The Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa (MJC) says while it condemns India’s recent occupation of Kashmir in the strongest terms, the challenges faced by the people of Kashmir today are merely another chapter in its long history of imperial oppression, which pre-dates 1947. The MJC is expected to engage an array of stakeholders on the situation and is looking at ways to mobilise local and international communities to apply pressure to governments. The MJC is also aiming to facilitate the development of a concrete plan of collective action to resolve the Kashmiri crisis.
“Very often, people think that Kashmir is a part of India, but it’s divided into three parts. There are parts controlled by Pakistan, India and China,” said the MJC’s Head of Media and Communications, Fazlin Fransman.
“In the Indian constitution, there were two provisions – Article 35A and Article 370 – and both provisions guaranteed a level of autonomy. That meant that from a political perspective [Kashmir] had autonomy in terms of their ability to run and function as a semi-state…If we look at Article 370 and its revocation, it means Kashmir is now a part of India and the people of Kashmir had no say in this.”
MJC secretary general Shaykh Isgaak Taliep added that while the Kashmiri issue is not new, it remains pertinent and important.
“As the MJC, however, we felt that it is important for us to be proactive and to try and do something about this through lobbying government and civil society – getting their support behind us in our quest to have the human rights of the Kashmiri people realised,” he said.
“We also felt, considering the Islamophobia under the government of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), it was prudent for us to come out strongly against these violations. We fear that if the world is going to continue to be silent on this issue, it might escalate to even more atrocious behaviour on the part of the Indian government.”
The ulema body said it was deeply concerned by the striking similarities in strategy and tactics employed by the Indian government in Kashmir, to Apartheid Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
“The Indian Governments’ treatment of the people of Kashmir, cannot be seen in a vacuum. Relations between India and Israel have been growing closer with the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP, which is led by Narendra Modi, adheres to the political ideology known as Hindutva, or Hindu Nationalism,” said Shaykh Taliep.
The organisation has noted with deep concern comments articulated by members of the BJP and other Hindu Nationalists, who have shown an increased interest in replicating the ‘Zionist Project’. Key among these is the desire to build Israeli-style Hindu-only settlements in Kashmir as a way of instigating demographic change and turning a secular India into a Hindu State.
“The revocation of Articles 35A and 370 paves the way for Indian presence in Kashmir to mirror Zionist presence in Palestine. Furthermore, it facilitates the execution of plans to alter the demographic make-up of Kashmir by allowing Indians from across the country to purchase property and settle there under the protection of the Indian military presence, just as the demographic make-up of the West Bank continues to be altered with the construction of Jewish-only settlements.”
Shaykh Taliep rejected claims that the MJC focuses on international issues while neglecting the plights of local communities.
“It’s important for our community to understand that as Muslims we have a myriad of responsibilities which we have to fulfil to the best of our ability as an ummah.”
“We must have a global outlook and we have very good organisations like Islamic Relief, Muslim Hands and Gift of the Givers which are credible both internationally and nationally. It’s a bit unfair of our community to say we focus overseas and not here in South Africa – we are, quite successfully, partnering with these organisations that focus on our local contexts and we serve not only Muslims but all citizens of the province. We are focusing on Kashmir right now because of the grave violations of their human rights.”
“Here, our human rights aren’t violated in the way that it happens elsewhere…Yes, we have to see to the needs of our people but that’s government’s job – we should petition government to do their job. We are simply trying to assist from a humanitarian side.”
According to Fransman, the MJC has written to the Indian High Commissioner and is looking to mobilise communities by educating the public on the situation in Kashmir.
The MJC will be engaging with stakeholders to map out a way forward later today.
“The MJC has taken a very strong stance on the matter of Kashmir and has condemned it outrightly…The only way we’ll see progress is if we open the doors of dialogue,” said Fransman.