By Saadia Altaf | Counselor, Pakistan Embassy
Seventy years ago, Jammu and Kashmir was a princely state, which was asked by the then-outgoing British rulers of the Indian subcontinent to affiliate with either of the newly created Pakistan or India according to the wishes of the people of the state.
Most people of Jammu and Kashmir were Muslims. They wanted to join Pakistan. Its ruling prince was a Hindu. He decided to join India. The ruler’s decision was against the wishes of his people. The result was a public uprising in the state. Indian Army entered the state to snub popular will. Neighboring tribesmen from Pakistan rushed to help their innocent Kashmiri brethren against coercion of Indian forces. A war ensued, and the Kashmiris were able to liberate a part of their state from the Indian clutches.
Fearing loss of the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir to its rightful owners—i.e., the people of Kashmir, India took the matter to the United Nations. The UN resolved that the question of accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan would be decided by the Kashmiri people through a plebiscite to be conducted “as soon as possible” under the auspices of the UN. It was in 1948-1949 when the people of Kashmir were promised so.
Sixty-eight years have passed and the assured plebiscite is yet to be held in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK). India has been hindering its holding on one pretext or the other. The Jammu and Kashmir dispute is still unresolved, making a heart-rending story of human tragedy and a litany of broken promises in the annals of history.
The liberated part of Kashmir, called “Azad Kashmir”, affiliated itself with Pakistan and is run by its own Parliament, while the IoK, terrorized by 700,000 armed Indian troops, is one of the most heavily militarized zones in the world with a ratio of 1 soldier for 17 civilians. The Indian troops are grossly violating all human rights to suppress Kashmiri people. The “sin” of poor Kashmiris is only that they continue to ask for their inalienable right of self-determination, which is their basic human right encoded in international law, and was once promised to them by India and the UN, too!
The Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom took a daunting surge in 1989, when Indian forces resorted to systematic violations of human rights, including unbridled use of force against civilians, extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary executions, enforced disappearances, illegal detentions, gang rapes, collective punishment and indiscriminate killings. According to estimates of various human-rights organizations, 94,000 innocent Kashmiris have been martyred; 7,000 Kashmiris have died in custody; 10,000 women have been raped/gang raped; 6,000 mass graves have been discovered; and 10,000 Kashmiris disappeared in IoK from 1989 to 2015.
The irony of the Indian occupation of Kashmir is that the more atrocities Indian forces perpetrate to suppress the liberation movement, the stronger becomes the Kashmiris’ determination for freedom.
In July 2016 the liberation movement in IoK took a second surge, more daunting and sonorous, triggered by the extrajudicial killing of the popular Kashmiri freedom fighter, Burhan Wani. Over 200,000 Kashmiris participated in the funeral prayers of Burhan Wani in 50 different locations throughout IoK despite strict curfew clamped in the Valley. That was a vivid proof of non-suppressibility and indigenousness of the Kashmiris’ ongoing struggle for freedom.
Still, the Indian government responded to the protesters’ legitimate demand of implementation of UN Security Council resolutions by unleashing an unprecedented reign of terror.
In gross contravention of all norms of international law and international humanitarian laws, the Indian occupation forces willfully used live ammunition and pellet guns to quell peaceful protests by unarmed civilians, resulting in the death of many, and causing life-long and debilitating injuries to thousands of others. Not to speak of protesters, the Indian troops killed and maimed even nonprotester Kashmiris in a bid to wage collective punishment to break the resolve of the valiant people of IoK from their rightful demand of self-determination. Only during the period July to November 2016, the estimated number of Kashmiris martyred by use of pellet guns was 120; number of injured—20,000; number of eye injuries—1,000; and the number of people permanently blinded—at least 160.
The scale of Indian brutality this time was so high that even Indian civil society and the international community could not remain indifferent. The Doctors Association of Kashmir verified that occupying forces deliberately and consistently shot above waist height and targeted eyes in order to inflict maximum damage. The Washington Post wrote in its July 12, 2016, edition: “Indian Kashmir suffers worst violence in years”. The New York Times wrote the same day: “2016 will almost certainly be remembered as the year of dead eyes.” On August 4, 2016, Amnesty International India called on the Indian government to immediately stop the use of pellet guns in policing protests. Human Rights Watch demanded the Indian government to publicly order the security forces to abide by the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
In the months of October and December 2016, a group of eminent Indians, including Yashwant Sinha (senior BJP leader and former minister of foreign affairs), visited IoK to compile a report on the recent surge of resistance. The visit was facilitated by Rajmohan Gandhi’s Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation. One of the findings of their report is that young Kashmiri population have lost their fear of Indian forces. History teaches us that the people cannot be bonded in statehood through force or fear. To be on the right side of history, India ought to recognize that Kashmir is a political problem and it should be resolved politically. And the most amicable way is to hold a plebiscite according to Security Council Resolution 47.
Despite the cries of justice from Human Rights Organization all over the globe, the Indian occupation forces are continuing to date their crimes against humanity in Kashmir with complete impunity. They are basking in the Nehruvian imagination that “Kashmir is an integral part of India”. But this state of denial will not last longer. In this era of information revolution and social media, India cannot hide the skeletons of Kashmir in its cupboard and beguile the world any more by blaming Pakistan for fomenting trouble in Kashmir.
Pakistan supports the Kashmir cause, as Kashmiris in IoK are bleeding for their love for Pakistan. Every year, they wave Pakistani flags on August 14 to show their resolve for freedom, while they observe August 15 (India’s Independence Day) as Black Day. Who can deny that love emanates from within and not imposed from the outside? The Kashmiris’ desire of affiliation with Pakistan is inherent, inborn and not infused. Pakistan reciprocates the Kashmiris’ sentiments through moral, diplomatic and political support to their movement for freedom. India must come forward and validate her so-called world’s largest democratic and nonviolent credentials by allowing the people of Jammu and Kashmir to exercise their right of political self-determination. The other world capitals, too, should unequivocally condemn the human-rights violations in the IoK and loudly support the Kashmiris’ inalienable right of self-determination.
This is the least the international community owes to the humans of Kashmir.
***The views/opinion of the writer do not necessarily reflect the opinion/views of the BusinessMirror.