Analysis & Opinion

Let’s stand united with Kashmiris

A recently published report by the UN Human Rights says that there is an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and abuses and deliver justice for all people in Kashmir, who for seven decades have suffered a conflict that has claimed or ruined numerous lives.

Since the publishing of UNHR report, Indian frustration has increased manifolds. India attempted to ventilate the frustration by hollow claims and usual allegations against Pakistan in recent UNGA’s session. On the contrary, Pakistan used a decent and mature posture to project the sufferings and struggle of innocent Kashmiri people against unlawful occupation of IOK. Pakistan’s mature stance even attracted appreciation of Indian external affairs expert like Shashi Tharoor who censured the speech of India’s external affairs minister.

The 49-page report – the first ever issued by the UN on the human rights situation in Kashmir – details human rights violations and abuses and highlights a situation of chronic impunity for violations committed by Indian security forces.

“The political dimensions of the dispute between India and Pakistan have long been centre-stage, but this is not a conflict frozen in time. It is a conflict that has robbed millions of their basic human rights, and continues to this day to inflict untold suffering,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“It is essential the Indian authorities take immediate and effective steps to avoid a repetition of the numerous examples of excessive use of force by security forces in Kashmir,” Zeid said.

The main focus of the report is the human rights situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 – when large and unprecedented demonstrations erupted after Indian security forces killed the leader of an armed group – to April 2018.

Since 1988, Indian Forces have intensified ethnic cleansing campaign against the Kashmiri people.  Houses are being burnt, people arrested, tortured, raped and killed.  So far, nearly 100,000 killings have been done by Indian occupation forces. The number is growing exponentially as Indians are using increasingly brutal methods to suppress the people of IOK and their legal struggle for freedom.  

One of the most dangerous weapons used against protesters in 2016 – and which is still being employed by security forces – was the pellet-firing shotgun. According to official figures, 17 people were killed by shotgun pellets between July 2016 and August 2017, and 6,221 people were injured by the metal pellets between 2016 and March 2017. Civil society organizations believe that many of them have been partially or completely blinded.

“Impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice are key human rights challenges in the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” the report says, noting that the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978 (PSA) have “created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardize the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations.”

The Armed Forces Special Protection Act (AFSPA) prohibits prosecution of security forces personnel unless the Indian Government grants prior permission to prosecute. Indian occupied forces under the cover of AFSPA, other black laws and through frequent Cordon and Search Operations (CASOs), are continuously killing youth, vandalizing property and subjecting people to harassment and torture. 

“This gives security forces virtual immunity against prosecution for any human rights violation. In the nearly 28 years that the law has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government,” the report says. 

There is also almost total impunity for enforced or involuntary disappearances, with little movement towards credibly investigating complaints, including into alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region.

According to the report chronic impunity for sexual violence also remains a key concern in Kashmir.  An emblematic case is the Kunan-Poshpora mass rape 27 years ago when, according to survivors, soldiers gang-raped 23 women. “Attempts to seek justice have been denied and blocked over the years at different levels.

It has been desired by UNHR report that India should urgently repeal the AFSPA; establish independent, impartial and credible investigations to probe all civilian killings since July 2016 and all abuses committed by armed groups; and provide reparations and rehabilitation to all injured individuals and to the families of those killed in the context of security operations. Similarly, the PSA should be amended to ensure its compliance with international human rights law, and all those held under administrative detention should either be charged or immediately released.

Failing to contain the determination of Kashmiri people through use of force, Indian deep state used Local Body elections drama in J&K which is a three phased activity. In the first phase few districts of J&K were selected for the local bodies’ election drama. Reportedly, ruling BJP is claiming sweeping majority in the polls in Jammu region whereas in the valley, the situation is quite different. Interestingly, the National Conference and PDP have remained distant from the local bodies’ election, whereas, the Hurriyatleadership is terming the elections a sham and farce activity to hoodwink the intellectual community. Even the Indian media is also reporting about slumbering turnout (about 8%) in the valley region with prediction for poor turnout in second and third phase.  

