MIRPUR           -            Azad Jammu AND Kashmir (AJK) President Sardar Masood Khan on Wednesday said the people of Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJK) had been under twin lockdown on Indian occupation forces August 5 and the COVID-19 pandemic, the first being more lethal than the latter.

“Under the cover of COVID-19, Indian soldiers hunt down young boys and kill them in fake encounters. Posthumously they are dubbed as militants supported by Pakistan. They do not release their bodies to families for fear of large funerals and instead inter them in unmarked graves”, he said while addressing a webinar.

The webinar on ‘Kashmir in the age of detention: What changes for the Kashmiris pre and post-pandemic’ was organized by the Center for Security and Policy Research (CSSPR). It was also addressed by former ambassador Dr Maleeha Lodhi,  historian and author of “Kashmir in Conflict” Ms Victoria Schofield and others, according to AJK President Secretariat.

Sardar Masood said the most vicious step taken by India was to introduce the so-called New Domicile Rules that would open the floodgates for the ingress of Hindus from all over India to settle in Kashmir.

“Kashmiris’ special rights to permanent residence, acquisition of property, education and employment – are all gone. This is an evil plan to grab Kashmiris’ land, property, farmland, forests, livelihoods and businesses. They would be homeless in their homeland; aliens in their own state. It is truly a scorched earth policy.”

It was the beginning of the Saffronisation of Jammu and Kashmir, where Muslims would be reduced to a minority, he added.

The AJK President regretted that only the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had condemned those rules, which were akin with Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws that paved the way for the Holocaust. “Now it is the Kashmiris’ turn to face genocide and a pogrom,” he warned.

Referring to provocative cross border shelling by Indian occupation forces along Line of Control, Masood said India deliberately escalated hostile fire, with heavy weaponry, to divert attention from its atrocities in the Occupied Kashmir.

“This year, so far, India has violated the ceasefire more than 850 times, causing fatalities and destruction. Its purpose is to signal to the world that the turbulence in Kashmir is not about Kashmiris’ resistance but about a potential nuclear escalation between India and Pakistan.”

Urging the participants of the webinar to reach out to the international community, President Masood said, “While Kashmiris are literally under lock and key, we in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan are free – free to reach out to opinion leaders and decision-makers. The media, parliaments and human rights organisations are amenable to our narrative. Let’s use that space. Let’s regain their attention.”

He said COVID 19 had eclipsed the Kashmir story and India wanted to use the opportunity to remove Kashmir from the global agenda. “We would not let that happen,” he underscored.

He said Kashmir had now become part of the Great Game - the game of clash of religions and civilisations. Kashmir and Indian Muslims, in the BJP-RSS mindset, were synonymous with traitors and terrorists, so it was going to be a long haul and the fault lines of that clash were immensely incendiary, he added.

“The Arab states and governments have recently woken up to the ugly reality in India. They have warned India and Indians to discard anti-Islamism; otherwise, there would be consequences. It is our historic responsibility too to upend the Hindutva juggernaut,” the AJK President said.

Proposing initiation of a ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ movement against India, President Masood questioned that why corporate leaders and entrepreneurs should invest in a fascist regime.

He also appealed to Ms Victoria Schofield to convey to the Labour Party leader Keir Starmer that Kashmir was a cross-party issue, supported by the entire political spectrum – Conservatives, Labour, Lib-Dems and S&P. Revisionism under the pressure of Indian lobby would neither be prudent nor advisable.

He predicted that post-corona world would be volatile where powerful nations would be pitted against one another and there would be a sharp rise in ethnic and religious nationalism and Islamophobia, trade wars, and stiff competition on new technologies. In that situation, the space for Kashmir would shrink “unless we demonstrate leadership”, he added.

The people of Jammu and Kashmir, however, would  not capitulate and would continue their freedom struggle until they attained their promised self-determination, he said.