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Wishful initiatives


April 15, 2021

“The political dimensions of the dispute between India and Pakistan have long been centre-stage. 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 Ali Hussein in a 49-page report issued in Geneva on June 14, 2018.

The report further said, “It is also why I will be urging the UN Human Rights Council to consider establishing a commission of enquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir”.

Besides, it is well known that there are draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA) and Jammu and the Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978 (PSA) which obstruct the normal course of law with impunity. These impede accountability and leave no option for the victims of human right violations.

The above-referred report, therefore, highlights this point in the following words: “This gives security forces virtual immunity against prosecution for any human rights violations. In the nearly 28 years that the law has been enforced in Jammu and Kashmir, there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government”.

Instead of paying any heed to UNHRC recommendations, India entered into Pakistani air space and attacked an unoccupied mountain in Balakot area on February 26, 2019 for which Pakistan gave a befitting response on the very next day. After a few months of this blatant violation of international law, the second report on human rights violation in Kashmir was issued by UNHRC head Michelle Bachelet on July 8, 2019.

In the above referred report, Indian crowd control measures, investigations into alleged extra judicial killings and unlawful legal immunity for security forces were again questioned. This report, interalia, mentioned that in Azad Kashmir some people in Gilgit-Baltistan were also deprived of a number of fundamental human rights. The Pakistan government immediately responded by suggesting that a UNHRC investigation team should visit both Azad Kashmir and Occupied Kashmir and establish for themselves the areas where human rights were being violated.

However, India declined any communication with any UN special rapporteurs. India under the fascist Modi regime instead abrogated articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution a year later on August 5, 2020 and took away the rights of Kashmiris to have an independent constitution and a separate flag. Besides, in connivance with the courts Modi engineered an anti-Muslim unjustified decision on Babri Masjid.

The Pakistan government in response categorically stated that with such aggressive behaviour by the RSS-dominated Indian government Pakistan would not establish any contact with India till the constitutional changes made with regard to Kashmir were reversed. However, India not only stepped up ceasefire violations along the LOC but also provoked proud Baloch nationals against Pakistan, and launched aggressive diplomatic endeavours to push Pakistan into the FATF black list.

Given this background, any sudden unilateral messages of talks from Pakistan are incomprehensible. Ordinarily peace offers from one civilised country to another should be appreciated. However, India neither abides by the UN charter nor honours UN resolutions and Geneva conventions. Besides, this country is unfortunately being ruled by an RSS-dominated fascist regime. India therefore cannot be trusted.

Besides, this gives a false impression that perhaps Pakistan has reconciled with the Indian action of unilaterally altering the constitutional status of Occupied Kashmir, the unrelenting atrocities being committed against Kashmiris and its point-blank refusal to allow them their universally accepted right of self-determination.

Expecting the Modi-led Indian government to revive articles 370 and 35A of their constitution, lift the lockdown and stop blatant HR violations would be tantamount to living in a fool’s paradise.

Indian writer Arundhati Roy wrote an article in the New York Time, titled ‘The Silence Is the Loudest Sound’, on August 15, 2019 in which she highlighted that the way India annexed IOK there has a “distinct whiff of colonialism”. She also said that the architecture of Indian fascism is quickly being put in place. Besides, the author said, “Today Kashmir is one of the most or perhaps the most densely militarised zones in the world….their real enemy is the Kashmiri people. What India has done in Kashmir is unforgivable.”

It is, therefore, recommended that while peaceful overtures with India may continue, we need to follow a proactive policy and take the following measures.

First, we must help build a united front of all Kashmiri leaders including Dr Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. Second, provide proactive moral, political, media and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri indigenous struggle for their right of self-determination. Third, the Kashmiri diaspora living in different continents must be enabled to continue their endeavours for the Kashmir cause.

Fourth, we must establish Kashmir desks in important embassies the world over; these must highlight violations of human rights, disrespect to the UN charter, non-abidance of UN resolutions and violation of the Geneva conventions by the Indian government. Fifth, all-out efforts should be made to get RSS declared as a terrorist organisation and India included in the FATF black list.

Lastly, since China has also been implicated because of Indian direct control of Ladakh region, a joint strategy in this context will be more fruitful.

The writer is chairman Senate Standing Committee on Defence Production.