Anytime I’ve had a conversation with an American about Kashmir, the first thing they think of is the Led Zeppelin song. And then the conversation ultimately goes to which Zep album we think is the best. The answer is ‘IV’. Some people think it’s ‘I’ or ‘Physical Graffiti’ and the truly wrong say ‘In Through The Outdoor’, but the correct response is ‘IV’.
If it’s not an argument about Led Zeppelin, they usually tell me how Kashmir is their favorite kind of sweater…
As controversial as what the best Led Zeppelin album is, the subject of Kashmir, the occupied territory north of India is an even more controversial subject. Kashmir is currently the most militarized place on Earth; second only to any city in America where the cops have killed innocent people of color. Come to think of it, perhaps the militarized police is just an attempt at America trying to be number one at something again! Look America, you’re already number 1 in prisons & war & reality TV franchises & Dorito flavors! Nobody asked for an extreme pickle & Mountain Dew flavor corn chip, but you did it anyway! Maybe take it down a few notches and let someone else take a crack at ‘Best Oppressor’.
I’m not exaggerating about Kashmir. Currently there are at minimum 500,000 Indian troops occupying this region & the Indian government is aiming to add more. There’s mass media censorship, a total communication lockdown – which yes, sounds like the Weird Al version of the Led Zeppelin song, ‘Communication Breakdown’ – and a military rule of the region. In order to understand how and why this happened, we have to look at the history of the Kashmir valley!
The story of Kashmir’s origin comes from Sage Kashyapa who drained a lake so his people can find a home. That region became known as Kashyapamir or Kashmir for short. This area became a central worship point for the Hindu God Shiva and Buddhism. In fact, Buddhism was introduced to China & Tibet through the Kashmir Valley! Eventually the Sultan Dynasty introduced Islam to the valley, which would become the prominent religion in the area.
Now this sounds like a powder-keg waiting to go off, but in reality there was co-existence between the religions. In fact that was the prevailing philosophy that governed Kashmir: co-existence or Kashmiryat. This co-existence made this region an even bigger hub for trading, business and tourism than it was before. Kashmir was the Indus Valley’s Silk Road.
During the 400 years of the Sultan Dynasty, Hindus were a minority. Despite this, the Hindu Pandits were given a higher class status than most of the Muslims in the valley. Pandits were the scholars, educators and academics, which allowed them become successful businesspeople in the region. While most of the Muslims were peasants and artisans who worked the land that the Hindu Pandits owned.
Following the Sultan Dynasty, the Mughals were in power for 200 years. The Afghans overthrew them and established Kashmir’s very first dictatorship. You always remember your first…dictator…I’ll never forget mine, Dick Cheney. I always keep a photo of him right under my Sword of Damocles.
But the Afghans were overthrown by Sikh warriors, who expanded Kashmir’s borders under the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. A few years before a treaty was struck, the Maharaja died, passing the torch to one of his sons, Gulab Singh. After striking the Treaty of Chusul in 1842 with China, Kashmir’s borders were clearly defined, ranging from present day Afghanistan to China, and trade in region was restarted.
Following this, Gulab Singh allied himself with Colonel Lawrence of England’s East India Trading Company. The English were at war with Sikh nation of Punjab, and even though they won the war, it was very costly. When Gulab Singh was let go as a vassal lord of the empire, he sold the expansive Kashmiri borders to the British. He purchased a portion of the land back from the British equivalent to Kashmir’s original borders. Under this, the Dogra Dynasty, the British had control of communication, defense & trade within Kashmir.
In 1925, after a Hindu King is put in charge of a majority Muslim region, the secular National Conference For All Kashmiris is formed. They launch a “Quit Kashmir” movement against the crown – both British and the Indian one. The leader of movement Sheik Abdullah is arrested by the Hindu King.
This is like American citizens protesting police violence and the American government uses police violence to silence their voices. If there’s one thing we can say about Imperialism is that it’s always got its eyes wide shut! They hear you but they’re not listening to you!
In 1935, the Brits signed a 60 year lease of the Gilgit region, in fear of the Russians. Everyone fears the Russians. Because in Russia, you don’t lease the land, the land leases you. But right before the Partition of 1947, the British cancelled their lease. FYI, unless you’re an imperial force, hellbent on dominating the world under one Capitalism, you can’t just cancel a lease! Trust me I’ve tried.
