When I think back to this year, I think about all the horrendous atrocities that people all over the world have faced. From the Sudan revolution to the Uyghur Muslims being put in Chinese detention camps, to the annexation of Kashmir and the recent Citizenship Amendment Act in India.
I think of all the people that have suffered in 2019. It has been a horrible year for human rights, and what astonishes me even more is the silence and inaction on the part of the global community regarding these atrocities.
Over this past year, the news of Kashmir has been at the forefront of international media and the situation has only been getting worse.
The Kashmir conflict emerged from the 1947 partition of India when the colony gained independence from Britain and formed two distinct countries. At the time, it could not be decided whether Kashmir should join India or Pakistan because Kashmir was a Muslim-majority state governed by a Hindu prince. The prince eventually sided with India because India promised Kashmir independence.
Since the partition, Kashmir has been caught in a battle between India and Pakistan, driven by the desire to win its resources. In August, India annexed Kashmir by revoking Article 370, which gave Kashmir its semi-autonomous status. It has been five months since the annexation and Kashmir has been under an internet shutdown and has now become the most militarized state in the world.
Kashmir, also called “heaven on Earth,” has revealed India’s growing greed, proving how far India is willing to go over the past several years just to get Kashmir’s resources. Three years ago, India created the world’s first mass blinding tragedy by using metal pellet guns on crowds of civilians, leaving hundreds blinded.
Before August 2019, the death toll in Kashmir crept up to 301, but there has been no official updated death toll since the annexation. Unlike the Uyghur genocide, Kashmir is not a hidden atrocity. What is happening in Kashmir is often highlighted in the news and on social media. Specific details are lacking due to the internet shutdown, yet videos are often found unveiling the violence.
Adding to the Kashmir crisis, the current Indian prime minister and leader of a right-wing Hindu nationalist party, Narendra Modi, recently passed a bill named the Citizenship Amendment Act. This bill gives amnesty to millions of immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. However, this amnesty is only for non-Muslim immigrants.
This bill clearly contradicts India’s secular state policy and constitution. Both the annexation of Kashmir and the CAA expose Modi’s government’s anti-Muslim agenda. With the passing of the bill, introduction of faith as a citizenship criterion and the repression of Kashmir with violence, the Indian government has achieved its Hindu nationalist political agenda.
Indian people have been rigorously resisting these moves, especially the citizenship act. Since the bill’s passing, Indian people of all faiths have been on the streets protesting for their fellow Muslim citizens.
Famous Indian writer Arundhati Roy expressed hope regarding the protests happening in India right now.
“I am hopeful because this movement intellectually understands and emotionally and passionately understands the horror of this Hindutva programme… And suddenly young people are saying ‘Sorry, we are not buying this.’ And that’s why I’m hopeful,” she said in an interview with Al Jazeera.
With 2020 beginning to unfold, the Kashmir crisis remains unresolved and the Citizenship Amendment Act continues to threaten human rights.
When you think back on 2019, remember the victims of the atrocities that have happened over the past year — remember their stories. The New Year is not only about cherishing the good memories that we have had but also learning from the mistakes we have made.
I hope to see the world recognize not only Kashmir but also the many other acts of political violence that have been taking place around the world and to act upon these atrocities.
And as we make New Year’s resolutions to better ourselves, let’s make a resolution to be better defenders and promoters of human rights, too.
Photo: Nathan Hughes Hamilton | Flickr