London vigil for Kashmir, 5th August 2019. Photo: South Asia Solidarity Group London vigil for Kashmir, 5th August 2019. Photo: South Asia Solidarity Group

At a London vigil for Kashmir after India’s suspension of Article 370, Nirmala Rajasingam of the South Asia Solidarity Group gave this speech

We are here to express our solidarity and our support to the people of Kashmir who are today.

They are under lockdown, facing a huge military presence with 35,000 troops beyond the half a million already present in the Kashmir Valley, the world’s most militarised zone.

The notorious and brutal CRPF are running police stations. All non-Kashmiris, students, pilgrims, tourists and others have left the state.

Mainstream politicians have been arrested and are in detention, there are curfews and no sale of petrol, a complete shutdown of all internet and communications with the world outside.

Kashmiris have already borne many decades of a brunt of a brutal occupation. Today they are facing an Israeli-style occupation – similar to Gaza. It is Israeli style because by the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35 means that non-Kashmiri settlers will be able to take over the land.

As Khurram Parvez of the Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) says:

‘[The] Indian government thinks demographic changes will solve the conflict in Kashmir. This change apparently will be brought through parliament but on the ground in Kashmir only by gunpoint. They have silenced all political groups, gagged media and scared civil society. The government is well prepared to deal with protest and forces have been ordered to not negotiate with the protesters – just shoot. It is clear that there will be violence, but I hope and pray people remain peaceful and that we in Kashmir don’t lose anything more than these constitutional guarantees’.

Kashmir has been bifurcated into Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. At the moment Jammu and Kashmir does not even have the rights of other states in India – it is merely a Union Territory – let alone the Special Status it had under Article 370.

This was achieved by deceit – by denying that the Constitution would be changed even a week before it happened. The President was asked confidentially to sign the document beforehand.

The Left parties and people’s movements in India are on the streets protesting today. Sadly however, Hindutva has penetrated many mainstream opposition parties, who supported the Modi government’s actions.

Modi always considers the diaspora to be his own backyard, but things are not that simple. We represent many others and we are here to show that many of us here in the UK are deeply opposed to the fascism of the Indian state under the BJP. We stand with the people of Kashmir.

When there is colonialism – there will be resistance. We believe that one day Kashmir will be free as an independent country – not occupied by India or Pakistan.

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