At this point, it is almost becoming ludicrous to keep up with the number of curfews and restrictions that have been placed on Kashmir. Every day, it seems, the security forces find some pretext or another to set up roadblocks and round up young men. This time, in real Orwellian fashion, the restrictions are being justified to clamp down on “anti-social elements” inside of Kashmir, as though the Indian military were throwing cocktail parties. Though yesterday, the Indian media was repeating the mendacious claim that Kashmir had “returned to normalcy” – this is only true if you believe that normalcy means permanent military occupation, road closures, school closures, political detentions, unemployment, mass graves and the like. Only the hard-hearted can find this comforting.
In response to the Indian government’s crackdown on media coverage of Kashmir, the young people have turned to social networking sites (Facebook and Orkut) in order to let the world know what is going on in Kashmir. But, this will not be seen as it was in Iran as a source of creativity for the young people in the “Green Revolution” – India is the darling of the west, Iran is the bête noire. Incidentally, the Indian government seems to have learnt from the experience in Iran: India has begun harassing Kashmiri facebook users.
The Government of India has established a commission to conduct a formal inquiry into the military and police excesses in India, but this is guaranteed to do two things: 1) find a few bad apples to blame in order to salvage the larger project of permanent occupation, and 2) avoid talking about the systematic crimes committed by the Indian forces for the last 60 years. The lack of any independent presence on the commission is also a guarantee that it will not be taken seriously by Kashmiris.
The United Nations is now speaking up about the humanitarian abuses taking place in Kashmir, specifically asking for dialogue between Pakistan and India over Kashmir. The problem with this approach has always been that it turns Kashmir into a political football between the various opportunist parties in both India and Pakistan. Kashmiri demands for political autonomy and independence have always fallen on deaf ears.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to India was a total farce, as he bent over backwards to try and forge a “special relationship” with India. This was news to India, as Sonia Gandhi outright snubbed the Brit and refused to see him. At the same time, Cameron wasted no opportunity to both avoid talking about Indian humanitarian abuses in Kashmir and to toe the Indian line on Pakistan. After the WikiLeaks non-revelation of Pakistani complicity in supporting Islamist groups and the Taliban on the border with Afghanistan, Indian politicians have been foaming at the mouth to try and drive a wedge between Pakistan and the US. Cameron’s speech and visit only served to show how far the UK has fallen in international prestige. Incidentally, the UK and India were able to agree on an arms sale: 57 Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer aircraft. This will only make the lives of ordinary Kashmiris worse.