Systematic erasure of Muslim identity underway in IOJK and Palestine – Masood Khan

Sardar Masood Khan, President Azad Jammu and Kashmir, has said that there is colonialism in the territories of the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and Palestine and the people of both regions feel for each other. He said the oppressed people of Palestine and IOJK both are struggling for an end to atrocities and ascertaining their legitimate right to self-determination.

The President made these comments while addressing a webinar titled “Kashmir & Palestine: The destruction of indigenous cultural heritage”, organized by Centre for Middle East & Africa (CMEA), Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad in collaboration with the Middle East Monitor (MEMO). The event was also addressed by Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, Founder and President Palestine Land Society; Ms. Mushaal Hussein Mullick, Kevin Chamberlain, Former Deputy Legal Adviser, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office & the Palestinian Authority; Dr. Salma Malik, Assistant Professor, Quaid-e-Azam University, Dr. Mahmoud Hawari, founder member of Oxford Palestine Solidarity Campaign; and Dr. Khuram Iqbal, Assistant Professor, National Defense University, Islamabad

The President said that while the Palestine issue enjoys widespread support, especially in Europe and it has also been granted observer status in the UN; but Kashmir, despite, being a fault line between the two nuclear states has yet to garner the full attention of world capitals.

The AJK President also highlighted the 10 stages of genocide defined by Dr Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch. He added that Kashmir is at stage 8 and India is preparing for the stage of extermination. The final stage (stage 10) is “Denial”; and India will deny all these events by claiming that their efforts were aimed at the betterment of the Kashmiris and the development of the territory. He said that Dr Gregory has himself said that the regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had “all the hallmarks of an incipient Nazi regime”. This, he said, accentuates our claim that whatever India is doing is a repeat of Nazism in the garb of Hindutva.

Highlighting the definition of genocide according to Article II of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: “…acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group…”, he said, this is precisely what is happening in Palestine and IOJK.

He said that the doctrine of Hindutva is spearheading the genocide in IOJK and the dolus specialis or the key intent is the cleansing of the territory from all Muslims, as they think the Muslims are “impure”.

President Khan also highlighted the massive demographic change carried out by India in IOJK. Since April of this year 1.2 million non-Hindus have been given Kashmiri domiciles under the New Domicile Rules and the aim is to give domiciles to around 4-5 million Hindus from all over India in order to imbalance demography in the region, he said.

“They are in the process of depopulating IOJK of Muslims and are repopulating it with Hindus from all over India”, he said.

President Masood Khan said that the two concerning dimensions of genocide is the mass killing of people, and depriving the people of their cultural and ethnic identity. The Indian government, he said, has introduced many new languages like Hindi and Dogri to delegitimise the use of Urdu as the official language of Kashmir.

“They are renaming roads, parks and even natural landmarks. India carried out a mapping study and they claim that the data available shows that 100,000 temples were historically scattered all over the area of IOJK”, he said. They intend to rebuild these temples in an attempt to completely erase the Muslim identity of the territory. Palpable fear exists of mosques being earmarked for demolition and temples will be built on the same location; in the same manner, the Babri Mosque was demolished for the Ram Temple, he said.

The AJK President said that the Indian government is promoting Hindu culture and heritage, while on the other hand Islamic artefacts dating back to the period of Shah Hamadan’s cultural renaissance are being stolen and destroyed. Restrictions are imposed on celebrating or marking Muslim religious days, but in stark contrast, no such restriction was imposed during the Amarnath Yatra, where hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims were facilitated to travel into Kashmir and carry out their religious rites.

Presenting the way forward, the President said that we need to intensify awareness-raising on the situation in Kashmir and Palestine. He said that global capitals are acting with caution due to their strategic and economic interests with India, but the citizens of the world are not fully aware of the situation and we need to reach out to the global civil societies.

Masood Khan urged that there is a need to lobby with international organisation like UNESCO and parties to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict to stop this systematic erasure of the Muslim identity in Palestine and IOJK. He informed that the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has been quite vocal and the OIC-Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO), and the Research Centre For Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA) have especially focused on protecting the Islamic artefacts and heritage of Kashmir.

The President said that a Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement must be initiated for Kashmir in the same a similar movement is working to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. “The dark and fascist doctrines of both Zionism and Hindutva have to be brought in the global spotlight. This has to be done through a very well thought-out and well-designed communication strategy”, he said.

He urged the Adama Dieng, the and Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide to take action on the on-going genocide taking place in IOJK and raise the issue with the Secretary-General and the United Nations Security Council.