The Monday Discourse
Every February 5, Pakistanis and Kashmiris around the world arrange special events to remind the international community that the resolution of the lingering dispute over the Indian occupied Kashmir is imperative for ensuring peace and stability in South Asia. Iyobosa Uwugiaren, who recently visited the “Line of Control” of the disputed Kashmir territory, and interacted with stakeholders, including the President of Jammu and Kashmir, reports on how they all look forward to the Nigerian vote at the United Nations Security Council for support and an end to the crisis
To many historians and international affairs analysts, February 5 is witnessed yearly to remind the international community about the long struggle by the people of Kashmir for self-determination and pay tribute to thousands of gallant Kashmiris, who have been willing victims to liberate Kashmir from the alleged viciousness and callousness of high-handed Indian rulers. Described as a revolutionary day in the history of the oppressed people, it has become the model origin of the Kashmir’s fight for independence against foreign occupation.
Tracing the actual origin of the struggle, Sajjad Shaukat, who writes on international affairs and authored the book, “US versus Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations”, said the history of Dogra rule (1846-1947) in Kashmir was chock-full with tyrannous treatment, meted out to the Kashmiri Muslims by Dogra forces.
According to him, “Under the Dogra rule, they were leading so miserable life that it was difficult to differentiate them from beasts; slave labour, heavy taxes, capital punishment for cow slaughter, and living under constant terror was order of the day.”
Another author, Yousaf Saraf in his book, “Kashmiris Fight for Freedom” called it “free forced labour” and “instead of donkeys and horses, Kashmiri Muslims were used for transportation of goods across the far-flung areas.” Incongruously, over 66 years after, the people of Kashmir are still struggling and sacrificing for self-determination in line with the UN resolutions for the plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Commander, the 652 Mujahid Battalion (Mountain Tigers) of the Pakistan Army, Brigadier-General M. Akhtar, told THISDAY in Chakothi-Uri, Xing Point, 200 metres from the disputed Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) that Indian Occupied Kashmir has become one of the most heavily militarised regions in the world with over eight million armed security forces of Indians, who have been accused of daily carrying various forms of “state terrorism” on the innocent Kashmiris.
He said since 1989, a deliberate campaign by the Indian army and paramilitary forces against the Kashmiris has been demonstrated in brutal tactics such as “crackdowns, curfews, illegal detentions, massacre, targeted killings, sieges, burning of houses, torture, disappearances, rape, breaking the legs, molestation of Muslim women and killing of persons through fake encounter.”
The Pakistan Army Chief said the United Nations Security Council had passed several resolutions for the final disposition of State of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the will of the people through a fair and impartial plebiscite to be conducted under the auspices of the United Nations. According to him, the resolutions dated August 13, 1948 and January 5, 1949 were passed by the UN Commission for India and Pakistan, which he said constitute as international agreement for binding force.
He added that while Indian has continued to defy the implementation of the UN resolution, the Pakistan had consistently demanded their implementation in letter and spirit.
General Akhtar said the actions of the Indian Army while resisting the UN resolutions, had led to many heinous crimes in the occupied Kashmir since 1989: killing of 94, 504; custodial killing of 7,062; illegal arrest and detention of 136, 434; rape of 10, 433 women, while 106, 586 houses and shops were said to have been destroyed.
“Human rights violations in Indian occupied Jammu Kashmir are systematic, deliberate, and ofﬁcially sanctioned. India has never prosecuted even one of its 700,000 military and paramilitary personnel there for human right abuses”, the Army Chief stated.
“And its law grants legal immunity for any actions aimed at suppressing Kashmiri dissent or support for self-determination. Information compiled by various human rights organisations establishes that a massive complaint of brutal oppression has been launched by the Indian army since January 1989. Various estimates are given of the death toll of civilians so far.”
Owen Bennett Jones, a journalist associated with BBC News, in his report titled “Three Surprises from a visit to Kashmir” wrote that although all the numbers relating to Kashmir were keenly disputed, it was probably fair to say that as many as 100,000 people had been killed in the struggle between Kashmiris and the Indian state.
“Countless individuals have been maimed and thousands of women molested and assaulted. Not a word of condemnation has been uttered at the United Nations; not even a call on India to cease and desist from committing its atrocities”, he added.
The Army General further stated that reports on the culture of impunity in Indian Occupied Kashmir, which have been released from time to time by different human rights groups, highlighting human rights abuses, exposed the volumes of human rights violations in Indian occupied Kashmir and the culture of impunity enjoyed by the Indian army and paramilitary forces.
