Kashmiris fear India wants ‘to make us a minority in our land’

1 / 2
Kashmiris fear India is trying to turn them into a minority by removing the "special status" of Jammu and Kashmir state. (AP file photo)
2 / 2
Kashmiris walk past a blockade put up by residents in Srinagar ahead of the Eid-al-Adha prayers during restrictions after the scrapping of the special constitutional status for Kashmir by the Indian government. (Reuters)
Updated 14 August 2019

Kashmiris fear India wants ‘to make us a minority in our land’

  • Bone of contention is New Delhi’s revocation of special status for Jammu and Kashmir state

SRINAGAR: Kashmiris are fearing demographic change following the revocation of Article 370 of the constitution.

Article 370 gave exclusive land rights to the people of Kashmir and blocked outsiders from seeking jobs and settlement in the state. 

However, people in the valley are apprehensive about the intent of New Delhi after the government removed the special status on Aug. 5.

“There can be no doubt that the Indian government is planning demographic change in the valley,” said Altaf Hussain, a Srinagar-based political analyst and journalist.

“Immediately after the removal of the article, thousands of Hindus — who migrated from Pakistan and have been living without voting rights in the Jammu region — were entitled to exercise their franchise.

“Kashmir is a Muslim majority state, which should be maintained by the Indian union. But the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), along with its patron Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), wants to create a Hindu nation. It intends to change the demography of the state through the legislative change,” added Hussain.

He told Arab News that “the BJP has been talking about a Hindu chief minister for the state. I’m sure sooner or later the ruling party will initiate the project of turning Jammu and Kashmir into a Muslim minority state. India has gone back on its promise of giving the people a special status. There must be a larger agenda to this turnaround.”

Professor Sheikh Showkat from the Central University of Kashmir said: “The demography of the state has been changing since 1947. In Jammu City, the Muslim population was 37 percent, now it is 7 percent.”

“Hindu radical groups like the RSS want the same changes. Its chief Mohan Bhagwat has been saying that the only solution to the Kashmir problem is the change in the demography of the state,” Showkat said.

He added that “a few weeks ago, the governor of the state said that Kashmir is an integral part of India and whoever is happy with that can remain there and whoever has problem can migrate. My fear is that there is a larger design of ethnic cleansing in the valley.

“It seems that this government has created an iron curtain around Kashmir. With the restrictions in place, we don’t know what is happening in other parts of the valley.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• People in the valley are worried about the intent of New Delhi after the government removed the special status on Aug. 5.

• A group of civil society activists from Delhi condemned ‘the decision of the government to abrogate Article 370 and put the entire state under deep pain.’

Showkat said the “language used in the Parliament by Home Minister Amit Shah and his colleagues was not appropriate for a statesman. We fear this kind of abrasive behavior.”

Tabrez Alam, a Srinagar-based trader, said: “This government has pursued Muslims since 2014. Look at how the minority community is being harassed in different parts of the country. Lynching has become regular news.

“Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir is an eyesore to the BJP regime. They want to bring in outsiders to this state and make us a minority in our land. We have to be really alert on this.”

On Tuesday, a group of civil society activists from Delhi visited Srinagar and “condemned the decision of the government to abrogate Article 370 and put the entire state under deep pain.”

The activists — Jean Drèze, a famous Indian economist; Kavita Krishnan of the All India Progressive Women’s Association; Maimoona Mollah, vice president of the All India Democratic Women’s Association; Vimal Bhai of the National Alliance of People’s Movement —  said in a statement: “The people of Jammu and Kashmir must be allowed to express their protest and gags on them must be lifted.”

They said: “What we call the Indian government is a BJP government, and this Hindu organization is implementing its agenda in the valley.

Vimal added: “The whole state is a prison under military control. As an Indian citizen I reject the Indian government’s treatment of the people of the valley.”

He told the press that the BJP wants to undermine the Muslim majority state and change its character.

“This has been an old policy of the RSS and we should resist any attempt to alter the character and demography of the state.”

Krishnan said: “It pains us to see the restrictions and blanket ban on the democratic rights of the Kashmiri people.

“The government and its embedded media are spreading false propaganda of normalcy in the state. The truth is completely opposite. Right-thinking Indians should save Kashmir from the majoritarian design of the Narendra Modi regime. We should not allow a new Palestine to come up in South Asia.”

Kashmir-based leader Atlaf Thakur said that “fear-mongering should not be allowed to spread.”

He added that “the only agenda the BJP government is working on is to develop the state economically and promote a new political culture in Jammu and Kashmir.”


Hong Kong endures more transit disruptions, campus violence

Updated 12 min 18 sec ago

Hong Kong endures more transit disruptions, campus violence

  • Police said protesters shot several arrows at them near Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Life in this city of 7.5 million has been strained as thousands of commuters have been unable to get to work or endured lengthy commutes
HONG KONG: Hong Kong residents endured a fourth day of traffic snarls and mass transit disruptions Thursday as protesters closed some main roads and rail networks while police skirmished with militant students at major universities.

Police said protesters shot several arrows at them near Hong Kong Polytechnic University. None of the officers were injured, and six arrows were seized at the scene, police said.

Life in this city of 7.5 million has been strained as thousands of commuters have been unable to get to work or endured lengthy commutes.

The government appealed for employers to show flexibility. “For staff who cannot report for duty on time on account of conditions in road traffic or public transport services, employers should give due consideration to the circumstances,” a statement said.

The Education Bureau extended the suspension of classes for kindergarten to high school students until Monday. It ordered schools to remain open, though, to handle children whose parents need to send them to school.

At Polytechnic University, protesters shot an arrow at officers patrolling nearby, then threw flower pots from a height when other officers arrived. Police responded with tear gas, and protesters fired more arrows.

Protesters have hurled gasoline bombs and thrown objects off bridges onto roads below during clashes at campuses this week. The Chinese University of Hong Kong suspended classes for the rest of the year, and others asked students to switch to online learning.

Students at Chinese University, site of some of the fiercest clashes where students hurled more than 400 firebombs at police on Tuesday, have barricaded themselves in the suburban campus.

Early Thursday they used chainsaws to drop trees onto streets around the campus and prepared for a possible confrontation with police, which were not intervening.

Anti-government protests have riven Hong Kong, and divided its people, for more than five months.

A major rail line connecting Kowloon to mainland China was closed for a second day and five major underground stations were shut along with seven light rail routes, the Transport Department announced.

“Road-based transport services have been seriously affected this morning due to continued road blockages and damage to road facilities. In view of safety concerns and uncertain road conditions, buses can only provide limited services,” the department said.
Traffic was also disrupted because protesters have destroyed at least 240 traffic lights around the city.

The movement began in June over a now-withdrawn extradition bill. Activists saw it as another sign of an erosion in Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms, which China promised would be maintained for 50 years under a “one nation, two systems” principle when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.