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February 5, 2018

An unfinished agenda


February 5, 2018

Kashmir is the unfinished agenda of Partition that is still awaiting completion. The non-resolution of the Kashmir dispute can be attributed to the intransigence of the Indian government to honour its obligations under those resolutions and the apathy shown by the UN.

Frustrated by the non-fulfilment of the promises made by India to grant them the right to self-determination, the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir launched an armed freedom struggle in 1989. The Indian security forces unleashed a reign of terror in the valley to subdue the freedom struggle.

On January 21, 1990, the Indian forces resorted to indiscriminate firing on the demonstrators in Srinagar who were protesting the rape of Kashmiri women at the hands of Indian security personnel. Around 55 people were killed and dozens of others were injured. These brutal killings resulted in outrage and resentment throughout Pakistan and among Kashmiris across the world.

A strike was observed in Pakistan on February 5. 1990 to condemn the actions of the Indian troops. Since then, Kashmir Solidarity Day has been observed every year on February 5 by Kashmiris in Pakistan and across the world.

By observing Kashmir Solidarity Day, we reassure the people of Kashmir that Pakistan has an abiding and unswerving commitment to support their cause and stand by them under all circumstances. It also reminds the global community of its obligations towards the people of Kashmir and reiterates the fact that their apathy to the sufferings of Kashmiris could have disastrous consequences for regional and world peace. Another objective is to send a clear message to India that no amount of oppression and persecution can subjugate the people of Kashmir for long.

Since 1989, the Indian security forces have committed brazen violations of human rights in Kashmir. Human rights groups within India and international human rights organisations like Amnesty International (AI) have been regularly documenting the situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir from the perspective of human rights violation by India’s armed forces. According to these reports, the Indian security forces in Kashmir have killed nearly 94,906 Kashmiris between January 1989 and January 2018, raped 11,042 women and killed more than 7,000 people who are in custody.

In its reports, AI has been consistently highlighting the blatant violations of human rights in Kashmir by the Indian security forces. These acts have been justified under the Armed Forces Services (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), especially Section 7 of the legislation that grants immunity to members of the security forces from prosecution for human rights violations. The reports have also levelled scathing criticism at the act for creating an ambience of impunity for Indian security forces in the valley and enabling them to commit human rights violations without any fear of being tried.

AI has compiled these reports after conducting interviews with the families of victims and the police; examining court records; and interacting with civil society groups, lawyers and government officials. It also has been advocating that the AFPSA should be repealed and cases of human rights violation should be dealt with by the civil courts. AI has also been in favour of inviting the UN special rapporteur and the UN Working Group on Disappearance to Indian Occupied Kashmir and giving them unimpeded access to the victims and witnesses.

Unfortunately, these reports have received little or no attention from the international community and the powers that be. This is largely because they are viewing the developments within our region through the prism of their own strategic and commercial interests rather than showing a commitment and sincerity of purpose towards preserving the human rights guaranteed under the UN charter. No wonder they are only seen vociferously advocating these rights from every convenient rooftop when its suits their interests.

During the uprising that started in the backdrop of the killing of Burhan Wani in July 2016, the Indian security forces have reportedly killed more than 117 people and wounded well over 20,926 by using pellet guns, rubber bullets and assault rifles in addition to making 19,008 arrests and demolishing 65,815 houses. In January 2018, 18 people were killed, 147 people were injured and 137 people were arrested. Around 10 women were gang-raped and 62 houses were destroyed.

These facts reveal that the Indian security forces were operating in Indian Occupied Kashmir with a licence to kill. They relished the immunity given to them under the AFPSA to kill and maim Kashmiris who were fighting for their right to self-determination. Despite these brazen violations of human rights, the international community has remained indifferent to what is happening in Indian-held Kashmir.

Nevertheless, the people of Kashmir have been undeterred by the Indian atrocities and are continuing their struggle for freedom. The current wave of anti-India demonstrations and the frequent attempts made by protesters to hoist Pakistan’s flag are a clear indication that the Indian machinations have not been able to subdue their urge for independence. It also suggests that they will not relent until they are allowed to decide their own fate as per the UN resolutions. India is holding Kashmir against the will of its people and its stance on the issue has no moral or legal basis.

The non-resolution of the Kashmir dispute and the endless trail of oppression by the Indian security forces in the occupied territory is an affront to the conscience of the world community, especially the UN and those powers who take pride in their commitment to causes of freedom and adherence to the human rights guaranteed by the UN charter. They must realise that their selective support for human rights and freedom struggles will promote conflict and war instead peace.

There can be no peace without justice, and justice demands that human rights violations should be addressed. As a result, the people of Kashmir ought to be facilitated to exercise their right to self-determination. India also needs to understand that freedom struggles can never be suppressed with the barrel of a gun. It needs to abandon the posture of a war-like state and adopt a saner course of action to resolve the Kashmir conflict.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: [email protected]

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