockdown and its implementation, it is important to mention the article 370 of the Indian Constitution, its strategic importance for Kashmir and the reasons why the same Indian Government has revoked it.

The already cited article 370 was part of the Indian Constitution since 1947 and established the basis of access for Kashmir to the Indian Union. It gave the possibility to Indian Kashmir Government to rule on prominent subjects, such as fundamental rights, property, permanent residency etc. Whilst communication, foreign policy, finance and defence were ruled exclusively by the central Indian Government. In the meanwhile, another provision was cancelled: article 35A, established in 1954. It used to forbid Indian citizens from purchasing properties and settling in the territories of Kashmir. This last rule was meant to preserve the only major- Muslim territories of the Indian Union. Obviously, under a socio-political point of view, revoking these norms had and will have its consequences, firstly on possible geographical changes, given that non-Muslim people are now allowed to buy lands and resettle there.

The Indian Prime Minister Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party put the repeal of these norms as a central point of their political manifesto and proceeded with this idea as they got the mandate on April-May. Thanks to this shift, they were able to remove Kashmiri special status embodied in the Indian Constitution.  Moreover, they also decided that Jammu and Kashmir were no longer a State of the Indian Union, but a territory administered by the central government, de facto cancelling its autonomy. In an official speech, Mr Modi pointed out that article 370 was “an impediment to J&k and Ladakh’s development” and “acted as a tool to spread terrorism and violence in the valley”. Thus, the implementation of democracy was presented as the real reason.

 

 

However, the Indian Government wanted go ahead with its reform of the Kashmiri territories populated by Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. They passed a bill planning to divide the region into two controlled areas: Jammu and Kashmir, inhabited by Hindus and Muslims, and the Ladakh-Buddist region. Of course, the withdrawal of the status of independence and the will to divide the area has not been accepted by the public opinion. People and opposition to Modi’s party claimed that Kashmir was already part of Indian and that this reform was just an attempt to modify the population living there and split the area into two different territories.

After having invited its citizens to move to Kashmir and buying lends there, Modi sent tens of thousands troops in the field, justifying this measure as meant to prevent people’s insurgency. Kashmiri people, in fact, had already started their democratic and pacific demonstration against Modi’s government.

However, what was going on was something bigger. The 4th August 2019, the central Indian government decided to put the region under a general lockdown, asking Hindu pilgrims to leave the Himalayan zone before the total closure. They also ordered the restriction of any kind of movement, imposing phone, internet and media blackout, the closure of schools and universities, restricting the freedom of information and communication. Kashmir territories suddenly passed from being autonomous to be under occupation, without many kinds of civilian rights and becoming one of the most militarised areas of the world. As reported by Indianexpress, in the first days of curfew, the central government put under house arrest many political leaders from Kashmir opposition. The situation was unreal and unsustainable. People were not allowed nor able to have a normal life. They could not go to work nor to school and many of them had also been prevented from meeting their families. Not only the communication was forbidden, but also foreign journalists and reporters were not allowed into the territories. At this regard, there are some exclusive witnesses of these scary first days of August 2019. A BBC journalist was able to get in the militarised territories and tell how people felt angry and sad at the same time, recording evidences of what was happening. Empty streets, soldiers monitoring the situation, life under total control. People’s anger suddenly transformed into social protests, strongly stifled by Indian police. In the online article realized by the BBC, it is possible to feel the total isolation people have been forced to thanks to the video they shot.

Soon after these measures spread in the region, Pakistani reply arrived, raising people’s concerns. The Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan, sent troops in support of Kashmir and urged the international community to intervene. He also said that Pakistan was going to challenge Indian not only at the United Nations Security Council, but also in every possible international legal forum.

Thus, Jammu and Kashmir, a territory for a long time contended by two States, came from an apparent situation of democracy to a total absence of respect of dignity, freedoms of movements and other restrictions related to everyday life, information and human rights.

 

 

4.2 Examples from modern history of a lockdown of a population of this size.

Nowadays many States have seen a total lockdown due to the covid-19 pandemic crisis. Many constitutions allow their governments to restrict certain civil and social rights in such cases. For example, Italy has faced a nearly total lockdown: people were not allowed to go to work neither to school nor to universities. Their freedom of movement was temporary suspended: just one person for family was enabled to go to the supermarkets once a week. However, in a situation of sanitary emergency, the majority of population easily accepted those restrictions, meant to preserve people’s health.

Therefore, history has shown us governments using policies of siege as a tool of punishment or as a way to destroy a targeted population. Even if siege is allowed by international law, as we will see, it might become illegal always according to the same body of norms. Unfortunately, there have been situations in which curfews have turned into grave breaches of humanitarian law. Siege cannot be defined nor described enough to make readers feel how hard is to live under occupation. For how much we can be accurate in telling the stories and the realties, no words can show the feelings and terror, sadness and rage of who has been subjected to military lockdown.

One of the most famous cases of siege is that of Gaza Strip. This dispute is part of the long conflict between Israel and Palestine, which started in 1948 and saw other Arabic Countries involved. Palestinian people mostly populate Gaza Strip, given that Israeli colonies were forced to leave the area in 2005. This region borders with Egypt, which, together with Israel, built a barrier with Gaza between 1994 and 2005. In 2006 Hamas won the elections in the Strip and, the following year, formed the Palestinian Unity Government with Fatah party. Soon after the so-called battle of Gaza, Hamas took the control over the region and replaced Fatah personalities with its members, becoming the only force in power. Israel and Egypt’s answer to Hamas immediately arrived. They closed Gaza borders and started a blockade. This decision only worsened the ongoing restrictions started in 1990s. Israel imposed a harsh restriction on freedom of movement, which lasted for more than twenty years and intensified it in 2007. The result was a humanitarian emergency due to the closure and the impossibility to have food, health care, medicines clear water and so on. Throughout the years, Gazan people faced very hard periods of isolation related to whatever aspect of public and private life. Israeli government enforced blockades over air, sea and lands, affecting economic life such as the fish industry. They levied restriction on energy too, making Gaza not autonomous for everyday indispensable services. Furthermore, they limited the accesses from West Bank to Gaza, creating system of barriers, checkpoints, restricted areas and permissions. This impacted not only goods, but also people, that were not able to see their families, get in touch with friends, move from their lands and, worse than everything, get medicine and adequate medical assistance. As highlighted many times by the UN, there have been an ongoing worsening of living condition, that have exacerbated the respect of human rights and Palestinians’ dignity. The UN OCHA repeatedly condemned the blockade, defining it as “unacceptable, unnecessary and counterproductive” and responsible of the poor and worrying conditions of life.   

