Unheard Voices of Kashmir

Islamabad, Pakistan: On Monday, August 10, 2020, Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR) organized a webinar titled “Humanity Under Siege: Unheard Voices of Kashmir”. The webinar was part of IICR’s exclusive Globe 2020 Series.

A set of diverse scholars were on the panel which included, Maj. Gen Raza Muhammad®, Chairman IICR, Dr. Salma Malik, Assistant professor DSS QAU, Altaf Hussiai Wani, Senior Hurriyat Leader, Turgay Evren, Turkish Poet and human rights activist, Yasir Rehman, Senior TV anchor  and Mr. Ahmed Qureshi, Senior Journalist. The session was moderated by Ms. Sabah Aslam, Founder IICR.

The session was started by the comments from Maj. Gen Raza Muhammad® who highlight new wave of Modism in India which is a mixture of populism and BJP’s extremist ideologies. He inferred that Mr. Modi won’t listen because the person who has scrapped article 35-A from the Indian constitution is determined in his ideas. He further added that the international community is constantly looking the other way when it comes to Kashmir. It is because of the economic relevance of India. Proposing further the chairman IICR said that Pakistan needs to muster international support in a particular manner that the actions shall not be restricted to just statements.

The next on the panel was a poet and human rights activist from Turkey, Mr. Turgay Evern. Taking back to the colonial tactics Mr. Evern said that when British colonized Egypt the first thing they did was incarcerate the storytellers because storytellers tell their people about the legacy of their nation. He said that it is a colonial tactic not to let the pain spread and the same thing is being inflicted by the Indian authorities on the people of Kashmir. Adding further Mr. Evern said that art can be more effective than guns so we need to find artistic ways to tell the world of the anguish which Kashmiri’s are facing and for that we need the mobilization of creativity.

Dr. Salma Malik was next on the panel who highlighted the gendered infliction of violence in Kashmir. She said that despite Indian forces are indulged in indiscriminate violence females are also on crosshair of Indian authorities, mainly because females are generation carriers. She added that there is a need to touch the human nerve in the matter of Kashmir. Dr. Malik added the demographic shift which has been opposed on the people of Kashmir has forced them to resist otherwise Kashmir’s are mellow in their nature. While proposing she said that there is also a need of introspection in Pakistan. it is time that the youth of Pakistan shall be made realize the pain of Kashmiri through soft means i.e. animation and art.

Senior Hurriyat leader Mr. Altaf Hussain Wani while speaking to the panel said that 2019 remains to be one of the darkest years in Kashmir’s recent history in which Kashmiris witnessed an ugly face of India’s neo-colonialism and its consequences that have manifested on the ground in many striking ways. Adding further he said that the year saw the loss of Kashmir’s special status guaranteed to it under article 370 of the Indian constitution and dissolution of the state into two union territories under the so-called Jammu and Kashmir reorganization act 2019.

While sharing the resilience of the Kashmiri people Mr. Wani said that the people of Kashmir have outlived all Indian nefarious designs and draconian laws and they will outlive. We should mobilize all available spaces of art, literature, and storytelling to create awareness among international community  Political leadership of Pakistan and AJK should take steps to United the strength we have in the diaspora to strengthen lobbying. Mr. Wani also Commended the recent moves of the government of Pakistan which show intent in to do something serious for Kashmir.

The next speaker in line was Mr. Yasir Rehman. He stressed that we need a reevaluation and consider the developing ground situation in the valley by Indian forces and world response for Kashmiris or against Kashmiris, then we will come to know in what areas we have succeeded in drum beating & making the World realize. He said that our goal should first be to bring ease in Kashmiri lives, to highlight the issue and make the world take act rather mere lip service because Kashmiris want and need action now.

The last panelist was Ahmed Qureshi. While showing satisfaction over the reaction of world Mr. Qureshi said that Kashmir has now been vocalized internationally as well as nationally as compared to the precious years. He said that prior to 2016 the issue was not in light and there was practically no work on Kashmir by international media whereas after 2016 there had been a swift shift and the world started to look at the Kashmir issue. He further added that previously the issue of Kashmir was even politicized in Pakistan however now there seems to have a national consensus on the issue now. Recommending further Mr. Qureshi added that there needs to have a new approach to reach the areas where Pakistan is lacking.

The session was then followed by a question and answer session and concluding remarks by Ms. Sabah Aslam. The webinar was attended by a diverse audience including, students, scholars, academics and senior professionals.