The New York Times reported on August 23 that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs “won’t say why foreign journalists continue to be blocked from setting foot in Kashmir” but managed to obtain a compelling first-hand account of one of the thousands of arrests by the authorities. In this instance, “Asifa Mubeen was woken up by the sound of barking dogs as policemen began pouring into her yard. Her husband, Mubeen Shah, a wealthy Kashmiri merchant, stepped out onto their bedroom balcony in the night air. The police shouted that he was under arrest. When he asked to see a warrant, his wife said, the police told him there wouldn’t be one. ‘This is different,’ they said. ‘We have orders.’ It was the start of one of the biggest mass arrests of civilian leaders in decades carried out by India, a close American partner that bills itself as one of the world’s leading democracies…”
The appalling situation in Indian-administered Kashmir has been created by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who announced on August 5 that he was annulling Article 370 of India’s constitution, which since 1949 has ensured that the territory could make its own laws in a democratic way. It had its own constitution and the most important thing was that the special status of the region allowed it to adhere to the ancient law prohibiting outsiders from buying land. The central government could not overrule the law — but with Modi’s repeal of Article 370 there is now direct rule by Delhi.
This means that the people of the territory have no say in their own governance. It has also meant the arrest and incarceration of some 4,000 people under the Public Safety Act which allows the authorities to jail anyone for up to two years without charge.
Leaders of the US and Britain, these sometimes eloquent supporters of freedom for the peoples of the world, have made no critical statements about mass arrests or cancellation of elections or closure of means of communication
Deficiency of democracy doesn’t stop there, because the Armed Forces Special Powers Act “grants the armed forces the power to shoot to kill in law enforcement situations, to arrest without warrant, and to detain people without time limits. The law forbids prosecution of soldiers without approval from the central government, which is rarely granted, giving them effective immunity for serious human rights abuses.”
The citizens of Indian-administered Kashmir are suffering military occupation authorised by Modi’s ultra-right wing government in Delhi. It is, to all intents, occupied territory whose inhabitants have no say whatever in their own governance. There were supposed to be elections this year, but with the invalidation of Article 370, these can no longer take place. It has all been carefully thought through.
And the leaders of the US and Britain, these sometimes eloquent supporters of freedom for the peoples of the world, have made no critical statements about mass arrests or cancellation of elections or closure of means of communication, and they ignore the fact that India’s Constitution “explicitly declares that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression.”
It is barely credible that the people hauled away in the middle of the night included Mian Qayoom, president of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association; Mohammed Yasin Khan, chairman of the Kashmir Economic Alliance; and Mehbooba Mufti, the first woman elected as Kashmir’s chief minister.
If Johnson and Trump genuinely support democracy, why do they not protest about the arrests and cancellation of democratic elections in Indian-administered Kashmir? Why do they not take Modi to task for his excesses? It was recorded that “data obtained by Reuters showed 152 people reported to Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences and Shri Maharaj Hari Singh with injuries from pellet shots and tear gas fire between August 5 and August 21.” If this had happened in Pakistan, there would have been worldwide outrage.
Trump and Johnson ignored the fact that on August 22, “UN human rights experts called on the Government of India to end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests imposed in Indian-Administered Kashmir this month.”
The absence of criticism by Trump and Johnson of military rule in Indian-administered Kashmir will encourage Modi and his far-right nationalists to extend their racist grip throughout India. Since the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, there has been a marked increase in officially-endorsed communal violence, mainly against Muslims but also targeting other minority groups. These outbreaks of Hindu-supremacy barbarity are sponsored largely by a militant organisation called the Bajrang Dal which the New Yorker notes “has either been banned or has lurked at the margins of Indian society. But [since 2014] the militant group has been legitimized and grown exponentially more powerful. In the past seven years…there have been a 168 attacks by Hindu extremists, in the name of protecting cows, against Muslims and other religious minorities.”
Indian democracy is under grave threat from racist Hindu supremacists, and Modi’s India appears intent on eradicating Muslims and that the vast majority of Hindus fully support him. In order for him to continue his policy of apartheid, there has to be destruction of domestic democracy and silence from the leaders of world democracies. And that’s exactly what is happening.