A distress call from Kashmiri community in NZ
Dear Jacinda Adern, Winston Peters and Ian Lees Galloway
You have stood up for what is fair, and I am sure you will speak for over 7 million people who have been muted and rendered voiceless in Indian occupied Kashmir for more than a 10 days now. I am writing to bring to your notice the plight of Kashmiri people residing in New Zealand who haven’t been able to communicate with their loved ones since the 5th of August.
My name is Omer Nazir, I am a Kashmiri studying towards a PhD degree at Massey University. Since August 5th I have been struggling to make contact with my family and friends in Kashmir and with no end to this action by the Indian state I and my fellow Kashmiri people living in New Zealand have little option now but to look for support from those in public office in New Zealand for any help that they can give.
We fear gross human rights violations and brutal atrocities by Indian forces in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, as the use of live ammunition and pallet guns on protestors has been common in the past. In 2016, Indian forces killed more than a hundred protestors, many of them children, and injured around 6000 people, of which more than a 1000 were partially or fully blinded
India’s home Minister, Amit Shah, moved a bill on 5th of August moved in the parliament to abolish Article 370, which gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir special autonomous status within the Indian constitution. Article 370 was the basis of Jammu and Kashmir's accession to the Indian union at a time when erstwhile princely states had the choice to join either India or Pakistan after their independence from British rule in 1947. This autonomy has been substantially eroded over the years as a result of changing internal dynamics. Many political historians note that this is the only link between the Indian state and the people of Kashmir; who otherwise would have chosen to be an independent state or acceded with Pakistan, if the United Nations Security Council resolutions to hold plebiscite were implemented. This resulted in electoral interference by Indian State, the often arbitrary use of presidential powers and the accumulation of resentment against Indians for many Kashmiris. There have been multiple wars between India and Pakistan in the last seven decades and the continual tension along the line of control (the de-facto border between India and Pakistan along Kashmir). This political context has been well documented; however, to this day, wider global populations are generally unaware of the specific nature of the relationship between India and Jammu and Kashmir.
We fear that India’s move on August 5th will have catastrophic implication for the lives of Kashmiri’s, who were not consulted and have been kept under strict curfew for the past 10 days since the autonomous status was scrapped. Although, there is a complete communication blackout, stories of mass protests and state aggression have started to surface in international media including BBC and Aljazeera. Indian media, however, has mostly been routinely state-centric, and bafflingly celebratory of majoritarian right-wing Hindu nationalist sentiment that bought them to majority in their parliament. The Indian media narrative has been of a dispute over real estate between Indian and Pakistan, and a matter of national prestige; while all Kashmiri leaders, including the ones who participated in Indian electoral politics in Kashmir have been put in jails.
The non-consultative nature of this dramatic shift is also substantiated by the fact that it came amid a brutal crackdown in a place that is already titled as one of the most militarised places in the world with around 700,000 military personnel on the ground. In the build up to this move, Indian state deployed additional 40,000 troops in the region on a farce pretext of security threat, and ordered tourists, pilgrims, journalists and other non-resident Kashmiri’s to leave the region. For days before the bill was moved, the whole population was gripped with fear and uncertainty while their fate was being decided, and when the announcement was made, a strict curfew was imposed, leaving the whole population oblivious of what has happened to them because of the clampdown on mobile and internet services, telephony and local cable television. Media reports from international media outlets account that some people didn’t even know that the Indian Parliament had proposed to remove article 370 . When the news dawned upon the wider population in the region, mass protest erupted. The BBC reported thousands of protestors assembled for demonstrations after Friday prayers and were met with pallet guns and smoke shells.
We want to bring to your notice that this move highlights the ways in which India, which numerically speaking is the largest democracy of the world, has been reduced to an authoritarian state interested in only in establishing power to secure expanded reigns. More so, considering that many political and legal experts have noted that scrapping of article 370 has flouted international laws and India’s own constitution as it was abrogated without the consent of the constituent assembly of the state of Jammu and Kashmir – one that Indian state dissolved a few months prior and installed a governor, giving the parliament of India the mandate to decide on its behalf.
We, the undersigned, wish to call upon you to be a voice in what ever way you can for the people of Kashmir who have been subject to this crackdown, and possible brutalities. We, the undersigned, wish call upon you to be the voice for Kashmiri people residing in New Zealand who have been denied the fundamental right to communication with their families.
We undersign also wish to call upon you, in whatever form or by what ever means is possible, to impress on the Indian authorities the need to lift the communication blackout in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Omer Nazir, on behalf of Kashmiri community of Palmerston North
Sadaf Nakash, Palmerston North
Mudabir Shah, Palmerston North
Abdul Rab Tariq-ul-Islam, Palmerston North
Assad Razak, Palmerston North