Kashmir, a paradise lost?

Midnight is remarkably intertwined with the fate of India. It was the wee hours of midnight when India overthrew its colonisers of 200 years and won its freedom almost 72 years ago. It was the past midnight on 5th of August, 2019 when India unforgivingly discarded everything its founding fathers believed in and decided to tear down Jammu-Kashmir. 72 years later, complete darkness has now engulfed the paradise on earth.

Kashmir’s struggle

Before 1947, Kashmir was a princely state called Jammu and Kashmir. The lush green mountains with the backdrop of the Himalayan range and forever blessed with clear blue skies had rightfully earned its name of Paradise on Earth. But Kashmir was troubled. It has always been.

During partition, thanks to Kashmir’s then-ruling King Hari Singh, Kashmir had joined India instead of Pakistan under few special conditions, all of which were met. According to these conditions, Kashmir remained the only specialised state in India, complete with its own flag, constitution and prime minister. Kashmir had the freedom to make its own laws and decisions, except for foreign affairs, military moves and communications which remained under the central’s control.

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Thanks to this certain degree of autonomy, Kashmir could make rules regarding property ownership and fundamental rights, even bar Indian residents of other states to buy properties in Kashmir, a law which protected the locals from being outnumbered by their own countrymen from different states.  

Many aspects of this autonomous facility of Kashmir became a futile gesture under the Indian state in the years to follow.

Prime Minister became Rajyapal. Its constitution became merely a booklet in the corner shelf.

But Article 370 still protected the residents of Kashmir. It protected the ownership rights and the constitutional autonomy of the only Muslim majority state in India, at least formally in papers.

Revoking Article 370 was in the 2019 election manifesto of BJP. But few had thought it would actually get implemented. Few had assumed that BJP would have the audacity to tear down the only string that still kept the troubled Kashmir bound together with India and risk riots, communal turbulence and to speak of the worst, outright war with Pakistan.

The fall of Kashmir

But it happened. The sign was clear from the first few days of August. Thousands of additional troops were deployed. An emergency was declared. Tourism, schools, pilgrimages were called off. And when everyone was assuming that only section 35A of the constitution, which allowed special rights to Kashmir, would be scrapped, Modi’s Government revoked almost the entire Article 370, stripping Kashmir completely of its autonomy.

Kashmir will also be divided into two federally governed regions. One will combine Muslim majority Kashmir and Hindu majority Jammu. The other will be the Buddhist majority and Tibet influenced Ladakh.

Kashmir lost its flag, its constitution. Kashmir’s leaders were put under house arrest. Its people are now susceptible to general Indian laws and rules. Any Indian national can now buy property in Kashmir and Kashmiris no longer hold the right to decide their own fate.

BJP’s complex relationship with Hindu right-wing

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Hindu nationalist and right-wing groups are welcoming it while protests are breaking out in Kashmir. Amit Shah says the move amends “mistakes in the past” and that will pave the path for development in Kashmir. But in reality, it’s a catastrophic decision. Especially considering the fact that Kashmir has had a troublesome history with Indian ruling since the last 30 years. Separatists sentiment had been growing steadily with movements and unrest breaking out every now and then.

Many fear that the new move will allow Hindu right-wing majority to take over native Kashmiri land and turn the locals into a minority group. Some go even further assuming an ethnic cleansing on the plate, given BJP’s extremist sentiments in the past.

Midnight’s children no more

Kashmiris had long been dreaming of and fighting for an “Azaad Kashmir”. With this new move in place, that dream is long gone. With populism quickly rising in world politics, India has sealed its fate for the foreseeable future. First with the landslide victory of BJP in the 2019 elections and now with the stripping of Kashmir’s autonomous status. India has put the final nail in the coffin and is on its way to becoming the monster it defeated 72 years ago.

Sri Lanka attack: A common enemy and the resurgence of ISIS

Little less than three years ago on July 1, 2016 – IS attackers invaded the Holey Artisan Bakery cafe in a diplomatic enclave of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Gunmen killed 20 hostages many of who were tourists, foreign dignitaries and two police officers before authorities raided the restaurant and terminated the nearly 12-hour standoff. Soon after, ISIS claimed responsibility for this attack.

Time may have elapsed but Dhaka did not forget dismay of that dark night.

We did not forget the precious lives of the two Bengali students who came to visit their motherland. Nor did we forget the nine Italians and seven Japanese men and woman who lost their lives in our acreage.

Dhaka remembers with immense trepidation and utmost concern as yet another horror of ISIS is unleashed upon our cousins in Sri Lanka.

Horror sweeps the land of Lanka

From the latest news received from The Guardian, the explosions at eight sites across Sri Lanka have now left the death toll at 350 and above. More than 500 has been injured.