The British Partition is where the major conflict of Kashmir begins. The Brits divided India & Pakistan based on religion. Muslims go to Pakistan & Hindus go to India. As for Kashmir, the Brits were hoping they’d side with Pakistan, which would give them a leg up in terms of resources in order to control in Indus Valley, despite the fact that nobody wanted them there.
It’s like showing up to a party you’re not invited to. And because no one wanted you around, you try and get everyone’s parents divorced. And yes I am saying that the British are responsible for every parents divorce!
Kashmir wanted to be its own sovereign nation, but both India & Pakistan wanted the region for themselves. Pakistan launched a military operation to annex Kashmir for itself. The Brits were hoping the Pro-Pakistan Prime Minister of Kashmir would accede to Pakistan, but thanks to a shift in public opinion, the PM was dismissed. Legend has it that when the news of this reached high ranking British officials, they spit out all the tea in the country. The crown had never seen so much mediocre tea go to waste!
Kashmir accedes to India, who provided military support against Pakistan. Under both British & Pakistani influence, a portion of Kashmir breaks off and claims it is part of Pakistan. This region is known as the Pakistan Occupied Jammu & Kashmir or POJK, which also determined the Line of Control or LoC. It is Acronym Central in the Jammu & Kashmir region or the ACJK!
As India attempts to put a nation together, Nehru headed to the UN to sort out what to do with Kashmir. The UN suggests an interim government needs to be put in place and all foreign actors – which included both India & Pakistan – need to leave the region. Sheik Abdullah is put in charge as Kashmir’s Prime Minister and eventually India & Pakistan’s first war ends in a stalemate.
As India drafted its Secular Constitution, it also wrote Article 370 in regards to Kashmir. Article 370 granted Kashmir autonomy over its laws, land & people, while still being a part of India. This would be like a calling a really close friend a part of the family. You help them out when they need it but that friend is also their own person. Basically Kashmir was the Shawn Hunter to India’s Corey Matthews.
They also sign Article 35A, which empowers the citizens & permanent residents of Kashmir the rights to own land, get government jobs, participate in social programs & education. Both of these documents let Kashmir govern itself, while India helps them with defense, foreign affairs & communications. And at that time, Kashmir did need help after the Brits stuck their grubby imperial fingers in the region.
It’s like nursing an injured bird back to health. The idea isn’t to keep the bird for yourself, but let it be free. But as we’re about to learn, instead of setting it free, India is responsible to keeping the bird injured…sorry for the super bummer of analogy. No birds were actually harmed in the writing of this joke.
India and Pakistan have been in constant conflict over this region for over 70 years! This includes active warfare, overthrowing Kashmir’s elected Chief Minister or Governor, election manipulation and even waging covert wars over a glacier!
You know that moment in every sibling fight, where both people try to up the ante and wind up holding the beloved family pet hostage or threaten to circus throw a knife into the other sibling’s cornea? It’s the moment when both siblings realize, we’ve probably taken it a little too far. Fighting a covert war over a fucking glacier should’ve been that moment for India & Pakistan.
They fought a war over a sheet of ice that leopards & penguins pee on! At this point, the question shouldn’t be who’s going to take Kashmir, but rather when are these 2 countries going to join Kashmir! Neither of these countries have the maturity to be governing over people.
By the 90s, Pakistani insurgents begin using plain clothes operatives that the Indian Army doesn’t know how to deal with. So they increase militarization in the region. This has led to draconian measures including equating any government protest as terrorism which was only strengthened after 9/11.
The true victims of the prolonged crisis in Kashmir are the people of the valley! The region was supposed to be a home to everyone. It was founded on the idea of coexistence & thanks imperial foreign interference, battles over religion & political Dick measuring contests, Kashmir has drifted away from its original mission and into dystopia.
On August 5, 2019, the Indian government took full control of Kashmir by revoking Article 370 & 35A. Following this, they broke the region into 2 Union Territories: The Jammu & Kashmir territory & the Ladakh territory. In this case it’s the far-right Hindu-centric Bharatiya-Janta Party or BJP.
This is like demoting Pluto from a planet to a moon or a drawf planet. Or as some nerds might call it the Gimli Planet! We took all its planetary autonomy away and some were even trying to boycott Pluto from revolving around OUR sun! “Go orbit Uranus, you butt” some would scream! But Pluto can’t hear them because sound doesn’t travel in the vacuum of space.
