Rooting for Pakistan in a cricket match? Off to jail, says BJP in Kashmir
The following is a lightly edited transcription from The Punch Out with Eugene Puryear, a daily news podcast that comes out Monday through Friday, 5pm ET. Subscribe here.
Police in Kashmir have filed charges against two medical students under an anti-terrorism law. Their crime? Cheering for Pakistan in their cricket match against India a couple days ago. When the two cricketing nations meet it is always a big deal for the sport, and this time Pakistan gave India a bit of a thrashing at the match in the United Arab Emirates. After Pakistan’s win Kashmiri students were attacked in different parts of India and a Muslim member of the Indian team faced considerable abuse online from right-wing fundamentalists in the camp of the nation’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP).
Ravinder Raina, president of the ruling BJP in Indian-administered Kashmir, said all those who cheered for “enemy country” Pakistan would be in jail soon. “Those people who celebrated Pakistanis’ win in Kashmir or any other place, the case has been registered. These people will be identified and they will be behind bars soon,” he said.
India occupies Kashmir with 700,000 troops in an area that has been a major hot zone of conflict for decades. Kashmir is a majority-Muslim territory and its legal status has been contested since partition in 1947. Kashmir was one of what were known as the “princely states” whose elites were allowed to choose whether they became part of Pakistan or India.
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Kashmir technically became part of India but ultimately this was never fully resolved and its status — in Pakistan, India, or independence — has been a major issue ever since.
India, has, however, consistently sought to put its thumb on the scale through a brutal military occupation. The tipping point came in 1987 when Indian authorities rigged the regional elections, virtually shutting out Muslim parties who had won substantial amounts of the vote. This blatant disenfranchisement set off an armed insurgency that lasted into the 2000s. Comprised of various forces, including some prominent Islamist groups with ties to Pakistan, the insurgency was fueled by the deep brutality of the Indian armed forces.
Somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict, the vast majority Kashmiri civilians. Indian security forces occupying the valley have committed numerous massacres and used torture and rape as weapons of war. Indian intellectual Panjak Mishra describes it thusly:
“In addition to the everyday regime of arbitrary arrests, curews, raids, and checkpoints enforced by nearly 700,000 indian soldiers, the valley’s four million muslims are exposed to extrajudicial execution, rape, and torture, with such barbaric variations as live electric wires inserted into penises.”
Indian journalist Arundhati Roy, covering massive protests in Kashmir in 2008 asked a young woman if she was worried about losing freedoms under a more Islamic form of government — assuming one came to power to displace the Indian occupation — and the protester responded: “What kind of freedom do we have now? The freedom to be raped by Indian soldiers?”
The current Modi government has gone out of its way to strip Kashmir of special constitutional protections and promoted what is essentially a settler-colonial strategy to attempt to hold the reins on the region. Since 2019 they have tightened the stranglehold on the region, stripping the region of any constitutional rights to autonomy, frequently throttling communications, jailing people even more than normal, and now, declaring students celebrating a cricket match to be terrorists.
India’s government receives no real criticism or attacks from the United States, despite the well known brutality of its government and the religious intolerance it promotes, which often spills over into vigilante violence against Muslims, leftists, any anyone who refuses to conform to the Hindu supremacists views of the BJP.