The barbaric situation in Bosnia, Kosovo, Syria and elsewhere has outraged the world and caused regrets that the enormous toll of human lives was not averted by timely action at an earlier stage. The failure of the international community can be explained but not denied. Yet in another part of the globe — the India-occupied Kashmir — atrocities of a similar pattern have been, and are being, perpetrated with no fear of a corrective international response. To date, no one power or combination of powers has blown the whistle.
The Kashmir question is one of the oldest unresolved international disputes in the world. The issue has been pending on the agenda of the Security Council since 1948. At that point, an agreement took place between India and Pakistan, endorsed by the United Nations that guarantees the right to self-determination to the people of Jammu & Kashmir. The people of Kashmir who have never lost hope in the United Nations have since that date sought to freely exercise their right to self-determination. India, however, was soon undeceived of its delusions over Kashmir’s political yearning. Recognizing that its people would never freely vote accession to India, it contrived excuse after excuse to frustrate a plebiscite. India’s proclamation has never been accepted by the United Nations, which continues to list Kashmir as a disputed territory.
The seeming conspiracy of silence over gross affronts to the UDHR in India-occupied Kashmir, an occupation which itself violates still binding United Nations Security Council resolutions, is worrisome. That unheroic muteness has emboldened India to a chilling campaign of human rights atrocities against innocent Kashmiris. The 900,000 Indian military and paramilitary forces operate outside the rule of law under the protective umbrella of an Indian immunity statute. Egregious human rights violations are commonplaces: involuntary disappearances, extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, plunder, abductions, mutilations, arbitrary detentions, etc. It is even a crime to advocate implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions, a shocking affront to the Security Council itself.
Every human rights organizations that has witnessed the gruesome Kashmiri scene are shocked. The atrocities pale in comparison to East Timor or Southern Sudan. India’s leaders are guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggressive war on a scale vastly greater than Slobodan Milosevic and his sub-villains. But they don’t make the same impact because India is adamant against unchaperoned broadcast and media journalists from abroad. Thus, no CNN or BBC heart clutching pictures to move the world. Kashmir is thus reduced to an insignificant inkblot on the map. New York based Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) has reported that the news media in Kashmir have been pushed to the brink of extinction. According to expert consensus, Kashmir is the most densely soldiered and most nuclear combustible territory on the planet. It stands apart as the most cantankerous of conflicts, with the catastrophic possibility of nuclear devastation. After all India and Pakistan have fought three wars and nearly began a fourth with the ever-present threat of nuclear exchange.
The lesson of history — both old and new — is that peace is impossible if a people or nation is treated as a negotiable pawn by big powers. The most harrowing example is appeasement of Hitler at the expense of the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia. Self-determination, despite big power politics, has blossomed into a pivotal element in international relations in recent times. It has proven the key to resolving long festering disputes and unforgiving conflicts. Exemplary have been Namibia, East Timor, Eritrea. Kosovo, Montenegro, Southern Sudan, etc. In each case, self-determination was fuelled by oppressive rule, whether foreign or otherwise. They also derived strength from international law and resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. Let us hope that the stage is set to put the Kashmir conflict on a road to a durable and permanent settlement.
It is time that UN Secretary General intercedes in the disputed territory (so listed by the United Nations), appoint a special envoy on Kashmir, and, insist that the genuine political voice of the Kashmiri people, be a full partner in all negotiations over Kashmir’s political destiny. As Dr Syed Nazir Gilani, President, JKCHR, has advocated it well that “The ‘gross and systematic violation of human rights’, continued non-compliance of UN Charter obligations and occupation of a people waiting for a UN supervised Plebiscite, makes a strong case of intervention.” —Concluded
—The writer is the Secretary General of World Kashmir Awareness Forum.