Kashmir cries. The world turns a deaf ear. The institutions play dumb. The governments prefer a blind eye. That has been the state of affairs for 70 years. What is happening in occupied Jammu and Kashmir is the result of a lethal combination of cruel indifference and sheer incompetence. The scale of human tragedy has compounded with torture techniques assuming a vicious proportion and a barbaric wave of crackdown on dissenters be it the protesting public or writers or any dissenting voice. In the midst of all this the recent call for enquiry by Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights demand for an independent enquiry is a welcome change. He said he would urge the Human Rights Council to open an investigation when it convenes next week. His office released a report that detailed abuses by the authorities on both sides of the Line of Control and accused India of letting its security forces operate in a state of “chronic impunity.”
The Kashmir dispute is an issue that has become not only a territorial control flarepoint but a shameful human rights flashpoint that has now become so toxic that it needs immediate attention globally to curb the human rights abuses going on in the territory. While both countries have fought two out of the three wars over Kashmir, the absence of wars in the last three decades does not mean the presence of peace.
According to government statistics militancy in Jammu and Kashmir had claimed a total of 41,000 lives in the past 27 years which meant an average of 4 deaths per day in the state or 1519 casualties every year, a fact they had sold well to the world to divert attention from their own brutality, till the death of Burhan Wani.
On 8 July 2016, Burhan Wani, the 22-year old freedom fighter was killed by Indian security forces in Bumdoora village in Kokernag area in the occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir. This completely changed and exposed the dynamics of the resistance movement. It became a movement of the young, the angry and the middle class. Not only young boys but young girls were seen protesting and manhandled by security forces. Horrible images of pellet guns pock marking faces went across the world bringing attention to the real side of the oppressive injustice in Kashmir.
According to the UN report in response to demonstrations that started in July 2016, Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries. Civil society estimates are that 130 to 145 civilians were killed by security forces between mid-July 2016 and end of March 2018, and 16 to 20 civilians were killed by armed groups in the same period. This highlighted the real brutality of Indian forces. One of most dangerous weapons used against protesters during the unrest in 2016 was the pellet-firing shotgun, which is a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun that fires metal pellets that pierces eyeballs and is against all human right actions and conventions.
The worst part is that laws have been specifically created to mistreat the Kashmiris and give excessive powers to India’s armed forces to continue with impunity their actions. As per the UN report special laws in force in the state, such as the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 (PSA), have created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardize the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations.1000s of people including minors were detained under these laws. Movement was restricted, internet and social media banned and curfews are imposed to crack down on peaceful protests.
Since the Line of Control conflict in 1947 there have been an estimated 100,000 killings, 8,000 forced disappearances, nearly 16,000 case of rape and torture, 139,017 arbitrary imprisonments, sexual abuse, suppression of political rights, repression of freedom of speech, landmines. The situation in Kashmir has worsened despite more New Delhi-sponsored oppression and media control. To make matters worse the murder of prominent journalist and editor Shujaat Bukhari has devastated both journalists and ordinary people. He was a voice of peace and moderation and his personality and peace efforts have been lauded by all and sundry. The last nail on the coffin was when the alliance between PDP (People’s Democratic Party) and BJP fell apart as the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti resigned blaming BJP for its “muscular” policies towards Kashmiris.
For Pakistan, the time to have a clear and audible Kashmir Policy is overdue. Maulana Fazlur Rehman who headed the Kashmir Committee has made no pretense of having anything to do with it. There are two very clear directions Pakistan needs to take. Firstly, it needs to build up the legal case of Kashmiris having the right for Plebiscite as per UN conventions. Secondly, it needs to project Indian atrocities and human rights abuses internationally under a planned and professional lobbying strategy. The UN office on Human Rights has suggested an independent enquiry and Pakistan needs to support it so that this blame game by India on violence being sponsored cross border is neutralized. India is in need of a face saving situation, Pakistan is in need of a face lifting effort – time for a mutually acceptable solution of Kashmir conflict that gives Kashmiris security, peace and their rights is now and here.
Andleep Abbas, "Kashmir – a call to humanity," Business Recorder. 2018-06-25.
Keywords: Political science , Public safety act , Line of control , Kashmir policy , Unlawful killings , Human rights , Zeid Raad al-Hussein , Maulana Fazlur Rehman , Pakistan , Kashmir