As demonstrated, forcing a population to live under an unjustified lockdown can only deteriorate its living conditions, people’s health and State economy, as well as the enjoyment of human rights. Moreover, as it will be explained further on, a siege must be justified and carried out according to the international standards regulating lockdown.

 In the case of Gaza, two different Countries, Israel and Egypt have established the lockdown and, despite the intervention of the United Nations, it was not possible to stop the violations. Is Jammu and Kashmir going to be the next Gaza?

 

4.3 Life under lockdown: a nightmare come true.

 

Living under a curfew is not easy, especially if it is imposed for political reasons and foresees a complete control over many aspects of everyday life. Kashmiri people have to deal with restrictions of internet, phone line, movements, television programs and information and a strong military control. This last element has been crucial throughout all these months for controlling people and set up a sense of terror. After having forced tourists to leave the region, the Indian government suddenly sent a great number of troops in order to prevent further protests against the decision to revoke the autonomy. Troops occupied the streets, setting up checkpoints and stopping people from getting outside. Since the first days, the information was impossible to spread and many journals from the valley stopped their work, due to the fear of being arrested. They were not allowed to move, to collect evidences of what was ongoing nor to publish articles. However, we have many reliable articles and evidences from people under lockdown. These have been collected mostly by foreign newspapers and thanks to brave people that told their stories. This description of life under lockdown starts by how journalists lived it, so to understand how difficult has been – and still is – to get news about Kashmir. When the right of freedom of information is affected by censure, surely it is due to a bigger and widespread situation of violence and lack of respect of human rights. After three days from the begging of the lockdown, many newspapers stopped their work and many journalists and photographers were not able to perform safely their jobs. In saying this, I refer to the several threats against their lives they have received. It has been easy to prevent their business: with internet seized, freelancer and those working for foreign magazines could not share their articles. Furthermore, photographers were stopped in streets by soldiers and armed forces occupied buildings and headquarters of local newspapers. Indian armed forces had the authority to check their material and articles, so that information was easily manipulated. In few cases, some of them gave USB to people flying away from the valley, so they could spread their articles. Others succeeded in fleeing away from the valley. Many of them told to international media that they were feeling a sense of terror and that this situation was the worse one they had ever seen. Journalists often used the word “hostility” linked to the relation between the institutions and the freedom of speech. Their fear was twofold: one the one hand they were afraid for the lack of democracy. On the other hand, for their own lives. As reported by Al Jazeera, they felt “helpless” because “this time, the Indian government is making every effort to stop people, especially journalists, from doing their duties”. This stop in communication prevented people from having information from one side to the other of the region. It started during the late hours of the 4th of August, when internet connection slowly decreased. Phone line were still available and people got chance to talk to each other for the last time, before realising the lockdown.

As the time passed, it has been possible to document people’s witnesses. In the articles and other reports, the mostly spread terms used to describe the feelings inside the valley were “fear”, “terror”, “confusion”, “threat”. In an interview to The New York Times, a girl described the feelings of menace and insecurity saying “We feel there is an atmosphere of death looming over us. We don’t know what to expect. We are not allowed to get out of our houses. Telecommunications are all down. For the first time in 30 years they snapped landline connections as well. So, there is no way even ordinary Kashmiris here can like communicate with each other, and know what exactly is going on. Everybody is in a state of absolute shock and panic.” In Jammu and Kashmir, the tension has gradually increased since the decision to revoke article 370. People engaged in first a pacific protest, violently repressed by Indian soldiers, using fires and weapon that wounded at least seven people. The crowd, scared by the extreme use of force, has trampled a 14 years old girl. The sense of panic had been enhanced between Kashmiri inhabitants when the troops arrived and arranged several checkpoints, while wearing black metal masks. The very first days, people did not even had the possibility to get food due to movements restrictions. The Indian forces beat or, in many cases, arrested those who tried. It was just the beginning. Many people reported physical outrageousness suffered by the occupation forces, increasing the amount of arrested and tortured. A 22 years boy told to Al Jazeera journalists that he has been picked up in a raid in the middle of the night and tortured. He said “I was beaten with sticks, rifle butts and they kept asking me why I went for a protest march. I kept telling them that I didn’t, but they didn’t stop. After I fainted, they used electric shocks to revive me”. He also told that he was with other 22 persons; all of them were examined with the same method. This young man suffered had consequences, as he described in an anonymous interview: “They began pulling my beard and even tried to put it on fire. Then, someone hit me on the head and I fainted. It is then they, perhaps, realised that I might die. So, they asked my friend to take me home. I regained consciousness after two days and it’s been 20 days and I still can’t walk properly”. As witnessed by this boy, Indian forces used to arrest people during raids, especially in the night. Sometimes people were also withdrawn from home and put in detention in unknown locations. According to a magistrate’s witnesses reported by The Hindu, the number of people arrested in less the one month was around 4,000. All these detentions were carried out according to the Public Safety Act. This Indian norm forecasts the arrest without an official criminal offence nor evidences and it allows illegal confinements too, without giving information about the location to the families. The United Nations in its 2018 report documented the indiscriminate abuse of this law, asking Indian Government to modify it. Despite this request, Indian forces abused of their power in the starting months of lockdown. Until today, it is not possible to get the official number of the Kashmiri people arrested under the PSA, due to its pervasive use.

The crackdown affected also other aspects of life. Lots of children, boys and girls could not go to school and many teachers refused to work, due to the fear of being arrested. Thus, education closed the doors not only to their students of whatever level, but also to the employees. Many workplaces could not perform their activities due to the stop of internet and have been forced to close their offices. Public transports have been cut and many people that used to go by bus, involved hours to reach their offices of factories.