With its special status revoked, Kashmir was placed under full military occupation & a communications lockdown! The Indian government cut phone lines, cell service & all internet to the region! This means there are teenagers in Kashmir that haven’t been able to masturbate for months.
Now obviously that’s a crude joke, but if we want Americans to pay attention we have to include boobs and dicks…also explosions. Hell most Americans didn’t care much about Africa or even knew it was a continent till National Geographic put topless African women in their magazines. Now all of a sudden, people are yelling to save Africa…well kinda. There’s like one commercial that still airs at like 3am.
This communication lockdown & military occupation prevented people from getting proper healthcare. Kashmiris couldn’t even call the ghostbusters let alone an ambulance. And the chances of getting to hospital in the midst of a medical emergency when all the roads are barricaded are slim to none! Hospital visits decreased by 38%! So this occupation is killing more people than its saving.
From August 2019 to January 2020, there was no way for the people of Kashmir to let the world know what was happening to them. Since January of 2020, the Indian government has opened up the internet again but only at 2G speeds. That’s about 250 kilobytes per second. At those speeds it’d take days to download one nipple or just the tip of a penis on any porn site!
Even with 2G speeds, the Indian government has disrupted services for up to a week in various parts of Kashmir. If Americans loose the Internet for more than 38 seconds we’re on the phone with Comcast cussing out a poor white collar worker who had nothing to do with Comcast’s policies or shitty service. The low speeds & constant disruptions have led to a vast amount of college dropouts!
And before someone says “Lazy millennials! Back in my day we read books!” just remember:
1. You didn’t. You likely beat up the kids that were reading books. It’s more likely that you waited for the movie to come out. &
2. Authoritarian governments aren’t particularly known for their love of books. Book burnings on the other hand…they love em! Hell they even love burning copies of the movie based on the books.
Students living under occupation have PTSD & education becomes secondary to survival. As the Jammu & Kashmir Coalition & Civil Society, or JKCCS, notes that these digital sieges have become common place in suppressing rights & preventing dissent. It takes away the constitutionally guaranteed civil, economic, socio-political rights & any enjoyment the people of Kashmir can take part in.
And yes, enjoyment & happiness are a human right! For far too long we’ve been propagandized to think that any recreation in our lives is a luxury meant for the rich & famous. Happiness is meant for all of us, so instead of making people feel guilty, it should be encouraged! Hell even corporations know the importance of happiness! That’s why they allow you to wear jeans once a week instead of your gray sadness uniform.
At this point in our history it has become very hard to argue that the internet isn’t a basic right. We buy food, pay bills, educate ourselves, make medical appointments & call each other cunts from great distances thanks to the internet! There is absolutely no justification for any government to allow a communication lockdown like this!
Considering most of the world is looking at 5G, fiber optics, new PlayStations, cars that are also mobile hotspots & improvements in doorbell technology, it is absolutely insane & criminal that Kashmir is facing internet speeds that makes dial up look like the Indy500!
In addition to the on going communication lockdown, India has also introduced 2 new laws that allow the military & the police to act without consequences. Not that trials were common place in Kashmir considering 99% of all cases have been delayed because of the lack of internet & the pandemic.
The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act or UAPA, has targeted civilians, protesters & even people that post opinions on Facebook. These people are arrested and in most cases never heard from again. Some are put into jail in Kashmir and others in Delhi. And it’s damn near impossible for families to visit them in prison due to barricades, both physical & financial & the fact that there might not even be an arrest record.
Both the Public Safety Act & the UAPA are put into place under the guise of protecting people, much like both versions of the Patriot Act. And much like the Patriot Act, all this did was allow the government to open the fascist Pandora’s box. Safety is often used as a rationale by a lot countries to strip away rights, squash protests, turn neighbors against each other, encourage hate & propel politicians into full super villainy!
Groups like the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons have been pushing back in an attempt to get answers about these forced disappearances, which includes kids that have disappeared too! [POD 3] There’s stories of the military arresting kids for playing Cricket, which is a sport similar to Baseball, but more fun! Clearly the Indian Military is anti-fun!
[COVER] Without help from the International community, the stories of these parents and the disappeared go unheard. And as of now, there aren’t any International communities that are speaking out against India’s brutal occupation of the valley. If you’ve ever wondered what the meaning of the phrase “silence is violence’ means, Kashmir is a glaring example.
