Kashmir in the Shadows

Pahalgam Valley, Kashmir. Photograph Source: KennyOMG – CC BY-SA 3.0

While few of the world’s governments seem to care about Palestine, at least their officials will occasionally pay lip service to the extreme violations of human rights and international law that the apartheid regime of Israel commits against the people of Palestine on a daily basis. Sometimes, following a particularly egregious crime, there will even be some news coverage about it. But generally, the myth of Israel as a democratic state is declared, although few outside of profit- and power-motivated governmental leaders believe it.

Yet for the Kashmiris, even this limited attention is not granted, despite the fact that the brutal settler-colonial project that India is perpetrating on the Kashmiris equals if not exceeds that of Israel’s on Palestine. Zionist beliefs in Jewish superiority parallel Hindutva beliefs in Indian superiority. And India is following the Israeli model.

There can be no doubt that India is a settler-colonial nation, with Kashmir as its victim. Settler-colonialism differs from colonialism, the goal of which is to dominate an indigenous majority to fulfill the interests of the dominating nation, at the expense of the nation being colonized. With settler-colonialism, the goal is to permanently occupy the nation or territory being colonized. Since the Abrogation of Article 370, thousands of Indians have moved into Kashmir, taking control, by force, of administrative positions in all areas, that were once held by Kashmiris. Once prevented from purchasing land in Kashmir, Indians are now free to do so, and are taking full advantage of that. The goal of settler-colonialism is, as Saito has expressed, “to establish a new state on someone else’s land.”12

How is India accomplishing this? On November 16 of 2019, three months after the abrogation of Article 370,  Sandeep Chakravorty, India’s consul-general to New York City, was in New York attending a private event, and he clearly outlined the plan. He told Kashmiri Hindus and Indian nationals that India will build settlements in Kashmir modelled after Israel. He said: “I believe … you will be able to go back … and you will be able to find security, because we already have a model in the world. I don’t know why we don’t follow it. It has happened in the Middle East. If the Israeli people can do it, we can also do it.[1]

Several international human rights groups have documented how Israel is an apartheid regime, yet the same behaviours are being perpetrated on the Kashmiris by India, and yet the same level of criticism is not leveled toward that country.

Time does not allow me to detail all the ways in which the brutal, racist regimes of Israel and India are similar, but I will discuss a few of them.

Articles 1, 55, 56 and 73 of the United Nations Charter guarantee the right of self-determination of all peoples. But that is not the only international agreement guaranteeing this right. The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights all guaranteed self-determination. More specifically, United Nations Resolution 47, article 7, states the following: “The Government of India should undertake that there will be established in Jammu and Kashmir a Plebiscite Administration to hold a plebiscite as soon as possible on the question of the accession of the State to India or Pakistan.” The people of Kashmir have been waiting for this right to be granted to them for three quarters of a century.

Another right is enshrined in Article 9 of the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, which states the following: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”[2] This right is violated by Israel and India on a daily basis.

Israel has a policy called ‘administrative detention’, enabling Palestinians to be incarcerated for long periods of time without charge, and without access to counsel.

In India the Public Safety Act (PSA) allows detention for a year without trial and without charges being laid. However, many prisoners, released after one year, are immediately arrested again soon as they leave the police station. These subsequent arrests can recur multiple times; there is no limit. So a Kashmiri can basically receive a life sentence, and never be charged with a crime.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA ) provides the so-called ‘security sector’ almost unlimited powers to arrest and kill any Kashmiri suspected of ‘insurgency’. The property of ‘insurgents’, who could better be described as freedom fighters, can be destroyed. No trial is required. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act allows soldiers and members of the police to act as judges, juries and executioners. This is a role they seem to fulfill with pleasure.

I will again draw your attention to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 states the following: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”[3]

In Israel, Palestinians can be imprisoned for simply writing poetry and posting it to social media. Anti-Zionist Jews who speak against the regime are threatened and beaten by soldiers. Reporters in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem are threatened, harassed and killed by Israeli soldiers.

The situation in Kashmir is similar.

One year after the Abrogation, laws made public gatherings dangerous for any participants, and nearly 4,000 people had been arrested, accused of throwing stones or being ‘miscreants’; these actions were part of the Public Safety Act I mentioned earlier. Additionally, political leaders were arrested and denied access to the Kashmiris who seek freedom.

Journalist Misbah Reshi, writing for The Leaflet on September 18, 2020, just a year after the Indian abrogation of Article 370, said this: “On June 2, the Jammu and Kashmir administration (Indian) approved a new media policy titled ‘Media Policy 2020’ in order to ‘ensure a synchronized and effective use of all forms of media to build public trust, foster a genuinely positive image of the Government based on performance and strengthen the relationship with key stakeholders.’” When an avowedly racist government sets media policy, there can be no freedom of the press, or free speech.

And now, India seeks to present an ‘all is well’ vision of the situation in Kashmir to members of the G20. Government leaders who attend will stay in luxury hotels and eat the finest food. They will see a sanitized version of Kashmir, much like many government leaders who are treated to expensive vacations in Israel only see what Israel wants them to see. People attending the G20 meetings in Srinegar will not see the many political prisoners, including children; they will not see the people expelled from their jobs to be replaced by Indians; in no way will they witness the ongoing violence perpetrated on the men, women and children of Kashmir. Their motorcades will not take them past burned buildings where Indian forces shot and killed innocent people. They will see no protests, since protest leaders have been killed or incarcerated, and the fear of attending a public gathering to protest the repressive India regime is great, since so many Kashmiris have seen loved ones die or be arrested for peaceful protest. Yes, foreign leaders will praise India for its work in Kashmir, ignoring the reality that India will not let them see.

Since profits, power and adulation are more important for most government officials that human rights and international law, and since they seem willing and able to overlook abject suffering, we must speak for those who are voiceless. As journalists, human-rights activists and others in Kashmir are silenced, we must raise our voices, so they will be heard. It is a moral obligation; the people of Kashmir are relying on us.


[1] https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/india-consul-general-united-states-calls-israeli-solution-kashmir

[2] https://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Documents/UDHR_Translations/eng.pdf. Accessed on March 3, 2021.

[3] https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/. Accessed on Feb. 12, 2021.

This the text of Fantina’s presentation at a panel discussion titled: India’s G20 Meetings in Kashmir: Camouflaging Settler Colonialism.

Robert Fantina’s latest book is Propaganda, Lies and False Flags: How the U.S. Justifies its Wars.