This lockdown has certainly changed everyday life, shaping the days as endless, making it difficult to get water, food and medicines at home, tightening the chances to reunite families etc. By the moments that activists got the opportunity to visit the militarized territories, they described the situation as “grim”, with a rife sense of anger and anguish.  These common feelings have been exacerbated by the operate of military forces. The city of Srinagar has seen a total shift of its roadmap due to the presence of checkpoints, razor wire and barricades blocking the streets, isolating neighbourhoods, and preventing people from using avenues and roads with their normal and previous way. This change has created a sense of disorientation and oppression, given the presence of helicopters and drones monitoring the area too. Surely, it has regulated people’s movement and has created a psychological breakout. Indian armed forces have transformed this city and other areas in mazes, where inhabitants did not feel safe and at home anymore. As reported by BBC, the situation in southern districts was more or less the same as in Srinagar. Over there, high levels of violence, beats and tortures have been recorded too. All these conditions badly affected mental and body health of the whole population, not able to reach hospitals, to get in touch with doctors, to phone nor visit their hospitalized parents. This background has contributed to the development of depression and anxiety through the population. Many young children, victims of long periods of arrests and tortures, have also been reported to suffer now of mental diseases. Stress and a sense of dejection have also affected men trying to work in order to get enough money for their families so to survive or provide them with adequate food and water. Quite all activities have been closed and consequently the level of poverty has increased as the level of low education, public hygiene and personal wellness. Mental disorders have significantly increased in the population detained too. Of course, the blockade made it impossible to take care about these kinds of sickness that are not less important than other diseases. Not to mention the high level of gender violence perpetrated against women. There are no official numbers: women did not expose the abuses perpetrated by Indian soldiers, fearing retaliations against themselves and their own families. In any case, given that the studies on this issue have largely demonstrated that gender violence increases during warfare or sieges, it would be necessary to investigate and give the right importance to this matter.  Women’s exposure to violence is also affected by the loss of their men: in Kashmir the number of women become widowed has raised alarmingly. Moreover, the curfew has strongly worsened the life of people with cancer. As Al Jazeera told, a 33 years old boy has been held in jail for two months and his family has not received any information about his health. He was diagnosed with cancer and has been arrested by the Indian forces in a midnight raid on the  6th of August. His family declared that they did not know whether he has been treated for cancer or not. Newspapers have been able to get many witnesses of people who had no chance to get the right treatment on time. Another important issue is the lack of justice, determined by the total control of Indian forces over the streets, who discouraged people from calling local authorities. Kashmiri citizens have not been able to ask help, get justice, and inform the international community on time about what was going on due to the huge military presence.

As described, from one day to another, Kashmir became one of the mostly militarized area of the world, where people are not struggling to live, but to survive.

 

4.4 How did the world react to Indian decisions?

The ongoing dispute about Kashmir between the two nuclear powers, Pakistan and India, came out with terrible violence, as India revoked article 370. Throughout the years, they faced many clashes for this issue. However, as most of nowadays fights, they were not the only ones to take position on the diatribe.   

Obviously, the first international reaction came from local administrators, who expressed their concerns and worries. In the same moment, the Pakistani Prime Minister, Mr Khan declared his total opposition to Modi’s decision. The 7th August, Pakistani parliament passed a resolution strongly condemning all the violence, tortures and abuses committed by Indian forces, defining illegal all the decisions taken in relation to and after the revoke of article 370. They pointed out that India was violating UN resolutions about Kashmir and its commitment to respect international law and the same international role of UN. Pakistan government also asked the UN Human Rights Council to constitute a Commission of Inquiry ad hoc for Indian Occupied Kashmir. Meanwhile, the Pakistan Minister for Human Rights wrote 18 letters to multiple UN officials, specifying the alleged human rights violations related to their respective mandates.Then, Khan used other diplomatic means: he stopped trade and cut ties with New Delhi, calling for the intervention of international community.

Pakistan Prime Minister also made very serious declaration about his counterpart. He tweeted “The curfew, crackdown and impending genocide of Kashmiris in IOK is unfolding exactly according to RSS ideology inspired by Nazi ideology. Attempt is to change demography of Kashmir through ethnic cleansing. Question is: Will the world watch & appease as they did Hitler at Munich?” emphasizing the seriousness of the situation. Speaking with the President of Iran, he highlighted the illegal changes in Kashmiri demography.  At this regard, Mr Rouhani expressed his concern for the “atrocities and killing of innocent people in occupied Jammu and Kashmir”, in an official statement. In a speech based on the rhetoric of human rights, he also reminded about the fact that Muslim people in Kashmir must live in peace, recommending Indian government to follow the United Nations resolutions. President Khan really appreciated Iranian view of the question as an international matter. With this declaration, Pakistan gained a big support: Iran is one nuclear superpower and shares with Pakistan the concerns related to majority-Muslim living in Kashmir. However, the coalitions went on, as many politician and diplomatic personalities expressed their own States view.

On the second half of August 2019, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States remarked the Kashmiri international issue by saying that it also might affect the ongoing peace process in the near country of Afghanistan. In response, the Afghanistan ambassador to the US, Roya Rahmani, defined his Pakistani counterpart’s statement as “reckless, unwarranted and irresponsible”. He also addressed the question of Jammu and Kashmir as a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and not as an international one. The opposite idea was that of Taliban, whose statement asked for an international intervention in order to aid Kashmiri-Muslim majority. The international intervention might “prevent the spread of crisis and resolve the issue in a calm and composed manner” according to the group, which also added that this crisis could not be linked to the peace process in Afghanistan. Other States shared their position about the dispute and India gained the support of many governments. Australia was one of the first actor to recognise that of Jammu and Kashmir as an issue to be solved between India and Pakistan, according de facto its support to Modi’s decision to cut article 370 and revoke the autonomous status in Kashmir. The same idea was shared by France and Bhutan governments, which sided by India. The Israeli ambassador in India formalized the position of his State arguing, “As we see it, it’s within Indian borders, something that is internal in India, an Indian issue. We know India is the biggest democracy in the world, (it) respects individual rights, respects the rule of law and I am sure India will resolve this issue in democratic ways and in peaceful ways and that’s what we are just waiting to see.  Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs endorsed Modi’s political decisions, supporting him: “We proceed from fact that the changes associated with the change in the status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and its division into two union territories are carried out within the framework of the Constitution of the Republic of India. We hope that the parties involved will not allow a new aggravation of the situation in the region as a result of the decisions”. He also added that they did hope for a normalization of the ties between India and Pakistan, in order to solve the situation through bilateral dialogue and by political and democratic means.