On Sunday 21 April a series of synchronized bombings took place in Sri Lanka. The explosions targeted Christians at Easter Sunday church services in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa, and sightseers staying in hotels in the capital.

On Tuesday 23, two days after the tragedy Islamic State released a video claiming responsibility of these premeditated attack.

The capitals that have been hit by the joint attack includes:

Colombo – Where six out of the eight explosions were carried out

Negombo – Explosion at St Sebastian’s church

Batticaloa – Blast at the Zion Church

A timeline of events

21 April 2019 8.45 am – Explosion at Shangri La hotel in Colombo

21 April 2019 8.45 am – Explosion at St. Anthony’s Church in Kotahena, COLOMBO

21 April 2019 8.45 am – Explosion at St. Sebastian Catholic Church in NEGAMBO

21 April 2019, 8.45 am – Explosion at Kingsbury Hotel in COLOMBO

21 April 2019 8.50 am – Explosion at Cinnamon Grand Hotel in COLOMBO

21 April 2019 9.05 am – Explosion at Zion Roman Catholic Church in BATTICALOA

21 April 2019 1.45 pm – Explosion at New Tropical Inn in Dehiwela, near the national zoo. This was the seventh explosion.

21 April 2010 2.15 pm – Explosion at a house in Dematagoda, COLOMBO, during a police raid where three police officers were killed. This was the eighth and the final explosion for the day.

Within noon, the country was consumed in a pandemonium of destruction, damage and loss.

Widespread hysteria engulfed the entire country forcing the Government to block all major social media networks and messaging services, such as Facebook and WhatsApp by 2.20 pm.

Later within the hour, the government declared an indefinite islandwide curfew. By evening, it was learnt through the Tourism chief, that the outbreak of bombings caused the death of at least 32 foreigners and severe injury of 30 more among who many were Bangladeshi.

The bombers

According to Reuters, a combined effort of nine suicide bombers created the entire operation among which, one was a woman who blew herself up in front of two of her children. Killing them all with several police officers, informed a Sri Lankan investigator.

The Sri Lankan authority further added that they continue to investigate whether Islamic State (IS) who claimed responsibility for the coordinated blasts, had provided more than symbolic support, such as by training the attackers or building the bombs.

On Tuesday, 23 April – a group of eight men who appear to be the Sri Lanka bomb attackers is seen at an unknown location at an image taken from video uploaded by the Islamic State’s AMAQ news agency.

Standing in front of a black flag of the Islamic State, the eight men announce their devotion to the group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

“We pledge allegiance … and to obey him on everything either in easy or difficult conditions,” they say, before praising the God.

All the men in the video had their face covered in black scarves except one. The one man who appear to be the mastermind of the entire attack and who also had his face uncovered is known as Mohamed Zahran.

The Sri Lankan intelligence has deduced that Zahran is a Tamil-speaking preacher from the east of the Indian Ocean island country. It looks like he is well known for his militant views, according to Muslim leaders and a Sri Lankan intelligence report.

Rendering to Reuters, leaders of three prominent Sri Lankan Muslim groups voiced that they had held several meetings with Sri Lankan defence and intelligence officials in the past three years to warn about Zahran’s radical beliefs after he began posting content that included messages supportive of Islamic State.

They also informed that Zahran was at a time, an individual with less than 200 followers. However as soon as he began posting extremist videos on his Facebook page in 2016 that called for violence against non-Muslims, his name became more alarming among the Muslim community.

The resurgence of ISIS?

After this barbaric tragedy, many questions have bubbled to surface. ISIS’s influence and ideological strongholds were perceived to have declined over the years.

They have been driven out of Mosul surely but the recent atrocity goes on to show that ISIS is not at its end after all.

Whatever their motives may be, their acts have prompted strong apprehension that has spread from our minds and around the world, leaving us feeling quite deserted and exposed to yet another dose of attack.

Possible link to Christchurch attack

“The initial investigation after the Sri Lanka bombing has revealed that this was in retaliation for the New Zealand mosque attack,” junior minister for defence Ruwan Wijewardene of Sri Lanka told the parliament.

He did not elaborate on why authorities believed there was a link to the two tragedy that has occurred in a span of thirty –eight days. The New Zealand mosque shooting involved the murder of 50 people at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch during Friday prayers on March 15. A gunman single-handedly carried out those attacks.

This is yet to be proven whether this is indeed retribution of the earlier attack at Christchurch, New Zealand. However, given the nature of the tragedy and the extensive loss of lives, it is one of the primary notions that must be addressed.

As the argument continues to rise, officials say that the deadly attack would have taken weeks to organize and New Zealand Prime Minister Adern expresses serious scepticism to the idea that these two attacks are if indeed interlinked.