“Torture in Indian occupied Kashmir is not new. Indian army and Para-military forces continue to employ third degree torture on the Kashmirs,” General Akhtar added.
He accused the Indian Army of using the ‘deadly’ Pump Action Shotgun or Pellet Gun against innocent people of Kashmir, saying several youths had got injured in south Kashmir’s Shopian town, with many of them even losing vision.
Narrating what he described as “heinous Indian State terrorism in occupied Kashmir”, the Pakistan Army General added that Kashmir has become a laboratory for Indian establishment to hone and improvise its Arsenals when unarmed Kashmiries surge on roads demanding nothing but their inalienable right to self-determination.
He revealed that a recent study conducted at the Sheri Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) showed that pellet guns caused death of many persons and injuries, while several others also lost their eyesight.
He further stated that “Government is duty-bound under the law to protect the lives of people and in no case can they approve such measures that would jeopardize the lives of the common people in the name of maintaining law and order. So, law enforcement agencies should stop using this highly damage causing weapon.
“Innocent killings and other such incidents reinforce the already present political alienation among people of Indian occupied Jammu Kashmir. Continued human rights violations, as always witnessed, plunge the Kashmir into further political and economic turmoil – the following curfews, protests and spate of disturbance do not help in conﬂict resolution.”
General Ahktar who appealed to the UN to act quickly on the disputed territory said the economic impact of the Indian’s culture of impunity is tremendous – paralysing economic activities, stalling development works and aggravating poverty.
“The cycle of killings, impunity, destabilisation and further killings has to stop somewhere. Failure to appreciate the perils of impunity could throw the state back to a kind of situation that would not help durable peace and stability in the region.”
An international human rights group, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in their different reports had also pointed out grave human rights violations in the Indian-controlled Kashmir, indicating that, the Muslim majority population in the Indian Occupied Kashmir had suffered from the repressive tactics of the security forces.
Under the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act and Public Safety Act, security forces personnel have extraordinary powers to shoot suspected persons.
In its report on July 2, 2015, the Amnesty International highlighted the extrajudicial killings of the innocent persons at the hands of Indian security forces in the Indian-Held-Kashmir. The report points out: “Tens of thousands of security forces are deployed in Indian-administered Kashmir…the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) allows troops to shoot to kill suspected militants or arrest them without a warrant.
The Secretary-General of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Iyad Ameen Madni, stated recently that ‘”We are concerned over the grave situation in the Indian Occupied Kashmir” and called for an immediate cessation of “Indian oppression and atrocities” in the occupied territory.
For the Foreign Affairs Minister of Turkey, Mevlut Cavusoglu, resolution of the Kashmir dispute is important for peace and development in the South Asia, saying, “Kashmir issue is the major obstacle in PAK-India relations and its humanitarian aspect requires urgent attention of the international community.”
The Pakistan Foreign Affairs Minister, Syed Tariq Fatemi, told THISDAY in Islamabad that it seems non-condemnation of the Indian huge human rights violations and non-interference for the settlement of the issue by the international community, especially the US and UN, have further encouraged India to keep on with its “state terrorism” on the innocent Kashmir people. Perhaps so!
The President, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Mr. Masood Khan, in an interview with THISDAY in his office in Islamabad, accused Indian forces of committing “crimes against humanity” in the Kashmir and occupying the territory illegally for the past 60 years.
Drawing experience from other nations, he added that such struggles ultimately triumphed. “There is no reason that Kashmiri people will not succeed in their heroic struggle. It is very tragic, traumatic and heart-rending. Here are people who have suffered grievously for the past 200 years. Nations around the world won independence after the Second World War, but Kashmiris remain in a state of constant subjugation and persecution.
“No year passes by without India coming up with new ways to kill, maim, torture and dishonour Kashmiris. This year came with the new, condemnable practice of blinding through the use of pellet guns and despite India’s drive to crush them, the Kashmiris have stood their ground and proved their resilience.”
He commended Pakistan and Azad Kashmir for extending moral, diplomatic support to the “just struggle” of the people of IOK.
“After the uprising, we intensified our efforts. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif highlighted the suffering of the Kashmiris at the United Nations General Assembly and demanded that the UN fulfil its responsibility to implement its own resolutions on Kashmir. The leadership in Azad Kashmir also reached out to the international community and Pakistani/Kashmiri diaspora. We succeeded to some extent but the response of the international community to the plight of the Kashmiris has been very guarded and cautious to the point of being apathetic. Our struggle continues.”
He said the UN Secretary General had issued statements offering his good offices, adding that, “Of course, laced with the condition that both India and Pakistan concur; India would obviously not. The High Commissioner for Human Rights has offered to send a fact-finding mission to India and Pakistan and to both parts of Kashmir, which India declines to receive. Brussels did monitor the situation closely.
