World must act to end Kashmiris’ suffering
The UN’s call for an immediate global cease-fire during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic was heeded in many parts of the world — but it fell on deaf ears in India.
Kashmir continues to be held in a chokehold. State repression and the brutality of the security forces against unarmed Kashmiri civilians continue unabated.
Sympathy turns into empathy when one experiences a similar kind of suffering to that felt by another. Almost the entire world has gone through the ordeal of coronavirus-related lockdowns. As a result, one can easily imagine how agonizing and claustrophobic the experience must be for Kashmiris, who have been under military siege for a year. A communications blackout must have compounded the hardships they have faced during that siege.
The COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity for the authoritarian government of India, one which it has used to embark on an enslavement spree in Kashmir. Politicians of all stripes were illegally detained, journalists faced crackdowns, the brutal powers of the security forces were enhanced, and curfew-related measures were introduced that go beyond the pale of humanity.
It became very clear to the world that the Indian government is using the pandemic to implement its plan to settle outsiders in the disputed territory of Kashmir. In April, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, India approved the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Order 2020 in an attempt to give non-Kashmiris the right to become permanent residents of the valley.
The recent surge in the suffering of the people of Kashmir began with India’s unilateral, and illegal, actions a year ago. On Aug. 5, 2019, the government revoked the special status of the illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, which had been guaranteed by Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
The aim was to change the internationally recognized “disputed” status of the territory. Under Article 370, the state had its own constitution and autonomy over all policies except matters such as foreign affairs and defense.
Another provision, 35-A, which prevented people who come from places other than Jammu and Kashmir from buying land in the territory, was also revoked. The aim of this was to alter the demographics of the state by allowing Hindu outsiders to settle in the Muslim-majority territory, in pursuance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s Hindu-supremacist ideology.
World powers should play their part in putting an end to India’s barbarism, demographic apartheid and military siege in the valley, and to set the gross illegalities right.
This did not come as a surprise to anyone, as the manifesto of the BJP during the most recent election campaign had called for the revocation of the constitutional provisions ensuring the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
All this was forced upon the Kashmiris, who found themselves staring down the barrel of a gun. The region was turned into a prison manned by a force of 900,000 Indian soldiers, who have, since 1989, killed more than 100,000 unarmed civilians in illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir and raped more than 10,000 women.
The Indian narrative of normality is no more than an effort to cover up the deceit and subterfuge, under which human rights violations continue. As recently as June, 54 Kashmiris were killed in the territory. During the first six months of this year, 229 killings were recorded.
The situation in the territory is similar to that in Palestine, where the occupier is engaged in a continual attempt to legitimize its occupation. Parallels can be drawn between the way Kashmiris are subjected to illegal detention, torture, rape and murder, and the trials and tribulations faced by Palestinians at the hands of their occupying force.
The unilateralism adopted by the Indian government in its decision to remove the special status of Jammu and Kashmir flies in the face of numerous UN Security Council resolutions that reaffirmed the disputed nature of the region. The state-sponsored violence, torture, killings and rape indicate that India has no regard for human rights or international law.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has consistently condemned the human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir and denounced the Indian decision to scrap the region’s special status.
During a recent virtual meeting, the OIC’s contact group on Kashmir adopted a communique that called on India to “rescind its unilateral and illegal actions, and allow the Kashmiri people to freely exercise their right to self-determination through a UN-supervised plebiscite.” This plebiscite, or right to vote on important changes to their status, was guaranteed to the Kashmiri people by the international community through a number of UN Security Council resolutions.
Pakistan has also extended its full moral, political and diplomatic support to the oppressed Kashmiris of illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir in their legitimate struggle for the right to self-determination.
It is time for action. The matter is once again on the UN’s agenda, and the international community must wake up to its responsibility for safeguarding human rights and international law.
World powers should play their part in putting an end to India’s barbarism, demographic apartheid and military siege in the valley, and to set the gross illegalities right. India must be told that the people of Kashmir matter.
• Saif Mummak is a Pakistani diplomat who works at the Pakistan Embassy in Riyadh.