One year ago, on August 5th, 2019, the Indian government revoked Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution, which guaranteed the disputed, Muslim-majority territory of Jammu & Kashmir a semi-autonomous status and ensured its indigenous residents exclusive rights to permanently settle, purchase immovable property, and be employed in the state government. After dissolving these protections, India stripped J&K of its statehood entirely and divided it into two Union Territories directly under Indian control, without prior warning or consultation of Kashmiris. The Indian government deployed thousands of additional troops to Kashmir, ordered a complete curfew, and severed telecommunications and internet services for six months resulting in the longest internet shutdown ever imposed by a democratic government. Even today, Kashmiris are restricted to 2G services under strict surveillance. Thousands of Kashmiri political workers, activists, journalists, students, business leaders, lawyers, human rights defenders, teachers, and children, were arrested and detained without charge, and many still remain in preventive detention. On August 15th, 2019, Genocide Watch officially placed Kashmir on genocide alert.
In the year since, the Indian occupation of Kashmir has become progressively more brutal and brazen, laying a clear path toward a settler-colonial state. A new domicile law, passed in spring of 2020, detailed the processes by which Indian settlers that meet certain requirements will be able to obtain domicile certificates, now mandatory for job and university applications. This requirement will likely soon be extended to land, voting, and welfare rights in J&K. Existing residency papers are nullified under the new rules, and indigenous Kashmiris without adequate documents will be rendered stateless in their own homes, dispossessed of education, employment, and land rights, leading to massive displacement. Already over 400,000 domicile certificates have been granted. The Indian government hails their recent changes as the creation of an “investment paradise,” opening up the region to new business contracts and opportunities, but in reality Kashmiris are steadily losing their land and their livelihoods to outsiders. India has made it legally possible for its army to declare any land as ‘strategic’ and take it over, pushing people out of their homes. The government is also making plans to build housing developments which locals fear will cater to Indian settlers. Moreover, non-local companies won a majority of mining contracts previously reserved for Kashmiri contractors. The bidding process was put online, a move that specifically disadvantaged Kashmiris, many of whom still lack adequate access to internet services since the lockdown. Furthermore, environmental degradation is an ever-growing concern as the wealth of Kashmir’s natural resources is bought out by foreign entities and Kashmiri forest land is undergoing massive deforestation.
Under international law, changing the demographics of occupied or disputed territories is illegal. Nevertheless, we are witnessing the beginnings of disastrous demographic change; so much so that there is real potential for an all out ethnic cleansing of an indigenous people and further destabilization of the region. Furthermore, India’s rapidly progressing settler-colonial project in Kashmir poses an existential threat to the Kashmiri right to self-determination. It is now over seventy-two years since UN Security Council Resolution 47 committed to facilitating the promised plebiscite. Not only has the international community failed to deliver on that promise, but also, with non-Kashmiris flooding the region, a just and fair plebiscite for indigenous Kashmiri participants may soon become impossible.
The international community must make a commitment to act quickly before it is too late. We, the undersigned organizations committed to justice, human rights, and self-determination, request that you:
Hold India accountable for its violent repression of Kashmiris. Too long has the international community allowed India to get away with gross human rights violations and its draconian suppression of dissent. People must have the right to move freely within Kashmir, as well as move into and out of Kashmir, including from across the LoC, without restriction. Kashmiris must have the free and full exercise of the freedoms of expression, belief, assembly, association, and movement, as well as full access to telecommunication and internet services. All bans on political, social, and religious groups must be revoked. Kashmiris must be allowed to peacefully gather and protest to resist their oppression. Journalists, civil society activists, and human rights defenders deserve the right to perform their work without interference or fear of reprisals. Furthermore, India must release all political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and extrajudicial detainees.
Push harder to demand to see conditions on the ground. Fact-finding delegations and foreign journalists have been repeatedly denied open access to Kashmir over the past year, unable to independently assess ground realities. Independent human rights observers, civil society groups, political officials and foreign journalists must be granted unrestricted entry into Kashmir. We further advocate for a full, complete, and impartial investigation through the creation of a UN Commission of Inquiry of all alleged instances of human, civil, and political rights violations; and the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur with the mandate to investigate and report on human rights violations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Kashmir.
Call for an end to the settler-colonial project, demilitarization, and the right to self determination for Kashmiris. We believe you have a responsibility to interfere and halt progress towards a settler colonial state. The Government of India repeatedly claims that any issues in Kashmir are India’s internal matter, but Kashmir is a disputed territory and India has no right to make unilateral decisions affecting the lives and livelihoods of Kashmir’s indigenous residents. Kashmiris have a fundamental right to self-determination. Kashmiris must be included in a free and fair process, held under international supervision, whereby they are able to express their political will and live with dignity. They have the right to preserve and express their language, culture, heritage, and peoplehood. Kashmiris must be able to speak for themselves and lead the conversation in regards to their future. Such a process necessitates a complete demilitarization, including the closure of military bases and installations, and removal of military and paramilitary personnel from the entire state of Jammu & Kashmir as it existed in 1947.
Now, as Kashmiris face the most dire challenge yet to their fight for freedom, is the time to remedy decades of neglect and inadequate intervention. Now is the time to take a meaningful stance: to demand an end to the occupation and call for self-determination. Now is the time to stand with Kashmir.
We are thankful to the organizations that have shown their support by signing this statement:
Bangladeshi Americans for Political Progress
Chicago South Asians For Justice
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
International Human Rights Program
Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) IPMN
Justice For All
Lausan Collective 流傘
National Students for Justice in Palestine
Palestine Youth Movement
Sakhi for South Asian Women
Students Against Hindutva Ideology (SAHI)
The American Muslim Bar Association (AMBA)
US Free Saibaba Coalition
Yemeni Alliance Committee
Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA)
Asian American Advocacy Fund
Coalition Against Fascism in India (CAFI)
Decolonize This Place
Hindus for Human Rights
International League of Peoples’ Struggle – US
Justice for Kashmir
Organization for Minorities of India
Palestinian BDS National Committee
South Asia Solidarity Initiative
Survivors Fund (SURF)
The Justice Foundation
Within Our Lifetime
American Muslims for Palestine
Color of Change
Democratic Socialists of America – International Committee
Feminist Foreign Policy Project
ICNA Council for Social Justice
Islamophobia Studies Center
Jewish Voice for Peace
Kashmir Solidarity Council
Muslim American Society-Public Affairs and Civic Engagement
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Take Back the Bronx
The Polis Project
World Kashmir Freedom Movement