January 16, 2023
In a recent move, Manoj Sinha, the Lieutenant Governor of the indian regime in Kashmir announced that the government will be building an “authentic database” of Kashmiri families. He said that this will be achieved through assigning unique alphanumeric IDs to each and every family of Jammu and Kashmir, which will be known as the “JK Family ID.” The indian regime has maintained that this is to “determine eligibility through automatic selection of beneficiaries for receiving social benefits”. This move will enable the indian state to build a complete database of each and every member of each and every family in the occupied region.
While LG said that the scheme will be “consensual,” this not the first such “consensual” attempt to collect biometric details in Kashmir. Earlier, india collected these details through its Aadhar project, which was supposedly “consensual” but later everything from mobile sim cards to bank accounts and electricity connection were made subject to Aadhar, forcing people to comply. The Aadhar database in combination with the JK Family ID database will render Kashmiris completely subject to the Indian state’s surveillance apparatus in Kashmir.
As india ramps up its settler colonial project in Kashmir, this mapping of family data is the latest mode of control. Only a few months ago, on the pretext of “digitizing land records”, the indian state started issuing “land passports” in Kashmir. This move was further materialized with the Gujjar community of Kashmir seeing their houses demolished for “occupying government land”. At the same time, the indian regime has also started demolishing the houses of rebel fighters and leaving their families to fend for themselves as the harshest period of the Kashmiri winter draws closer.
As it starts arming itself with data on each Kashmiri family, it is only a matter of time that india introduces steps to prosecute and punish family members of rebels and pro-resistance individuals and activists, and also restrict them from receiving social benefits.
Digital infrastructure is rapidly being built around the physical settler colonial project, a move that results in digital or e-occupation.
With the initiation of this project, data breaches that see the biometrics of Kashmiris leaked might also become common in India, meaning that the digital and biometric existence of Kashmiris will be intentionally put in jeopardy. Hunting down strong and powerful Kashmiri voices on social media will be made easier, along with access to the identities and addresses of their family members. This will create the ultimate ecosystem of fear and chaos, which the indian state hopes to use to its advantage to silence any pro-freedom voices.
A few years ago in 2018, PayTM, an Indian payments app was accused of selling the biometrics of Kashmiris to a political party. In a sting operation done by investigative journalism house Cobrapost, the founders and owners of the app could be seen accepting that they are affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang (RSS), which is a far-right terrorist outfit of india, known for its hatred for Muslims and Kashmiris. It is only a matter of time that the “consensual JK Family ID” is made mandatory for basic services like electricity, banking, water and ration, to make sure that compliance is no longer an option but a necessity.
India’s settler colonial project in Kashmir is moving at a rapid pace with the colonial state opening several fronts ranging from tourism glorification, economic colonialism, normalization and crippling surveillance. The question is, can we make a loud enough noise around this project to make a difference. Start by sharing this blog and stay connected with the day-to-day happenings of Kashmir, and follow StandWithKashmir on different social media platforms or sign up for the newsletter on standwithkashmir.org
Stand With Kashmir (SWK) is a Kashmiri-driven independent, transnational, grassroots movement committed to standing in solidarity with the people of indian-occupied Kashmir in ending the indian occupation of their homeland and supporting the right to self-determination of the pre-partition state of Jammu and Kashmir. We want to hear from you. If you have general inquiries, suggestions, or concerns, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.