The government of India has also decided not to prosecute any military personnel or police in the area. So the police get away with theft & violence, while the military is getting away with kidnappings & rape! This is similar to the problems with the military & police in America as well. Women in Kashmir don’t feel safe from the gaze of the military.
And to triple down on the military dictatorship, India has adopted a new media policy which tells journalists what they can & can’t say. With journalists also being forced to reveal sources most people are too scared to speak out! And with no foreign reporters allowed in Kashmir, the world only hears the narrative the far-right Indian government wants them to hear. So the average westerner gets spoon fed propaganda, but don’t worry they get it coated with sugar. Regular propaganda tastes real bitter, like over steeped tea or what I assume Winston Churchill tasted like when people had to kiss him.
Most of the true reporting is coming from Independent journalists who spend most of their time debunking government narratives. But independent Journalists are usually arrested for doing their jobs. Journalists like Asif Sultan have been in prison for almost 3 years for covering stories that weren’t approved by the Indian government or the police. And he’s not the only one. Several young photojournalists have also been arrested for…well being journalists!
Governments controlling journalism is like a professor grading on a curve where only they get an A & the students all get an F+!
Kashmiri journalists are treated the same way the US has treated Julian Assange. They’re being criminalized for telling the truth. So to America, India is nailing freedom of the press, by getting rid of the press! It’s good to mentors right? The stories of Kashmir are getting out there but it’s not easy. Ifat Gazia, host of the Kashmir podcast reflects on how she was able talk to folks in the valley. Ifat Gazia’s Twitter was recently suspended without warning for publishing for her podcast! Thanks to activists, Twitter restored her account so she can share her stories with a global audience!
But don’t worry guys, it’s not just Kashmiri journalists that India is censoring via Twitter. Anyone talking about India’s current COVID crisis being a consequence of trading public health for the sake of capitalism is also a target. And anyone talking about the Farmer Strikes against neoliberalism is also a target. India believes in censorship for all. They’re super progressive authoritarians!
Thanks to the fascist Pandora’s box, the international community commends India for being a champion of Democracy. But there is no democracy in a world that imprisons journalists, cuts access to information & communication & robs kids of their childhoods via military occupation! Democracies don’t use 1984 as an instruction manual. History isn’t written by the winners, rather by assholes who claim victory! But if we amplify the truth in mass & make the international community face the truth, then we might be able to close that fascist Pandora’s box.
The question is why is there so much hullabaloo over the Kashmir valley? This goes back to Sultan Dynasty & the land laws put in place way back then. Remember at that point, Hindus were a minority but a high class minority. This is very different than a high class prostitute. Significantly less nudity with high class Hindu minorities. This meant that the Hindu Pandits could be land owners & were the bosses of the majority Muslim working class. They were also bureaucrats and helped shape laws which overtime wound up benefitting them.
Even after Gulab Singh sold the expansive Kashmir empire to the British, these land laws stayed in place. In the 50s Sheik Abdullah changed the laws so that owner of the land was the one that worked the land rather than someone who had the economic means to purchase it. Eventually, the disputes over land laws caused the Hindu Pandits to leave Kashmir in the early 90s.
This exodus made Kashmir an even more Muslim state and for the Hindu-centric BJP, this has always been a problem. It’s been a long standing mission of the BJPs parent company, the Rajistriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, to make India a fully Hindu country. Similar to how the Republicans want to make America a Christian nation.
A few things wrong with this. Firstly both India & America are secular nations with the freedom of religion as part of their constitutions. This means you’re allowed to believe whatever you’d like. Secondly it’s doubtful that the politicians that preach this kind of religiosity actually follow the tenants of the religion. Both Hinduism & Christianity put their weight in community, kindness & making this world our heaven. They have very socialist leanings in their teachings. Which means if you’re a Capitalist country, you’re neither a Christian or a Hindu nation!
Look if either country was going to govern based on their chosen religion, they would ensure that homelessness wasn’t running rampant in their countries, they wouldn’t strip rights away from groups of people they didn’t understand and they’d punch a banker in the taint every 45 seconds. Since neither country wants to do any of that, they’re not actually governing based on the tenants of the religion, but rather the tenants of sociopathy and greed!
