An Indian soldier stands guard in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, on August 11. Photo: AFP

According to the 2006 book India-Pakistan Relations with Special Reference to Kashmir, the respected Indian politician Sardar Patel (1875-1950) said at a public meeting in Mumbai on October 30, 1948: “Some people consider that a Muslim majority area must necessarily belong to Pakistan. They wonder why we are in Kashmir. The answer is plain and simple. We are in Kashmir because the people of Kashmir want us to be there. The moment we realize that the people of Kashmir do not want us to be there, we shall not be there even for a minute.… We shall not let Kashmir down.”

But Kashmir has been let down, in an unprecedented manner, and Kashmiris are saying in one voice that India should depart. According to Al Jazeera, Kashmir has witnessed an average of nearly 20 protests a day against Indian rule over the last six weeks despite a security lockdown to quell unrest.

During that period, the entire Indian-administered Kashmir, with a population of more than 8 million, has been locked down in their houses and a strict curfew imposed. It all started the day before abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution on August 5.

The Kashmiri people are disconnected from their friends and families, and there is complete communication blackout. A critical shortage of food and medical and health emergencies are being reported. Thousands of young men have disappeared, allegedly kidnapped, and the entire population is being subjected to collective punishment. A large number of RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) volunteers, fanatical Hindus, have been inducted into the Kashmir Valley under the guise of Intelligence agencies, which has sparked fears of mass rapes and genocide. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is hell-bent on terrorizing the people of Kashmir to break their will to stand against the onslaught of Hindutva.

The working president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Jagat Prakash Nadda, released a video on September 4 justifying the abolition of the special provisions for the state of Kashmir. The 11-minute video concludes with a speech by Modi saying that the country’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, committed a historical blunder on Kashmir, to which contemporary politicians B R Ambedkar and Sardar Patel had strong opposition. Modi further claimed that the cancellation of Article 370 was for the development of Kashmir.

The BJP’s propaganda distorting contemporary history is also aimed at defaming Nehru and ultimately the main Indian opposition party. As the ‘architect of modern India,’ Nehru laid the foundations of secularism and scientific approach for India, the values that RSS-BJP wants to do away with

The BJP’s propaganda distorting contemporary history is also aimed at defaming Nehru and ultimately the main Indian opposition party. As the “architect of modern India,” Nehru laid the foundations of secularism and scientific approach for India, the values that RSS-BJP wants to do away with.

Columnist A G Noorani, quoting from Patel’s correspondence, points out that Article 370 did not drop from heaven. It was the outcome of serious deliberations in the Constituent Assembly. For the explicit purpose of drafting this article, Sheikh Abdullah and Mirza Afzal Baig were made part of the assembly. It was primarily Patel, Ambedkar, Sheikh Abdullah and Mirza Baig who contributed to the formulation of this provision. To say that Ambedkar opposed it or Patel did not approve of it is the height of falsehood.

As far as the development of Kashmir is concerned, the first point we should note is that Kashmir is well ahead of national averages as far as social indices of development are concerned. Article 370 in no way stands in the path of progress in that sense. Incidentally, while Article 370 has been targeted in Kashmir, Article 371 with similar provisions in the northeastern states is being promised by BJP president and Home Minister Amit Shah.

In Kashmir, more than 3 million people depend on the apple industry are trapped in the peak harvesting season of the fruit in Jammu and Kashmir. In northern Kashmir’s Sopore town, which produces the highest number of apples in the region, the growers and traders are in a fix due to the communication blackout and strict ban on movement of trucks and other vehicles.

Whether it was during the armed insurgency in the 1990s or the mass uprisings in 2008, 2010 or 2016, the fruit business never stopped in Kashmir. But today, under curfew, the situation is totally different. According to official data, it is an 80-billion-rupee (US$1.1 billion) industry. J&K produced 2.43 million metric tons of fruits last year, of which 2.16 million tons came from the Kashmir division alone. In August last year, more than 100 trucks with apple consignments left Kashmir’s Shopian Fruit Market daily for 90 different markets across India. This August, only 25 vehicles were able to depart for just nine market.

The local economy in the Kashmir Valley has been walloped. Ordinary people are locked down, unable to cut and stockpile feed for animals for the coming winter. The people are fearful and totally uncertain of their future.

The philosophy of Hindutva, which claimed to be working for reformation and betterment of  the Hindu nation, has totally lost its direction. Instead of fighting against the caste system and socially empowering all Hindus, Hindutva is busy discriminating against or marginalizing other ethnicities and religions. Dalits, Jains and Other Backward Class (OBC) people are not being socially uplifted but slowly and gradually further degraded politically. Now Amit Shah is suggesting Hindi as a “unifying” language, and the signifier of Indian identity. What he really wants is a Hindu nation defined by Brahminical rules based on Manu Smriti, where religious minorities and speakers of other languages have no place.

It does not matter to Amit Shah that a staggering number of people – about 680 million – do not speak the Hindi language in India. A well-known politician of southern India, M K Stalin in Tamil Nadu, reminded the BJP leader in a tweet,”This is India, not Hindia,” and warned of “another language protest,” referring to the anti-Hindi agitation of 1965, if Hindi were imposed as a common language across the country.

International mainstream and social media, global civil society, human-rights organizations and ordinary people all over the world are concerned about the non-stop curfew in Kashmir. Ordinary people around the globe are also astonished that in the 21st century, more than 8 million people are cut off from one another and the rest of the world.

It is time for influential world leaders to exhibit their faith in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” The Permanent Five members of the UN Security Council should put aside their petty commercial interests and ask India to lift the curfew in Kashmir, free illegally held innocent young men, and end the communication blackout immediately.

It is time to resolve the Kashmir dispute; it has become a human tragedy.

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