A contentious position was the one of Saudi Arabia that, in a first moment, called for the maintenance of peace and stability in the region. In September, Pakistan gained a first support of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, during a meeting hold in Islamabad. In the statement issued after the meeting between the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the UAE Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahya and the Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the  Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa, “They reaffirmed their strong support and solidarity with the people of Pakistan. With regard to the situation in held Kashmir, the Ministers took full cognizance of Pakistan’s perspective. It was agreed to work closely in OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) and other fora”. On the 25th of September, the OIC hold a meeting at the UN headquarters in New York, attended by the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan, Niger, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. They highlighted their fully support to the population of Kashmir and “expressed concern over the developments in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir as a result of the unilateral decision taken by India on 5 August 2019, revoking Constitutional Article 370, thereby removing the special status of the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir”. They also asked India to rescind its illegal actions and respect the UN Security Council resolutions. The situation changed in October, when the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman had a meeting with Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. After that, MBS declared that he did understand Indian reasons to revoke article 370. This statement assumes another importance and meaning if we say that, in the same period, Saudi Arabian made large investments in India and MBS reminded about the strengthened tied between his State and India. In February 2020, a meeting for preparing for the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers was hold in Jeddah, but Saudi Arabia made all possible steps to avoid it, proposing instead a parliamentary forum or a conference. The reasons behind these proposals were not clearly stated, but the presence of Iran within OIC conferences might have represented an issue for Saudi Arabia, due to the long lasting contrasts with the other Muslim super power. Moreover, the conferences were attended by Turkey and Malaysia, which strongly rejected Modi’s cut of Kashmiri autonomy. During the UN General Assembly, on 27th September 2019, the Turkish President Erdogan reminded about the fact that for 72 years, Kashmir has never received the international attention it deserves and that this issue must be solved with peace and dialogue. Notably, he also showed his support for Pakistan, whose president warned the international community about the tensions with India. Once again, Khan requested the international community intervention and found another great ally in the Turkish president.

Surprisingly, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, always during the 74th session of the UNGA, claimed India for being an invading power in Kashmir. Aside from Saudi Arabia, all other   States cited until now share with Pakistan religious affiliation to Islam. However, religion seemed not to be a defining element for a Country to grant its support.

In fact, a non-Muslim majority Country to take position in favour of Pakistan was China. Already in August 2019, Beijing expressed its concern and asked the parties not to change the status quo in Kashmir unilaterally and to exercise restraint. During a meeting between Pakistani Prime Minister and Chinese President in Islamabad, in October 2019, they reinforced their ties and Pakistan gained Chinese economic aid, in order to support the issue of Kashmir. If you are wondering why the Popular Republic has held out a hand to Pakistan, it is because India is claiming the Kashmiri territories controlled by Beijing too. They also opposed Indian decision to carve the Ladakh region out of Jammu and Kashmir and to put it into its federal administration. Going back to July 2019, China also joined Donald Trump’s proposal to mediate the matter of Kashmir by an international mediation. In this way, they indirectly rejected New Delhi view of the question as an internal issue.

Whilst China kept on preserving its interests, United States went ahead with their proposal to mediate between Pakistan and India also in September, during the work of UNGA. Two months before, Modi already clarified his position, rejecting Trump’s offer. By his side, the US President was willing to take this step only if the two Countries involved would have been in. In a first time, Trump said he trusted Pakistan leader. However, the day before, he had a meeting with Modi about the cooperation on security issues: the US President did not want to take an official position about the matter nor to waste the relation with anyone of the Country involved in the dispute.  By the way, many US Congress members declared their worries about human rights violations in Kashmir and then always Trump asked India to release political prisoners and restore internet and mobile services. In February 2020, he visited India, but not the occupied territories of Kashmir, an issue that Modi would have wanted not to mention. However, the US President highlighted his good relations with the Pakistani Prime Minister, saying that he was not offering his mediation for what he called “a thorn in a lot of people’s sides for a long time”. On the other hand, he did not mention Modi’s religious intolerance nor the protests in the same days of his visit; instead, he defined Indian President as a very religious, calm and strong person. Thus, one of the mostly influent power seemed not to want to share a clear position on the matter.  

Another important voice has to be analysed: the one of the European Union. This case is very singular. European Union is an intergovernmental organization, whose singular members (such as singular parliamentarians) cannot speak on behalf of all community. Sometimes, people forget this particular when they narrate political vicissitude of a group of EU institutions. The same mistake can be made by other political personalities and it might seem that the whole Union has adopted a view that is not shared by all its Members nor does not fix European values.

At the end of October 2019, the Indian Government welcomed a delegation of Members of the European Parliament to the occupied territories of Kashmir, while the lockdown of internet, phone lines and military occupation were going on. Politicians invited mostly belonged to right parties that sustain nationalism and anti-migration ideas. The visit raised many questions related also to the NGOs involved (the Women’s Economic and Social Think Tank, led by Madi Sharma, who defined the demolition of article 370 ads victory and a challenge for Kashmiri women) and the same organization of the tour. In fact, many senior Indian diplomatic claimed that it was not an official visit, but a private one, not arranged by the External Affairs Ministry. Rather, the visit seemed to be a Modi’s attempt to gain international support and view, and refresh his imagine. By their side, the 23 MEPs mostly declared that Kashmir was an Indian internal issue and decisions about article 370 only an Indian internal matter. They also shifted the attention to the terrorism problem, reminding that they would have told the truth about Kashmir. In the meanwhile, the European Union Mission in India took the distance from the visit, as well as European Parliament and European Union hierarchies. Thus, the declaration made by the MEP does not represent that of the Union, but it is only the view of few Members.

In January 2020, the European Union had to vote a resolution dealing with Kashmiri lockdown. The resolution represented 626 of 751 members of the European Parliament and strongly criticised Modi’s decision and actions in Kashmir. However, the Parliament decided to postpone the vote and did not deal with the issue. The only international delegation allowed in Kashmiri occupied territories has been that of the 23 European Parliament Members. In any case, this just represented a private delegation. Other international delegations, even before the lockdown, did not get the authorization to enter into Kashmir Occupied Territories. This happened with UN: Modi largely rejected the visits of the United Nations special envoys, whose reports might have been very harsh in relation to his policies. Already in August 2019, UN took a different approach and the experts defined the shutdown as a tool of collective punishment, reminding the fact that “the restrictions imposed by the Indian Government are intrinsically disproportionate, because they preclude considerations of the specific circumstances of each proposed assembly”.

