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Nitasha Kaul recognized as Person of the Year for standing up for Kashmir Featured

 

Radical Desi has declared a vocal critic against repression of Kashmiri people by the Indian state as Person of the Year 2019.

Nitasha Kaul is a London-based academic and author, who courageously testified in October before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on “Human Rights in South Asia”, after the recent developments in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

On August 5, the Indian government unilaterally scrapped special rights given to the state of Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian constitution, arresting local leaders on the pretext of maintaining public safety.  

The right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government claims that the act was necessary to stop terrorism in the only Muslim dominated state of India. Since then, Kashmir has been turned into an open jail, communication channels such as internet have been shut, and leaders fighting for freedom and autonomy have been detained indefinitely. These include political figures and activists who have been advocating for peaceful resolution of the problem of Kashmir, where people have been struggling for right to self-determination.

Kaul is an associate professor of politics at the University of Westminster, and a published author. She strongly advocated for the rights of the Kashmiri people in her testimony. Despite being Hindu herself, through her writings she has consistently raised her voice for the Muslims who are being persecuted in Kashmir by the Indian forces.

Here are the excerpts from her testimony:

I want to begin by saying that I’m mindful of the ironies of speaking here in non-communal terms, being someone who is a Kashmiri Pandit herself by birth, but also someone from Kashmir who grew up in India, lives in England and is speaking in the US today. There are multiple colonial transitions there that are important. 

The parallels with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust [made earlier] are very apt, because the RSS in India, about which concerns were raised in the morning as well, is a nationwide paramilitary that is the ideological parent of the current ruling party. The RSS avowedly has an idea of turning India into a Hindu nation, it also has this idea of an undivided India where everything else in the region will become part of a Hindu India.

Please remember also that the New York Times in 1922 profiled Hitler saying Mr Hitler’s anti-Semitism is neither as violent nor as genuine as it sounds. So things take time to unfold, and the proto-fascist trajectory that sadly the secular democracy of India is on, is very worrying for us all.

Let me also say that I’ve been to Kashmir every year, including this year during elections when the whole place was deserted… I don’t represent either Indian interests nor Pakistani interests, and in fact that is precisely the problem, that the people who speak about Kashmiri self interest and the rights of Kashmiris themselves are the ones most vulnerable, from any and every side.

Communal politics serves no one. It does not serve Indians and if Kashmir were a communal issue then Muslims in India would feel the same as Kashmiri Muslims, and they do not. So it is not a communal issue—it’s an issue that has been communalised.

I would also like to say that every other day for Kashmiris is the commemoration of a massacre, and when Indians (this is not personally against Indians or Pakistanis) when Indians expect acknowledgment of a massacre like Jallianwala Bagh, when under General Dyer fire was opened upon unarmed protesters, what about all the Kashmiri protesters?

What we are asking here is really very, very simple. We are asking for human rights and substantive democracy and for the question of freedom. The people who have been fired upon for just gathering non-violently over the years, in numerous massacres that I have listed in my statement—there should be an acknowledgment from the state to say, we are sorry.

Nothing can move on unless there is an acknowledgment of all the human rights violations that have gone on for this people, who have been an important site of early Buddhism, who have seen Hindu and Mughal and Afghan rulers, who were sold for the equivalent of $150,000 in 1846 by clauses of the treaties of Lahore and Amritsar without their consent!

And who then had an unrepresentative ruler. All through the 19th century it’s a story of absolute tragedy, and then when we come into the 20th Kashmir was one of the first interstate disputes that the UN was prominently involved in. There are several resolutions in those early years where the UN was trying under various people to demilitarise Kashmir…

This is a long and complex history which should not obfuscate from us a very simple fact: that there is a political problem here, which is compounded by human rights violations, and the international community has a role because it has implications not just for Kashmiris—who are currently under siege and under collective punishment, being deprived of their very basic rights—it also has regional and global implications. Because people travel across borders, and ideas when they are suffocated and dissent when suffocated becomes the hardest to handle.

The question here is really not so much about Article 370. The fundamental question here is about the consent of the people.

If something is being carried out for people’s welfare, for their development, then why does it need tens of thousands of troops being brought in, why must it happen overnight without absolutely any consultation of the people? With placing even the pro-India politicians in prison and then depriving the populace of the right to say anything? If it’s for their own good, why won’t any of them be allowed to say anything about it?

This is an egregious human rights violation, it goes against consent, against fundamental principles of dissent as it relates to democracy. And as people who are being claimed in the name of democracy, as rights bearing individuals, it’s something they should fundamentally be allowed to do. This is arbitrary use of power with no accountability. 

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