There is a long list of current gut wrenching headlines on our phone and TV screens currently. From the puddles of blood in Gaza to the clampdown of protest in Hong Kong, we live in times where good news is an abnormality.
In the middle of all this is Indian Occupied Kashmir.
It has never captured the western media’s focus the same way as other humanitarian crisis around the world. That changed recently when the Indian government revoked it’s autonomous status, beefed up armed military presence in what is already the most militarized zone in the world, and put its foot down on all modes of communication, effectively cutting it off from the outside world.
As per figures on Kashmir Media Service ( http://www.kmsnews.org ), since 1989 over 95,000 people have been killed in the region. Almost 150,000 civilians have been arrested, over 22,000 women have been windowed, and a further 11,126 have been gang-raped and molested. That is at least 8 murders and a gang rape every day for the last 30 years.
It is a matter of collective shame for all of us that something of this magnitude has not garnered the attention and reaction that it warranted. But that is not the focus of this piece.
The focus here is the response of Justin Trudeau.
What response, you might ask?
Yes, Justin Trudeau, has been more tight-lipped about Kashmir than Trump has been about Gaza. There has been nothing from the Prime Minister’s office. No statement. No video message. Not even a tweet. The closest thing to a comment from the Canadian Government on this issue has been a statement from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. Oddly enough, her statement didn’t mention the country at the centre of the issue – India.
Trudeau’s whole image has been constructed as a saviour of the oppressed. He champions himself as the one politician who will take a stand when others don’t. While all of this is made to inject more fuel into the already well functioning Liberal Photo-op machine, in moments where his principles face their stringiest test is when he fails spectacularly. The SNC Lavalin crisis for starters, is too recent and too shady for anyone to forget, and is likely to damage him more than anything else in the federal elections later this year. The clean, accountable, honest image that Trudeau carried before Jody-Wilson resigned is all part of history’s dustbin now.
His stance on the Kashmir issue is another such example.
It wasn’t long ago that Trudeau went on a visit to India, and bent over backwards to appease the Modi regime. While that visit has been done and dusted with, Trudeau’s priorities haven’t. Him ignoring the Kashmir crisis is rooted in a political decision to not offend India, or the significant Indo-Canadian population at home. Not so close to a federal election when every move he makes is based on how his vote bank might be impacted. Even beyond the vote bank at home, the business and trade ties between Canada and India are too large for Trudeau to take a principled position. He could afford to do that in the 2018 dispute with Saudi Arabia because of simple numbers – Trade with India constituted $3.3 billion according to last year’s figures, while it was less than half for Saudi Arabia, clocking in at $1.4 billion. Reverse these figures, and Trudeau’s response might have been the opposite to both countries too.
Among Canada’s major parties, only the NDP has come out with a clear stance on the Kashmir issue and called out the Modi’s regime disregard for human dignity. Andrew Scheer was unlikely to take a stance here in any case, but it is Justin Trudeau’s apathy to it all that is the most surprising.
Gone or are the days when he could atleast argue that he was a progressive politician. There are some who were naive enough to believe him when he spoke among progressive lines, but as his term comes to a close, it is more obvious than ever that Justin Trudeau’s priorities are dictated by the same neo-liberal, career politician policies that his predecessors had. He just hides it better.