In September 2019, the UN Human Rights Council has urged India to stop the occupation and the curfew, during its 42nd session. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, expressed her deep concerns and asked both India and Pakistan to take all possible measures to respect and protect the rights of Kashmiri people. After the UNGA, the spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, reported several restrictions over human rights, freedoms, and high level of violence. In February 2020, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres visited Pakistan for three days and, in a conference, when asked about Kashmir, he said that he has offered his good office, asserting “good offices can only work when accepted by both sides”. He also underlined the need to implement UNSC resolution to have effective respects of rights and rule of law. The severe violations of human rights were addressed also by many NGOs that joined the UNHCR in asking India to stop its violence. In a statement of International Commission of Jurists they said “our organizations express grave concern over the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir, where the authorities imposed severe restrictions after a decision to revoke constitutional autonomy on 5 August 2019, including one of the world’s longest internet shutdowns, which the Indian Supreme Court has said violates the right to freedom of expression”. Amnesty International has published many articles addressing the “needs to put humanity first and let the people of Kashmir speak” and calling for a petition to ask “the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir lift the communications blackout”.  Human Rights Watch, since August 2019, condemned India for defining that of Kashmir as an internal matter so to avoid the international intervention. These are just three examples of big NGOs working in the field. Their role is strategic to spread information, give voice to Kashmiri people, bringing at the UN the requests of civil society, reporting violence and human rights restrictions.

As seen, there are many reasons and ways through which international politic works. There are too many interests involved in this kind of issue, but the only one that truly matters is that of people. All international community should work in order to grant the respect of human dignity and enjoyment of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir.

(4.5 How the Government of India embarked on this experiment 4.6 Analysis of how it turned out.)

(Suggested title of this subheading: Modi’s experiments to change Kashmir society and consequences)

The story of Kashmir has very old roots and started when British India was divided into India and Pakistan. Kashmiri people have never gained the independence they wanted and India, since the UN ceasefire, has repeatedly imposed policies of integration through aggressive manners. During all these years, India was expecting people of Kashmir to change their political position so to fully integrate them, despite many cultural differences.

In August 2019, India has finalised its attempt to cancel, or at least reduce, Kashmir autonomy, by cutting article 370 and 35A. De facto, nowadays Kashmir has less degree of self-determination. This policy was party of Modi’s electoral campaign that he made real as soon as it was possible, due to the means at his service. It was clear that it has been greatly planned, before entering into force, given the speed and accuracy involved. Behind Modi’s policies, there is a nationalist and colonist idea, based on Hinduism and colonialism. There are many evidences of this last statement and Modi’s will to undermine minorities’ existences.  

Government has passed – or is trying to- laws or drafts aimed at restricting minorities’ rights, i.e. the draft Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill of 2019. India is also facing a wave of extreme violence by far right political groups against Muslim people that have been tortured or killed by Hindu groups in last years. This is also due to the mentality widespread by politicians, mostly belonging to the BJP party. Since they won the elections in 2014, the violence against Muslims and other vulnerable groups, such as women, has significantly increased.  Modi’s party and supporters have created a socio-political background that does not have any place for minorities or other groups not belonging to Hinduism. Then, Modi’s government has strengthened his policies of colonialism through the dismantling of article 35A too. Indian government has taken legal steps to modify Kashmir status and proceed with its annexation. According to the imperialistic idea that the integration of Kashmir would be the best solution for both Kashmiri people and New Delhi government, India has go on with a militarization of the area, without using any democratic means. In embarking with this project, the arrest of many politicians, journalist and activists has been crucial. This decision has been defined by many politician as “illegal and undemocratic”. Even if the Indian Supreme Court, in a first moment, has declined to give a hearing on the issue, Modi’s government decision still represents an obstacle to Kashmir autonomy and it might not be just an internal matter.

4.7 The longest lockdown ever: all the justification for renewing the siege.  

After a first period of curfew, India weakened some restrictions. They restored post-paid phone connections, a very urgent facility for everyday life and for getting in touch with parents and friends, after almost three months of lockdown. On 12th of October, Modi announcedthe restauration of most mobile phone connections and he said that Kashmir situation would have been restored in four months too.  In December 2019, the Kashmiri curfew has officially become the longest one in a democratic State. Always in December, Indian Supreme Court declared illegal  internet blackout, defining the freedom of internet as a fundamental right. In January 2020, despite the government announce of restore internet, about 8 million of people were still without connection. At the beginning of the new decade, Kashmiri people found themselves locked inside a militarized territory, scared to get out of their houses due to the massive presence of soldiers and drones controlling their lives, without the possibility to protest. What are the reasons behind this prolonged lockdown? Of course, they are political ones. New Delhi did not want Kashmiri people to protest and international community to hear their voices. That is why they kept on isolating them. India also wanted to disempower its biggest Muslim region and bind them in political, economic and social aspects, through terror and fear. Kashmir has turned into a federal-administer area to sustain a policy of Pan-India: for this attempt, using repression and curfews is strategically. Years of social instigation against minorities have brought to demonization of people belonging to these groups and a diffuse sense of islamophobia. Thus, when Kashmiri people ask for their rights, BJP party answer with indignity and, when possible, intensifies the restrictions. During the first months of 2020, when India was about to loosen the vice, covid-19 pandemic broke out all around the world, giving India another chance for intensify again the curfew. Kashmir people faced a new wave of violence, arrests of people going out for buying food or medicines, guerrilla fighters in the streets, and even doctors, nurse and paramedics blocked and brought to jail. Coronavirus outbreak and internet restrictions worsened the work of many doctors and the lives of many people, that were not able to impart or find enough and good information on the new virus. The nightmare of the siege became true once again, when Modi’s government used quarantine for covid-19 to renew the lockdown. Streets have been tightened, as well as schools, working places, public locals and so on, and people have been confined once again. What differs the quarantine in Kashmir from the rest of many other democratic States is the widespread use and deployment of armed forces. Despite the UN call to stop armed conflicts during the pandemic, India seized the opportunity to increase in the violations of human rights, justifying its continuous and prolonged crusade against Kashmir as a measure to fight the pandemic.

 

4.8 International relations between India and Kashmir: a thorn in New Delhi side.

The decision to repeal article 370 and 35A and the following curfew will impact many aspects, despite the consequences that are difficult to say. There are very positive comments about this change in the Indian Constitution and the becoming of Jammu and Kashmir administrative territories. It might be seen as a great bargain for easier movements of goods and money and intensify investments in the valley. The establishment of new stakeholders in Kashmir might be the chance for a new period of peace in region, but there are many other factors to take into account when analysing the relations between Kashmir and India.

