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The closures of mosques in Kashmir: Another legacy of Modi’s vindictive rule

December 18, 2021 at 2:00 pm

A view shows the closed gate of the Srinagar’s Grand Mosque on 1 August 2020 [TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images]

India’s government has this week decided to close Srinagar’s Grand Mosque in Indian-administered Kashmir. This act is the latest of a two-year campaign of repression by the Indian authorities against Kashmir’s Muslim population.

The 600-year-old mosque is now shut for the first time in its history. For centuries, Jamia Mosque, as it is known, has been used by the locals, their ancestors, scholars and spiritual masters to worship.

The closure of this historical mosque has naturally called into question the human rights and religious freedom policies of the Narendra Modi government. Faced with widespread condemnation, the Indian authorities claim the mosque is a trouble spot, a nerve centre for protests and clashes that challenge India’s sovereignty over the disputed Kashmir region.

Besides restricting entering holy places to pray, last January, the government also blocked phone lines and access to the internet. International organisations have frequently reported the abuses. Human Rights Watch has reported that: “The government was so fearful of criticism. That’s why it curtailed Kashmiris’ rights to share news of births or deaths, call their doctors, order supplies, research term papers, file taxes and trade apples and walnuts.”

These current restrictions are the most severe since the region was divided between India and Pakistan after the two nations gained independence from British colonialism in 1947.

READ: India’s iconic mosque needs urgent repairs, says management

During a human rights conference in Istanbul in 2018, the secretary-general of the Washington-based World Kashmir Awareness Forum, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, explained to me in graphic detail the suppression of Kashmiri people. He recalled that 144 children had been detained in 2018 by 900,000 Indian military and paramilitary forces.

Dr Fai pointed out that while human rights are being proclaimed, he found it incredible that they were so routinely violated in Kashmir and worldwide. He expressed: “Think of the ongoing human rights atrocities that are going unsanctioned. Myanmar, where a Muslim civilian population is routinely driven from homes and cities are consistently destroyed. Tragic genocide in Syria. In the 20th century, there was the Srebrenica genocide in modern European society. Death and destruction in Yemen. Denial of the Palestinian demand to exercise the right to self-determination. The list goes on and on.”

According to Dr Fai, Kashmir is like a slow-motion genocide unfolding: “There is a constant feeling that something is missing in people’s lives as they are restricted from having their own basic human rights even, such as education.”

International organisations like the United Nations (UN) must show full support for Kashmir. The President of the UN General Assembly Ambassador Volkan Bozkir promised to become the voice of the oppressed people worldwide last September, when he pledged: “People in need or under oppression should feel that their concerns are being heard in the UN’s most democratic body. I will work to bring the voices of the world’s people into our discussions.”

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Last year, president of Azad Kashmir, Sardar Masood Khan, spoke about Modi’s policies at MEMO’s conference, “Kashmir & Palestine: The destruction of Indigenous Cultural Heritage”, pointing out that Kashmir was at the stage of persecution. He also stressed that while Palestine received widespread international support, Kashmir did not obtain the same level of attention. By highlighting this point, Khan wanted to express the role of the UN in defending Kashmir. He stated that the organisation has an obligation to honour the voices and rights of the people of Palestine and Kashmir in their struggle for the right to self-determination.

More recently, India’s arrest of world-renowned human rights activist Khurram Parvez on 21 November is evidently an affront to justice.

Therefore, Mary Lawlor, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, tweeted: “He (Khurram Parvez) is not a terrorist. He is a human rights defender.”

Modi’s government should understand that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have not forgotten that in April 1948, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 47, promising: “The future of Kashmir shall be decided by its inhabitants.” Instead of deterring the people of Kashmir from pursuing their right to self-determination, the closure of Srinagar’s Grand Mosque will only add yet another stain on Modi’s dark legacy of repression.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.