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India using COVID-19 to 'mow down' Kashmiris: leader

Azad Kashmir president Sardar Masood Khan says New Delhi using COVID-19 pandemic to change region's Muslim-majority status

Islam Uddin   | 21.04.2020
India using COVID-19 to 'mow down' Kashmiris: leader

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

Azad Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan said Monday that India has been using the “cover of the coronavirus” to “mow down” Kashmiri youth and change the Muslim-majority character of the disputed region.  

In a video statement addressing countries “friendly” to the Kashmir movement, Khan said “together, we will succeed [against COVID-19]. Kashmir must remain on the global agenda even in these difficult times.” 

“The BJP regime is mowing down Kashmiri youth and denying COVID-19 testing and treatment to Kashmiris,” Khan alleged, referring to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. 

Much of the world is under an apparent lockdown to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 170,000 people globally after first appearing in Wuhan, China last December. 

There are at least 386 confirmed cases in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir and five deaths. 

Khan said India was taking advantage of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as New Delhi “imposed domicile laws in the occupied but disputed territory to reduce Muslims to a minority in their own homeland by giving residence, jobs and land to Hindus from all over India.” 

“This is ethnic cleansing and genocide. Please step forward to stop these crimes against humanity. Please raise your voice,” he said, addressing the leadership of Turkey, Malaysia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and all Muslim nations as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

On March 31, India changed the demographic laws in Kashmir, allowing Indians who have stayed in Jammu and Kashmir for 15 years to settle in the disputed region. The step has invoked fear among the people that India may effect demographic changes in the region, the future of which is yet to be decided under UN resolutions.  

“We are grateful to you for your support and solidarity during one of the darkest periods of our history. Today, as you fight the deadly coronavirus, our thoughts and prayers are with you,” Khan said while thanking the leadership of Muslim countries, lawmakers and human rights activists worldwide for standing with the Kashmiri people.     

Khan also slammed the Indian government for blaming Pakistan for sending militants and coronavirus patients to Indian-administered Kashmir despite the valley being under a complete lockdown since August 2019.  

“The RSS and BJP spin doctors and Indian military commanders have crafted lies against Pakistan…They lie through their teeth but call it statecraft to hide their war crimes and crimes against humanity in the occupied territory,” he claimed.   

The RSS, or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, an ultra-right-wing Hindu nationalist organization, is the ideological arm of the BJP.   

In addition, there has been a surge in anti-militancy operations by India in the region. So far this year, at least 50 militants have been killed in the Muslim-majority region in over 28 gun battles with Indian forces.

 Disputed region   

Jammu and Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver is also held by China.   

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought wars in 1948, 1965 and 1971, two of them over Kashmir.   

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan.   

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

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