The first one is the impact on the social situation, with numerous civilian protests against Indian government, stifled and repressed with the lockdown and military control over Kashmiri territories. If, in one hand, it has increased the opposition against Modi’s government, on the other hand Modi has gained political (and military, according to some points of view) control over the area. If the Indian government were aware about its political mileage, they also would be worried about the possible terror attacks in the valley. Moreover, the political and social tension will be exacerbated by the moment that India is declaring that Kashmir represents an internal issue, whilst the best solution for Kashmir might be the independence. When talking about the relations between India and Kashmir, it is essential to cite Pakistan too, which has repeatedly stated that they are going to use every possible diplomatic tool against India. Thus, the first and fiercest ally of Kashmir is the long-time enemy of India. Pakistan is a field linked with terrorism, not only for its geographical closeness to Afghanistan. Already in February 2019, Indian soldiers have been attacked by a Pakistan-based Islamist extremist group. Episode like this, not only might affect relations with India, but mostly the stability in the region. Analysts of international politics have sustained this hypothesis: the only way to normalize the relations with Pakistan is the resolution of Kashmir issue. “As long as Kashmir festers, there will be acts of violence that India will link with elements in Pakistan. India needs to understand that Kashmiri alienation does not solely stem from Pakistani instigation and that Pakistan gains little by random acts of terrorism that only draw universal opprobrium. Terrorism and extremism are a complex phenomenon”.  This complex phenomenon might develop in new unthinkable contexts, such as that of young Kashmiri people. They did not remember the protests broken out in the 90’s and the huge losses, but they have lived the present, they have lost so many opportunities and time due to the curfew. The fear is that they also might use force against Indian militaries in order to get justice and freedom. India is worried for Kashmiri people’s reaction and this one might be the worst consequences. New Delhi does not want to have another exploit of protests such as in 2016. Perhaps, it is properly for this reason that India has suffocated remonstrances. Other studies about terrorism have shown this possibility: “Kashmiri youth are a group that is often targeted as susceptible to radicalisation and violent extremism because they have an acute awareness of their outsider status”. This sense of fear and anger has been embittered by the outbreak of covid-19 and the Kashmir isolation. The aftermath in the field of security and relations between Kashmir and India might be the worse, if the Indian government will not be able to assist and give Kashmiri people medical assistance in order to face the pandemic. “Inadequate management of the virus would further harden the negative views many in Kashmir hold toward India, raising the political stakes of the public health crisis. A grim, militarized status quo thus seems likely to endure in Kashmir, regardless of the virus’s coursehave underlined the experts. Of course, all the policies of repression and siege are the justification to any act of violence or social disorder in Kashmir. If Kashmir had been independent and free, not subjugated to unlawful policies, all these “fears” of India would not be existed.

Analysing the situation as it is today, it seems quite possible that the lockdown and Indian strategy to revoke Kashmiri independence will badly affect the relations between them. All the above-mentioned elements will be strategically for this issue and they will play a distinctive role. In general, it can be noticed that the relations will be negatively influenced mostly because of the severe and prolonged siege. Moreover, Kashmiri population is weary for the Indian government behaviour. The last lockdown, which is lasting since August 2019, added to all the protests and abuse of power that Kashmir has suffered throughout the years, is bringing people to social collapse. In conclusion, if India is interested to rule Kashmir, whatever might be their relations, the region will be a thorn in New Delhi side.

 

4.9 All the international norms that India has violated

This is the most relevant section of our booklet. It is insufficient to narrate the Kashmir lockdown, without talking about the norms it has violated. This is because human dignity has to be preserved and respect and those who violate any law related to this aspect must be charged.

Before analysing the international norms that India might have violated, it is important to define siege within a context of warfare. Siege means the isolation of a population under attack. International law does not describes siege, which has been defined by Bechner, Berti and Jackson as “any attempt by an adversary to control access into and out of a town, neighbourhood or other terrain of strategic significant to achieve a military or political objective”. However, according to the modern military doctrine, a distinctive characteristic of siege is the “isolation”, in three different ways: physical, psychological and electronic. The first two elements have been defined as follows “physical isolation may be the sine qua non of siege. Psychological isolation has proved important as well. Information operations and military deception separate the besieged force from outside sources of moral support. Psychological isolation deprives the besieged force of political and emotional support in order to reduce morale and the will to resist”.  The last element instead is seen as a tool able to “reduce enemy capacity to command and control besieged forces and can also distort the enemy’s operational awareness to the advantage of the besieging force”. At this point, India did not merely imposed some restrictions, but they arranged a siege.

The law of armed conflict and other international instruments are the rule that must be respected during a siege in wartime. Going deeply in the norms, India has to apply and respect Hague Regulations 1907 articles, such as:

  • Article 23 (b): (it is especially forbidden) To kill or wound treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile;  
  • Article 27: In sieges and bombardments all necessary steps must be taken to spare, as far as possible, buildings dedicated to religion, art, science, or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not being used at the time for military purposes.
  • Article 43: The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.

A State cannot decide to siege a territory without respecting these prescriptions. In relation to article 27, it is arguable the degree of violation of this norm. However, it can be said that for many months India has not restored public order. Instead, it has acted in an opposite manner. It is not our duty to decide the level of violation of this norm, nevertheless there are many reports showing the social impact of the siege in the public order and safety of people living in Jammu and Kashmir.

Another important international instrument is the Fourth Geneva Convention, adopted in 1949. It is part of the international humanitarian law and the so-called jus in bello. As clarified by the ICRC, some provisions have been reviewed after the World War II and take into account the protection of populations against the consequences of war. A section is dedicated to the protection of people living in occupied territories or people under siege. Inter alia, article 17 of the Fourth Geneva Convention identifies categories of people entitled to a special treatment:

  • The Parties to the conflict shall endeavour to conclude local agreements for the removal from besieged or encircled areas, of wounded, sick, infirm, and aged persons, children and maternity cases, and for the passage of ministers of all religions, medical personnel and medical equipment on their way to such areas.

The limit of this article is that “the parties shall endeavour to conclude local agreements”. It means that Modi’s government should have agreed with local Kashmiri authorities such measures to protect the cited groups. The same article specifies the definition of siege and reminds that “During the Second World War certain localities or zones held out against siege for months or even for years, and in several cases delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross had been able to enter such areas to carry out their humanitarian work, rendering useful service”. This article has a particular relevance because it brings the attention to the humanitarian assistance in a territory under siege.