“International human rights organisations – including the Physicians for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Doctors without Borders – have highlighted the killings and blinding in Kashmir. They have, for instance, helped expose more than 8,000 permanent disappearances and several mass graves; that said, influential states despite all this data, are tight lipped on Kashmir.”
Recently Pakistan High Commission, Abuja, observed Kashmir Day by expressing solidarity with Kashmiri people, in their agitation for self-determination in line with the United Nations resolution. Every February 5, Pakistanis and Kashmiris around the World arrange special events in world capitals to remind the international community that resolution of the lingering dispute is imperative for ensuring peace and stability in South Asia.
“Right from the Day One, the people of Jammu and Kashmir never accepted India’s illegal occupation of their motherland and they have been struggling to liberate it from Indian subjugation. Their liberation struggle forced India to seek the help of United Nations to settle the Kashmir dispute”, the high commission stated in a press statement in Abuja.
“United Nations in its successive resolutions promised that a free and impartial plebiscite would be conducted under its supervision and the people of Kashmir would be given the opportunity to decide their future themselves. These UN resolutions and the pledges made by Indian leadership remain unimplemented even after the passing of several decades.”
The high commission said it is ironic that India is using every undemocratic method to continue its illegal hold on Jammu and Kashmir – while on one hand, it wants to compel Pakistan to give up its support to the Kashmiri people, while on the other, it has been resorting to the “worst kind of state terrorism” in occupied Kashmir to intimidate the Kashmiris into submission.
The statement added: “This resulted in the killing of nearly one hundred thousand innocent Kashmiris and disappearance of thousands in custody. This vicious cycle of killing has rendered over twenty-five thousand women widowed and around a hundred and ten thousand children orphaned.
“The extrajudicial killing of popular youth leader, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, by Indian troops on July 8, 2016, triggered massive anti-India and pro-freedom demonstrations. Indian troops responded with brute force, killing more than 200 innocent civilians, injuring over 16,000 and blinding hundreds others by firing bullets, pellets and teargas shells on peaceful protesters.
“Despite using all kinds of brutal tactics, it has failed to suppress the freedom sentiment of the people of Kashmir and they are determined to carry forward their on-going freedom movement to its logical conclusion at all costs.”
Given the fact that the Kashmir dispute involves two nuclear powers and a small incident can prove disastrous for the entire South Asia, the high commission said it is high time the world community took steps towards addressing this contentious problem, saying it needed to understand that due to the unrealistic and intransigent approach of India, the peace of the entire region is at stake.
It further added that February 5 is a reminder to the world powers that they should use their influence on New Delhi to settle the conflict over Kashmir, stating that at the same time the supreme sacrifices of Kashmiri people must be acknowledged and India should be censured for disrespecting the UN resolutions and continued human rights violations in occupied Kashmir.
“The 5th February reminds the world about the urgency involved in an early resolution of the Kashmir dispute for the global peace, security and prosperity. All the peace and justice loving nations of the world must come together to express practical solidarity with the oppressed people of occupied Kashmir”, the statement added.
With the election of Khan as president of IOK, many political analysts had expected the Kashmir movement to gather momentum especially with a proven record as an ardent campaigner for the rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions, and put an end to ‘’Indian atrocities, and the initiation of a sustained, substantive and structured dialogue process to resolve disputes between India and Pakistan.”
Renowned diplomat and former Ambassador to the United Nations and China, Khan, was elected President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir by a vast majority during polling by joint electoral college comprising 55 members of AJK Legislative Assembly and AJK Council.
President Khan has said Indian forces’ excesses and aggression cannot suppress the struggle of Kashmiri people for freedom and they will continue their movement till the liberation of their land from Indian occupation.
President Khan believe the issue of Indian Occupied Kashmir can still be resolved without going to war if the international community puts pressure on the Indian to respect the UN resolutions and respect the inalienable rights of Jammu and Kashmir for self-determination.
For over two years, Khan has worked hard in UN to build support for the consciousness of the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Records show that during his tenure as Permanent Representative to the United Nations, he reached out to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council to persuade them to fulfil the UN’s promise to help decide Kashmir’s political future through a fair, just and democratic dispensation.
He was said to have helped to organise the UN Secretary General Ban’s first official visit to Islamabad in August 2013 during which the Secretary General had detailed talks on Jammu and Kashmir with the newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Importantly too, they reckoned that with Nigeria’s support at the UN, things may look quite good for them in securing justice.