While global media focuses on ‘terrorist’ attacks in Europe and police brutality in the United States, violent clashes in Kashmir have gone almost unnoticed. While Kashmir is renowned for its natural beauty and handcrafts, the disputed territory has long been at the centre of Indian/Pakistan conflict over territory. In recent weeks, an upsurge in violence between Kashmiri citizens and Indian soldiers resulted in the death of close to 100 civilians. Given India’s blaming Pakistan for the clashes, the South African Kashmiri Action Group (SAKAG) is saying that India’s continued oppression of Kashmiri’s is the cause of the bloodshed.
Founder of SAKAG, Independent Political commentator Salman Khan explains that before the 1947 separation of India and Pakistan, Kashmir was an independent state.
He says that according to the Indian Independence Act of 1947, all majority Muslim independent states were to join Pakistan and all Hindu majority states were to join India.
“Given the geographical location and population, 90 per cent of the people of Kashmir were Muslim and was supposed to be a part of Pakistan,” he continued.
While the head of the state of Kashmir did not have the right to annex the territory from the state, Kashmiri Muslims indicated that they wished to join the state of Pakistan.
He says that when the maharajah of Kashmir declared that he wanted Kashmir to remain an independent state, a civil war broke out. In response, India sent their troops to defend the territory.
“Ghandi asked the United Nations Security Council to intervene. The UN passed resolution 48 of 1947, and stated that neither India nor Pakistan had a right to the land of Kashmir and that the land belongs to the people of Kashmir.”
Despite the Resolution, Khan asserts that to this day Kashmiri’s have been left tormented by the India/Pakistan dispute for the territory, which he says has resulted in the death of hundreds of Kashmiri citizens.
As a result of continued conflict, he says that Kashmiri’s today are calling for the right to remain independent or to remain independent.
While India continues to administer Kashmir, Khan says that following 38 UN resolutions calling for the implementation of the 1947 resolution, India continues to circumvent requests.
“For the last 68 years, the whole state was under curfew; there is no freedom of association and speech, even the communications has been barred. That is why you see high levels of violence,” Khan explains.
Given years of civil war, Khan says that he is uncertain as to what spurred the recent bout of clashes.
He, however, says that during the visit of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, the SAKAG organized a protest march at Constitutional Hill. On this day, he confirms, the Indian army conducted a ‘brutal’ attack on Kashmiri civilians. The clashes resulted in the death of killing, which he believes may have fuelled the violence.
He further notes that following the 9/11 attack on the world trade centre, India has labelled Kashmiri’s as ‘terrorists’ and further earned the dismay of the people of Kashmir.
Why do SA Muslims not support Kashmiri’s as they support Palestinians?
Describing the latest bout of clashes as “atrocious”, Khan says that the actions of Indian soldiers against civilians are inhumane.
“The modus operandi is so bad; it reminds me of the time when Ariel Sharon attacked the camps of Sabra and Shatila, where the Israeli soldiers were cutting the body parts of the dead bodies. I can show you pictures where [in Kashmir] the soldiers are taking knives and ripping apart the dead bodies of civilians and taking their hearts out,” Khan added.
He says that considering the atrocities committed in Kashmir at the hands of the Indian government, the warm welcome by South Africans of Modi, is the biggest indictment onto the Muslim community.
Khan, therefore, asserts that protests against the visit of Modi, “the butcher of Gujarat”, was not comparable to protests attended in support of Palestine.
On July 29, 2016, the SA Kashmiri Action Group will be hosting a mass protest, “Save Kashmir,” in Johannesburg Avenue at 14.30pm.