This issue is addressed in article 59 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that says, “If the whole or part of the population of an occupied territory is inadequately supplied, the Occupying Power shall agree to relief schemes on behalf of the said population, and shall facilitate them by all the means at its disposal. Such schemes, which may be undertaken either by States or by impartial humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, shall consist, in particular, of the provision of consignments of foodstufls, medical supplies and clothing. All Contracting Parties shall permit the free passage of these consignments and shall guarantee their protection”. Moreover, the Rule 56 of the ICRC Study on Customary International Humanitarian Law has pointed out that parties have to ensure the freedom of movement of authorised humanitarian relief personnel essential to the exercise of their functions. It is also a duty of belligerents to take care of people sick and wounded. In the specific case of India occupying Kashmir, the access to the territories has been denied and the same has happened to UN officials, keeping Jammu and Kashmir more isolated than ever.

International humanitarian law embodies another rule concerning the “objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population”. Article 54 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions prohibits starvation as a method of warfare. It is aimed to protect people from suffering hunger. Furthermore, the article also prohibits “attacking, destroying, removing or rendering unless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies in order to achieve a military end”. Despite India has not ratified Protocol I, this provision is part of the customary international law, that imposes legal obligations on all States. Since the beginning of lockdown, India has controlled food and medical supplies in the valley and has prevented many people from going out to get them. Other people that have tried to get out for buying these supplies have been arrested. Creating shortages of food and medicines and using starvation as a method of war consist in grave breaches of international humanitarian law and might result in war crimes.

These are the violations of norms related to the international law, ruling territories under siege. Here, a big problem arises. By the moment that Modi is saying that Kashmir is an internal issue, he is also minimizing the problem. New Delhi government has never mentioned any kind of armed conflict in relation to Kashmir. On the other hand, Kashmiri population is seeing and living the siege as a war. Whether international or non-international, people are suffering as during a wartime. Given that the Indian soldier is not fighting against another army, they could also say that all the mentioned norms, related to the warfare, cannot be applied to this issue.

However, international law encompasses rules related to the protections of fundamental human rights that India has widely violated. At the basis of international law, there are fundamental Conventions, establishing norms that have to be respected even in time of peace.

If we assume that Jammu and Kashmir are administrative territories of India and there is no war going on, Modi has the duty grant the enjoyment of all the following norms.  

Despite the restoration of some communication in January 2020, Jammu and Kashmir have faced five months of internet lockdown and people have been prevented from accessing to social network, online newspapers and get in touch with other people. The Indian Supreme Court has order the suspension of internet restriction, as it is illegal according to Indian law. Using internet and social media could have been a way to let the world know about Kashmiri lockdown and have contacts with the rest of the people living outside the curfew: this constitute a violation of freedom of expression. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights defines and protects this fundamental human right. By the moment that India has ratified this international instrument, it is also obliged to respect and fulfil the norms in it.  The same Covenant carries many norms that are interesting to analyse in the light of the dispute over the territories of Jammu and Kashmir.

Article 6 recognizes the right to life. It is said to be “the first right”, because, without life, there would not be any other discussion about other rights. India is guilt for the killing of Kashmiri people during protests and collateral dead during the curfew.

Articles 7 and 8 address torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment, slavery, slave-trade and servitude. In many cases, Kashmiri people have been subjected to these treatments, so that India has not only violated ICCPR, but also the Convention related to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This last international instrument embodies norm that belongs to the customary law, thus, even if India has not ratified it, it still has to respect the norms embodied in the UN Convention Against Torture.

Article 9 of the ICCPR touches another important point “everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention”. India has operated according to the Public Safety Act that allows administrative detention, without informing the arrested one about the charge. This norm violates the international law of human rights and so does whoever applies it. In fact, the same article specifies, “(9.2) Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him. (9.3) Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge […]”. It seems that Indian authorities have largely violated all the points of article 9 of ICCPR. At this regard, it is important to remind that many people arrested during the lockdown have been transferred to unknown places, for an undetermined period, without any contact with their families and have been subjected to tortures. Besides, police has also acknowledged to have kept in detention at least 144 children since August 2019. Even if quite all of them have been released the same day, at least 17 of them were still in jail for longer periods. For these children too, the allegations were not clear and most of them has been put in administrative detention. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, in article 37, binds States Party to ensure that “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Moreover, the CRC, in the same article, imposes that “No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily”. Thus, regarding the treatment reserved to children, India has violated this last cited Covenant, ratified by New Delhi in December 1992.  

Going back to the ICCPR, article 12 recognizes the liberty of movement: clearly, it has been violated for many months in the ways described at the beginning of this storytelling. Article 18 states the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion: Kashmiri people have been repeatedly prevented from these liberties, due to the impossibilities to access to the mosques during the lockdown. Article 19 addressed the work of journalists and reporters, but also the freedom to every single citizen to express her/his own opinion through social media, newspapers or simply talking in the streets. This has not been possible and Indian authorities have tried to interfere with this fundamental right by instilling terror through the population. The right of freedom of expression goes hand in hand with the right of freedom of assembly, recognized in article 22. The ICCPR was born from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which embodies all fundamental human rights, but given its nature, was not legally bounding for the States. The norms within ICCPR generally held civil and political rights, whilst economic, social and cultural rights are part of the ICESCR, born on the line of UDHR too. Restrictions on the norms of both ICCPR and ICESCR are allowed “in time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed” and “only in so far as this may be compatible with the nature of these rights and solely for the purpose of promoting the general welfare in a democratic society”. The background and society of Kashmir did not justify the violations of these human rights norm. Instead, India, as a ratifying Power, should have taken all the measures to push the enjoyment of these freedoms and rights in the valley. If we assume that now Jammu and Kashmir are directly administered by New Delhi, this last one must guarantee the respect of fundamental human rights embodies in the above-mentioned Covenant.

The curfew has had its consequences on the work of many people, turning in an unjustified violation of article 7 of ICESCR. Article 9 and 10 ensure social security, protection and assistance. All these measure have been violated due to the obstacle imposed also to reach hospitals, schools, and places of work and, in general, whatever place outside home.

Article 11 is strategic too: “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions”. The siege has completely upset the way of life in valley, instead of improving the conditions; it has  twisted people’s life, making a nightmare becoming reality.  Is it possible to have an adequate standard of living, if you are forced to live in a territory with the longest military lockdown imposed by a democratic government?

