By Hafsah Noor, MSc Middle East Politics
Four months ago, India celebrated with a flush of national pride as Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist, far-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This was his second time being sworn in as Indian Prime Minister, after winning a landslide victory in the May 2019 general election. Kashmir cried silently.
Since the BJP’s ascent to power, political trauma across the subcontinent has heightened. On 5 August, the world witnessed the Indian flag sweeping the streets of India as PM Modi made the pressing decision to revoke Article 370 of the IndianConstitution. This was issued to newly independent India in 1947, vowing to give the autonomous region of Kashmir freedom to govern under a constitution separate from the Indian one, together with their own flag. Indian nationalists raved the decision with glee, mainstream media erupted and cheery dancers crowded the country.
As Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan put it, Modi has “played his last card”.
The decision followed a deployment of a 45 000-man strong Indian troop being gushed into Kashmir, the most densely militarized region in the world, to counter the so-called terrorists in the region. This is a clear exploitation of the situation as Indian forces continue to exercise terror against innocent citizens, as has been done over the last 30 years. Modi’s violation of human rights has caused an upsurge in tensions between India and Pakistan, after decades of an already boiling conflict. As Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan put it, Modi has “played his last card”.
As if that wasn’t enough, the RSS-backed leadership continued with a malicious crackdown on the 7 million Kashmiris now detained behind barbed razor wire in the Muslim majority region. For over 60 days now, Kashmir has been subject to a ghastly communications blackout. Internet connection, mobile service and telephone lines have been completely cut, political and business leaders are being rounded-up, Kashmiri police forces are being disarmed, former chief ministers are being arrested, all while Indian drones fly over the South Asian flashpoint.
Modi’s decision to overturn Article 370 guaranteeing Kashmir’s special status, is a pathetic notion of reinforcing the racist Hindu nationalist motive that has been buzzing around India, and a humiliating move, to say the least. Modi undermined a difficult and divisive issue that has been disputed since the British carelessly drew their borders across the subcontinent, and belittled the fate and autonomy of Kashmir by putting aside the unfinished business of partition as though it required no further discussion. He asserted his egotistical and tyrannical demeanour not just on Kashmir, but on the rest of us too as we sit and watch. Stripping them of independence, including the right to their own flag and constitution, Kashmir will now be administered by the BJP, the political wing of the Nazi-inspired and far-right nationalist RSS organisation of 600 000 members. The BJP and their militia volunteers will tighten their grip over institutions in Kashmir, while holding control from the central government in New Delhi.
As part of their clamping down on the mainly Muslim territory, Modi heedlessly dissolved Article 35A of the Constitution which gave Kashmiris stewardship of their land. In a neo-colonial project, Indians are now free to buy land, open business, engage in trade and acquire territory in Kashmir, which would mean we could expect to soon see Israeli-style settlement projects in occupied Kashmir. In roistering the freshly open domain, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar of the North Indian state of Haryana obnoxiously joked that because ‘Kashmir is open… we can bring girls from there.’ How sickly.
The next few months are to prove how Modi’s prison camp project plays out as he fuels the fire, setting citizen out against citizen, Hindu against Muslim and Indian against Kashmiri. Modi is not a man of reason, nor of tolerance but the world listens and awaits – the consequences are looking grim.