To register their protest against Indian excesses, Kashmiri people all over the world observed 27 October as “Kashmir Black Day” with Pakistan extending moral support to highlight the issue. Kashmiri people will continue to record their protest by observing “Jammu Martyrs Day” in Nov as well.

It is high time for the mainstream Pakistani media as well as foreign office of Pakistan to expose the Indian atrocities and sham local bodies election in IOK as indigenous struggle for the freedom of Kashmir has entered into crucial phase. We need to forget our internal differences to focus on the cause of Kashmir particularly when the dead bodies of Kashmiris are being buried under cover of Pakistani flags and Kashmiris are voicing relentlessly in favor of Pakistan. Our media- both social and electronic should project that Indian occupied forces under the cover of Armed Forces Special Protection Act and other black laws have been callously killing youth with recent incident in Kulgham resulting in death of over 14 Kashmiri people. It may be recalled that during last two months Indian Security forces have martyred more than 70  innocent Kashmiri people including a Ph.D scholar namely Abdul MananWani. Instead of wasting our time on non-issues Pakistani nation and media should stand united for the Kashmir cause as India media has already launched massive campaign against Pakistani and it requires befitting reply from our side     

Despite being subjected to worst type of tyranny at the hands of Indian occupation forces, the people of Kashmir have developed a firm belief that ‘now there is no way back’. The ongoing Intifada in Occupied Kashmir is, in fact, a natural and indigenous reprisal from oppressed Kashmiris. They (Kashmiris) are now fully prepared to sacrifice everything to liberate themselves from Indian usurpers and their tyrannical suppression that has been exacted on them for decades.

India has been planning since long to change the demography of the Jammu and Kashmir and such efforts have been intensified by BJP led government with the clear objectives of ethnic cleansing andgenocide by validating methods of rioting, pogrom, arson and mass rape.  The first demographic change was made during August to November in 1947 when the Muslims of Jammu were massacred under a premeditated plan devised jointly by the then Dogra ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, fanatic Hindu groups like RSS, and leaders of the Indian National Congress.  Due to this massacre and large-scaledisplacement of Muslims, the community went from a majority of 61% to a minority of 30%. To defeat the purpose of UN resolutions as well as of the Kashmiris’ liberation struggle, India has resorted to different tactics. Changing the demographic composition of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is a key tactic to reduce the Muslim majority there. The demography of Jammu was once again changed after the enactment of the Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976. The Act gave ownership rights to tillers of the land. Thousands of non-Kashmiris were shown as tillers after the tampering of records and were given ownership status. Another intrigue can be noticed by the fact that during the years 2001–2011, the number of Hindus has grown considerably in both Leh and Kargil districts of Ladakhregion. In Ladakh as a whole, the proportion of Hindus has risen from 6.2% in 2001 to 12.1% in 2011. Experts say that such massive growth, 100%, in the population of Hindus in Ladakh in a period of ten years is unimaginable. This is what Shimon Peres, at the time foreign minister of Israel, suggested to India during his visit on May 18, 1993. He said, “India should not be afraid or hesitate to populate Kashmir with people from all over India. Only a demographic change in Kashmir can help India to claim it. The idea of a Muslim majority state living peacefully with a Hindu majority community is idiotic and this idea is nothing but anathema.” Along with construction of residential colonies for Hindu Pundits in the Kashmir valley, the allocation of land to retired army officers and non-Kashmiris is a part of India’s plan to bring demographic changes in the valley.

 The people of Kashmir are in the streets offering their blood to resist India’s nefarious designs to suppress their struggle. The world body (UN) has a legal and moral responsibility to step forward and stop India for violating the human rights in Kashmir and from altering the status of Jammu and Kashmir as it is clear violation of UN resolutions. The people, the government and the media of Pakistan need to divert their attention towards the cause of Kashmir as wise people hit when the iron is hot. The kashmiris have entered into the final round of their fight for freedom and we should not disappoint them in the need of hour. Let’s vow to stand united with Kashmiris!

The writer Masroor Ahmed is an International Relations’ Scholar and is currently working as Deputy Director in Prime Minister’s Office, Pakistan. His Area of specialization is Regional Conflicts and Security.