Furthermore, article 12 ensures the “highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”. Military occupation, distortion of life, impossibility to get food and medicines, isolation, impossibility to live a normal life did not have their consequences only at physical level, but mostly at psychological ones. As reported, many people have underlined the general feeling of terror: it is easy to understand that months of distortion of private and social life might have their consequences at mental health levels.

Finally yet importantly, there is a set of illegal actions committed in the valley. First, the number of extra-judicial killings: trends have remained more or less the same of the past years, with the aggravating element of siege. Secondly: Indian soldiers have exercised an excessive use of force. Policy has conducted raids on homes and working places. Hundreds of Cordon and Search Operations (CASOS) have been reported during the first month of curfew. During this time of lockdown, gender violence has increased. Unfortunately, during warfare and siege women might suffer higher level of violence in both public and private sectors. In this specific case, women have unofficially reported sexual abuses during night raids by Indian policy. This a very sensitive issue and it must be said that victims did not complaint with the authorities, fearing possible retaliation.

Civilians too have reported cases of injuries from Indian authorities: i.e. the 100 victims caused by the use of pellet guns, during the first days of September 2019. The illegitimate abuse of force by Indian soldiers has caused many collateral deaths and high standards of human rights violations.

In accordance to this analysis, India has committed many violations of international norms. That is why Modi has never accepted any UN official to visit the occupied territories. Moreover, the ICCPR and ICESCR, as well as other Covenants, have their own Committee, established in order to supervise the application of the rules in every State Party.

Furthermore, these norms are often part of the National Constitutions and laws. If the local authorities are not willing or able to condemn them, it is important to redress the violation at international level.

 

4.10 Conclude with how India has created a global precedent for locking up around eight million people, and what this could mean for rule of law, especially when democracies indulge in such activity. What Indian rights activists and commentators have been saying the actions of the Indian government and military.

India has always settled the issue of Kashmir as an internal matter, trying to avoid any kind of critic against its operations. Despite this, human rights activists from the Hindu Country have tried to raise their voices. A team of activists by the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) member Kavita Krishnan, economist Jean Dreze, Maimoona Mollah of the All India Democratic Women’s Association and Vimal Bhai of the National Alliance of People’s Movements issued a report after having visited the occupied territories of Kashmir. The report consisted in photos and videos and a shot film called “Kashmir Caged”, released on YouTube. Ten minutes of film were supposed to be shown at the Press Club of India (PCI), but the permission was denied. The reason was imputed to logistical problems. Instead, the realty was a policy of censorship imposed by New Delhi. In a private conversation, the staff of the Press Club of India have acknowledged to be under control and pressure by the national authorities. The report clearly shown the Kashmiri people’s anger against Indian decision to cut article 370 and 35A. It tells how Indian policies have used force and illegal detentions to disseminate terror throughout the population. Interestingly, the report also takes into account people’s disappointment against Indian media, for their narrative aligned to the government version. Moreover, not only the activists have documented how teenagers and young boys and girls have been arbitrary arrested, but also the disproportionate use of force and pellet guns against people protesting. In an official statement by the human rights activist group, they called for “sustained solidarity initiatives with the people of Jammu and Kashmir and also with persons all over India who are facing harassment, intimidation, censorship and even house arrest for protesting the treatment meted out to Jammu and Kashmir and its people”. Thus, even Indian activists have taken a critical approach in relation to Modi’s decisions. One the one hand, Modi has created a precedent by the moment that he has used siege to repress legitimate protests. One the hand, illegal curfews and sieges have been used in the past, deemed illegal and condemned, such as in the case of Israel with Gaza or the case of Syria. What is singular in this all story is that curfew has redesigned the life of about eight million people. It has also been seen as just an “internal issue”, by many international powers and, until now, no international court has been able to rule about it. The National Indian Court has declared internet curfew as illegal, but no more steps have been taken. The worse thing is the inability of international community to act instead of talking. No State or intergovernmental organization has taken concrete measure to stop Kashmiri people sufferings. Modi, that has clearly violated international law, has been left free to do whatever he wants.

In conclusion, there are two important point to be discussed.

The first one is embodied in article 1 of the ICCPR and ICESCR: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”. Kashmir was supposed to have a referendum, after 1948 ceasefire. The referendum requested by the United Nations has never taken place and Kashmiri people never had the chance to decide whether to gain independence or not nor they have been able to choose their own political status. Furthermore, without any kind of popular consultation, Modi’s government has modified Kashmiri area, cutting the last piece of independence. The policies implemented since August 2019 have contributed to remove any ray of hope for Jammu and Kashmir to see their autonomy respected. Besides, these decisions seem aimed to change cultural and social Kashmiri environment of the majority-Muslim region. Despite it might seems that for Jammu and Kashmir there is no opportunity to get the justice they deserve and to see their right to self-determination respected, there might be other ways to solve this conflict, if the international community would be inclined to work on this issue. We have seen how international intervention has failed to get the right solution in situations such as the one of Palestine, but before Kashmir turns to be the second Gaza Strip, international leaders could jointly work in accordance to the principle of the so-called “Responsibility to Protect”.

Here comes the second point. According to the United Nations, the theory of R2P “embodies a political commitment to end the worst forms of violence and persecution. It seeks to narrow the gap between Member States’ pre-existing obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law and the reality faced by populations at risk of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”. Furthermore, paragraph 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document recognises that “The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this context, we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”. As clarified formerly, India has widely violated international law and international humanitarian law, imposing curfew and norms designed to destroy a territorial group. The international intervention should be necessary by the moment that India is not proned to collaborate with the mediation proposed by the United States and accepted by Pakistan. It should be necessary due to the copious violations of the norms ruling the siege by Indian government. If is not enough that the grave breaches of humanitarian law could constitute war crimes, Modi’s government should pay attention to his next steps and decisions related to Jammu and Kashmir. Inviting Indian people to buy lands and establish in the valley as well as the attempt to cancel the national and religious identity of the territory might turn into a violation of the article 6 of the Statute of Rome: Genocide. If the international community does not intervene promptly, the risk is not only to have another genocide, but also that other Governs might act in the same way, annexing other territories, killing innocent people and making other civilian people live under terror.

Thus, even if we accept Modi’s position that Jammu and Kashmir is an internal issue of India, international community has all the pacific and diplomatic tools to solve this controversy, in the name of human rights. Rebus sic stantibus, Indian government and authorities are not the only actors responsible for what is ongoing in the valley, but the international community is called to act before it would be too late.

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