But that’s what the RSS & the BJP want for India: a Hindu Kashmir. By revoking Article 370 and 35A, they’ve ensured that foreigners can come in and purchase land if they’d like to, harkening back to the Dogra Dynasty and the British rule of the subcontinent. This includes people from Indian mainland who can move to the valley and purchase property without getting a permanent residency in Kashmir.
Under Article 370, Kashmir was an autonomous region within India. This special status is given to several states in India to preserve culture, language and history, but the only special status that was under fire was a predominantly Muslim Kashmir.
Revoking Kashmir’s special status is a clear attempt to forcibly change the demographics of the region & get rid of Kashmir’s culture & philosophy of coexistence.
I will say the one thing I appreciate about the BJP is that they only have one parent company, the RSS. In America, both parties have so many parent companies its hard to keep track of. Both parties answer to the likes of the NRA, Coke & Pepsi, Exxon, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Techron, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing, GM, the Wall Street Bull, the Wall Street Bull’s Balls, and whatever Elon Musk’s kid’s name is. There’s simplicity in India’s fascism and I appreciate that.
India’s push for a theocracy is carrying over the problem with Partition. England split India & Pakistan over religious grounds. But we’ve seen how both regions can co-exist in peace and cooperation in the Kashmir valley! So the BJP & RSS are continuing Imperial Britain’s agendas. And I think we can all agree that nobody wants to see India go back to anything resembling British rule. Well maybe some people in England do. Like the queen…if colonies came back maybe she & the crown would be relevant again. How sad is your existence when the only thing that gives your life meaning is global indentured slavery.
India’s pro-Hindu agenda isn’t the only thing at the center of the battle for Kashmir. It’s also America. The Biden Administration has been calling for a full out hot war with China and India is the key player in this. The US has been pushing India to be more aggressive on the Chinese border, and in August 2020, they were. Tensions in the Ladakh territory almost led to a full scale war between India & China, something that hasn’t happened since the 60s.
India is part of the “Quad”. This a coalition of 4 countries – The US, India, Japan & Australia – who’ve agreed to stop China’s human rights abuses. But all 4 countries are ignoring their own. Particularly the human rights abuses committed by India in the Kashmir valley & its dissenting citizens and America’s human rights abuses…well everywhere!
Look that’s not an exaggeration. America is an imperial force that is waging war across the Middle East, against all people of color in its own country, against unions, cannabis, real journalism and Christmas! There have also been a few skirmishes with Hanukkah but America doesn’t like talking about it too much. And now it wants to start a new war in the Pacific! America is also encouraging India to ban weapons purchases from Russia and start purchasing weapons from the US, which means this is also more about arms sales than it is about human rights abuses.
Also, calling this alliance the “Quad” just makes these 4 countries sound like the Avengers of war mongering!
But China has interests in the valley too! China and Pakistan have kept a close alliance to control Kashmir’s water supply and have access for a pipeline to go from the Gulf into the Chinese mainland! Now its worth mentioning that all this is going to achieve is China & Pakistan poisoning the water supply since every pipeline ever has leaked!
This once again shows how none of these nations actually care about what Kashmiris think. They are just trying to battle each other for resources that don’t belong to them. They’ve changed laws, imprisoned the people in their own countries and wrecked the beautiful land with endless battles, all for a few extra bucks! But no amount any currency can make up for the human cost that’s been paid in the valley!
At the end of the day, what happens to Kashmir should not be dictated by India, Pakistan, China or any other nation. It should be determined by its people. We should ask them how they identify. The answer is probably as Kashmiris. While we’re at it we should also ask Pluto what it identifies as instead of just sticking a label based on our ill conceived notions. Kashmir deserves its autonomy. And because of how it’s been treated, India, Pakistan, England, China & the US owe them help to get back up on their feet. Perhaps if Kashmir was allowed to thrive, we could learn how to coexist in a world with different beliefs! We could learn to value & grow from those differences & close the Fascist Pandora’s Box for good.
Krish Mohan is a socially conscious, Indian standup comedian and writer who regularly tours the country. He performs at small theaters, bars, comedy clubs, colleges, DIY and house venues. With his quirky attitude, charming personality, and intelligent humor, Krish captivates and engages audiences of all backgrounds, tackling hot button topics like race, religion, war, immigration, while adding an optimistic, philosophical & sociological twist!