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Is Kashmir the New Palestine?

Alienation of the native majority is a matter of time as India deploys the ignoble toolbox perfected for
the purpose by the Israelis in Palestine.

Fresh evidence is emerging every day to suggest India’s Modi regime is deliberately using the unholy playbook perfected by the ruthless Zionist regime over the last eight decades in Palestine to disappear the native majority in occupied Kashmir.

As part of what must be seen as the latest Indian initiative to turn Kashmiris into aliens in their own homeland, people who have lived in the forests in Jammu and Kashmir for generations have been slapped with eviction notices.

India purportedly completed the annexation of Jammu and Kashmir on 5 August 2019 when Modi’s right-wing BJP revoked article 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution. The already draconian Indian occupation turned Kashmir into the world’s greatest prison as India set about rolling out these nefarious measures.

Article 370 exempts the state of Jammu and Kashmir from the Indian constitution. Enacted in 1949, the statute allows Occupied Kashmir to make its own laws in all matters except finance, defence, foreign affairs and communications.

Article 35A was introduced through a presidential order in 1954 to continue the old provisions of the territory regulations under Article 370 of the Indian constitution.

Article 35A vested the authority to define permanent residents of the region in the local legislature. It bars non-Kashmiris from permanently settling, buying land, holding local government jobs, or winning education scholarships meant for Kashmiris.

Revocation of these laws has paved the way for Indians freely acquiring land and settling in Kashmir. The development has also cut the share of Kashmiris in government jobs to a third of the total, leaving two-thirds of jobs for Indians to take.

Kashmiris say the object of this whole exercise is to reduce the Kashmiris into a minority in their own homeland by import- ing population from India. Mehbooba Mufti, the former Chief Minister of Kashmir had tweeted that the Indian government’s decision is received as “illegal” and “unconstitutional”.

Among the forest dwellers served eviction these notices are the residents of the village Zilsidara inside a forest in the mountains of Pir Panjal. The story of 108-year-old Zooni Begum, a resident of this village, is Exhibit A on how people are being persecuted in their own homes even in the remotest parts of Kashmir.

Zooni Begum, a 108-year old Kashmiri resident was recently interviewed by an independent media outlet regarding the eviction warnings issued by the Kashmir Forest Department. The Department declared Begum’s house as illegal, amongst many others in Jammu and Kashmir.

A list was published in December 2020 by the J&K Committee on Forest Encroachments and claimed that more than 63,000 people are settled illegally, occupying 15,000 hectares of forest land. There are 32 forest divisions in Jammu and Kashmir. Those with the largest areas of “trespassed” land are Ramban with 2,017 hectares, Rajori with 1,974 ha, Poonch with 1,473 ha, Anantnag with 1,496 ha, Shopian with 1,027 ha, Pir Panjal with 655 ha, Kamraj with 578 ha and Jammu with 500 ha.

Indigenous people with special protection under India’s Constitution – called Scheduled Tribes – form a large proportion of the forest dwellers. Scheduled Tribes account for about 1.5 million people in Jammu and Kashmir – 12 percent of the total population, according to the latest census in 2011. Most of these are nomadic pastoralists – Bakarwals and Gujjars. The livelihood and shelter of these citizens depend on the forest, as most of them are now land or private property owners. In Begum’s village where most of the inhabitants have been declared illegal occupants, basic facilities do exist, including roads, electricity, and piped water supply. Upon interviewing, the villagers told that these services have been provided by the government for a long time now, acknowledging the fact that their families have been settled in this village for generations.

In Begum’s village where most of the inhabitants have been declared illegal occupants,
basic facilities do exist, including roads, electricity, and piped water supply. Upon
interviewing, the villagers told that these services have been provided by the government for a long time now, acknowledging the fact that their families have been settled in this village for generations.

Wresting control of landform the locals was the first step in Israel’s policy of disappearing the Palestinian population from their own homeland. Decades of steady pressure towards that end has led to a situation where Palestinians have been reduced to living as an invisible minority called Israeli Arabs, bereft of their ancient identity. The diehard adherents to the Palestinian identity have gradually shrunk to the besieged areas of Gaza and West Bank.

The residents of Gaza have been under Israeli control since 2007, subjected to brutal military assaults since 2008. Civilians and civilian infrastructure, both have been a victim of Israeli bombardments. Under the context of undercutting the military power of Hamas, the Israeli movement continues. The Israeli blockade is enforced by their military on both land and air. The sounds of airplanes, drones, explosions etc., are a major cause of anxiety, fear, stress, and other mental illnesses faced by the residents of Gaza.

Since 2018-19, Gaza has seen severe economic and humanitarian conditions. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) for Palestinians, the amount of refugees’ reliance on food aid increased from around 80,000 in 2000 to about one million in 2018. This means 80 percent of the population of Gaza has become dependent on international aid.

As much as 95 percent of Gaza’s population have no access to clean drinking water, and has to suffer from severe, continuous power shortages, says the report. A 2018 decision by the United States to stop funding to UNWRA caused unprecedented financial difficulties for the committee, leading to cuts in the services it provides to Palestinians in Gaza and other areas.

Pakistanis feel strongly about the plight of their Kashmiri brethren. The country has provided consistent diplomatic and moral support to Kashmiris’ struggle for self-determination. India’s recent reign of terror continues to cause considerable disquiet in all parts of the country.

Pakistan therefore continues to agitate the matter at the United Nations and other international fora. Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly drawn the world’s attention to the Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir.

He has sounded the warning that India’s highhanded approach can potentially lead to nuclear conflict in the region – reason enough why the world must not look away from this thorny issue. The need of the hour is for all the world’s upright nations to come together and make
India and Israel realise Kashmiris and Palestinians are as entitled to human rights as Indians and Israelis are.

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