By Ambassador Mazhar Javed
This year, our thoughts on Kashmir Solidarity Day are inevitably linked to the events of last six months – 5 August 2019 to 5 February 2020.
On 5 August 2019, India decided to revoke the Special Status of Indian Occupied Kashmir (under Article 370 of its Constitution). The special status, that India ‘unilaterally’ withdrew had not been granted by India to the Kashmiri people as a favour; nor was it matter of mere Indian legislation. It was linked to the fact that Jammu Kashmir was never a part of India. Jammu Kashmir was a princely state till 1947, and a disputed territory after that whose future, says UN Security Council Resolution of 21 April 1948 is to be determined “through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite”. This position was reiterated in several resolutions adopted by the Security Council in later years. Clearly, Indian government’s decision of 5 August was in utter violation of the international law and the UN Security Council Resolutions.
Jammu Kashmir was never a part of India as it was a princely state till 1947, and a disputed territory after that whose future, says UN Security Council Resolution of 21 April 1948
It is this context against which UN Secretary General’s Statement of 8 August 2019 needs to be seen, when he said, the position of the United Nations on this region is governed by the UN Charter and applicable Security Council resolutions. He also called for restraint “from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Since New Delhi’s move of August 5, 2019, UN Security Council has been discussing the Jammu Kashmir dispute. UN Secretary General’s statement and the discussions at the Security Council were an unambiguous statement of the fact that Jammu Kashmir was an internationally recognized disputed territory; clearing the misperception created over the years by India that Jammu Kashmir was a part of India and that UN resolutions were now irrelevant; though no one acquainted with the UN systems ever took such misguiding claims seriously.
To millions of Kashmiris, plus 185 days since 5 August meant continuous trauma and fears of genocide: millions of people encaged and put to torture of a cruel lockdown; agony of months of curfews, night raids, rapes, phone and internet blockade and illegal detentions.
To millions of Kashmiris, plus 185 days since 5 August meant continuous trauma and fears of genocide: millions of people encaged and put to torture of a cruel lockdown
Immediately after the 5 August decision, India claimed situation in Jammu Kashmir to be normal. These claims – which nobody accepted – were negated most effectively by India’s own actions of imposing long continuous curfews, denial of access to journalists and human rights activists, phone and internet shut downs, night raids and arbitrary detentions of Kashmiri youth. National Federation of Indian Women said the number of such detainees was around 13,000. On August 19, Human Rights Watch said that “the Indian government can’t just claim to be lifting restrictions in Kashmir, but needs to ensure that everyone’s rights are respected.” Discrepancy between the Indian claims of normalcy, and the reality on the ground couldn’t have been articulated better than it was by ‘New York Times’, when it reported, “Inside Kashmir, Cut off from the World: ‘A Living Hell’ of Anger and Fear”.
These repressive measures were a litmus test of the strong rejection of the Indian occupation by the millions of Kashmiris locked in what many called, “world’s largest prison”. Imagine the scale of Kashmiris resentment and rejection of Indian occupation that warranted such extra-ordinary measures to suppress, and a complete exclusion of journalists to hide.
All along Jammu Kashmir history, what has remained constant is the centrality of UN resolutions, a committed determination of the Kashmiri people to fight Indian occupation; and an Indian repetition of its tried, tested and failed strategy of trying to neutralize Kashmiris freedom struggle with sheer force in complete disregard to human rights.
Kashmiris’ struggle for self-determination is the voice of their hearts. For that they have a made huge sacrifices and suffered indescribable atrocities generation after generation. In last thirty years, over 100,000 civilians were martyred, thousands of women raped and houses burnt; and then those young Kashmiris who disappeared, only for their parents to get the news of discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves; graves that do not reveal who is buried in them.
A European Parliament resolution of July 2008 had called for independent and impartial investigations into the reports of hundreds of unmarked graves found in IOK. In the same resolution, The European Parliament had also condemned the unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture and rape since 1989. That resolution was passed in 2008, a month before the mammoth Muzaffarabad Rally, whose images surprised the world by sheer size of it.
A European Parliament resolution of July 2008 had called for independent and impartial investigations into the reports of hundreds of unmarked graves found in IOK
That was 2008, and 12 years down the line, in 2018, UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights reported that, “while Indian-Administered Kashmir has experienced waves of protests in the past—in the late 1980s to early 1990s, 2008 and 2010—this current round of protests appears to involve more people than the past.
The biggest testimony of failure of New Delhi’s policy of ‘silencing by suppression’ lies in its own deployment of over 700,000 security personnel in IOK, now for decades. To that number another 180,000 were added in the run up to its 5 August decision. The reality of Kashmiris rejection of occupation and their commitment to freedom is much bigger than what words and claims can hide.
The voice of Kashmiris must be known to everybody in the world, and to make it heard and understood is the responsibility of all the peace and freedom loving people in the world. Helping their voice heard to the world and their rights, including the right to self determination delivered to them, is not a matter of choice, but a matter of responsibility.