Monday October 18, 2021

Speaking for Kashmir

September 25, 2021

Over the past few days, Pakistan has made a strong effort to give Kashmiris in Indian occupied Kashmir the voice that they do not have and which needs to be heard around the world. In his first face to face meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in New York that Pakistan was ready to talk to India about the issues of Kashmir but it was essential that human rights abuses in the area be ended. The same message was delivered by Qureshi to an informal meeting of the OIC on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, while MPs in Britain also raised the issue in the British parliament and pointed out that while the Chinese ambassador had been denied permission to enter the UK parliament because of violations of international protocol and human rights, the Indian ambassador should be subjected to similar measures.

Certainly there is a duplicity in attitudes on human rights as far as India and the rest of the world goes. While there has been a global outcry about human rights violations in Afghanistan, as should be the case, there has been for too long a silence on Kashmir. In the occupied territory, notably since 2019 when India effectively ended autonomy of the princely state and divided it into two union territories while also beginning a policy that could change its demographic dimensions ending its Muslim majority, there have been grotesque human rights abuses in Kashmir. These include beatings, shootings, rape, violence against children, the arrest of political activists, and a refusal to allow Kashmiris to speak out. All this is part of a larger campaign against Muslims in India, which has now turned essentially into a Hindutva-led state for all the secularism written into its constitution. An assault is continuing in Assam against Muslims, mainly from Bangladesh who had settled there under policies devised by the Indian government in the 1980s. Today these people are facing violence and being forced to leave their homes.

The world needs to wake up to these acts which blatantly violate international law and basic human rights. Pakistan has done its bit by calling on the world to act. MPs in Britain, including some of Pakistani or Kashmiri origin have done the same. But so far New Delhi has remained unmoved. The question for the world should be how to force it to change and engage in direct talks so that some settlement can be found, which allows the Kashmiri people to determine their future destiny and frees them from the atrocities they currently face on a daily level. We should remember that at present Kashmiris suffer some of the worst repressions in the world and there needs to be much more international notice of what is happening in the valley and how its people have been living and dying under a brutal occupation which mirrors that of Palestinians under Israel.