by Tahir Mahmoud (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 7, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1437)
India’s occupation forces—most of them adherents of a racist Hindu ideology akin to Nazism—are continuing the killing and maiming of Kashmiri youth. The people of Kashmir have had enough; they want India to get out of Kashmir!
The August 15 flag-raising fiasco in Srinagar when the puppet chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tried to unfurl the Indian flag that came tumbling down to the ground perhaps symbolized the grim reality of Kashmir under Indian occupation. The date marks India’s independence day but Kashmir is not part of India. The fiasco proved highly embarrassing for both Ms. Mufti as well as the Indians. It seems even nature wanted to expose the Indian claim that Kashmir is its “integral part.”
If this was not embarrassing enough, it was surpassed by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nonsensical statement of August 8 when he said he would like to see Kashmiri boys with cell phones and laptops in their hands instead of stones. Is Modi unaware that the Indian occupation forces have shut down all internet and cell phone services in Kashmir to prevent the truth about atrocities from being communicated to the outside world? As if this was not surreal enough, Modi went a step further five days later when he told opposition leaders that he would engage the Kashmiri political leadership only after peace and calm were restored in Kashmir.
Unlike Mehbooba Mufti serving at the pleasure of Indian occupiers, the genuine Kashmiri leadership is not interested in exercises to please the oppressors. They have been down that road many times before only to find that India’s Hindu rulers are duplicitous liars. After all, did India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru not promise repeatedly that a referendum would be held in Kashmir? Nehru enjoys much higher status than Modi on India’s political totem pole.
Let us quote from Nehru’s first pledge of November 2, 1947 on Jammu and Kashmir soon after the dispute arose, “We have decided that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given, and the Majaraja [Hari Singh who had already fled the state the previous month amid the people’s uprising against his prevarications about joining Pakistan] has supported it, not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not, and cannot back out of it. We are prepared, when peace and law and order have been established to have a referendum under international auspices like the United Nation.” Nehru was to repeat this pledge on numerous other occasions whether in communications with his Pakistani counterpart, Liaquat Ali Khan or in his letters to the UN.
That a plebiscite (referendum) would be held in Jammu and Kashmir was also enshrined in several Security Council resolutions namely, UNSC resolution 38 (January 17, 1948); UNSC resolution 39 (January 20, 1948); UNSC resolution 47 (April 21, 1948); UN Commission for India and Pakistan resolution dated August 13, 1948; reaffirmed on November 9, 1948; UNSC resolution 91 presented to Council on March 30, 1951, its decision of April 30, 1951 and resolution 96 adopted on November 10, 1951.
What could be clearer than this; however, Indian rulers starting with Nehru who went back on his own public pledges, now parrot the nonsensical claim that Kashmir is an “integral part” of India. Historically, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has never been part of India and it is not part of India even today regardless of how many cow dung piles Indian rulers stand on and make assertions to the contrary. Culturally, politically, and even geographically, Kashmir is more intimately linked with Pakistan than India.
The peace and quiet that Modi wants to offer the Kashmiris is that of the graveyard. After all, since July 9 when the latest uprising burst out instantaneously following the extrajudicial killing of the young charismatic leader of the freedom movement, Burhan Wani (he was only 22 when gunned down by the Indian occupation forces), nearly 80 civilians have been murdered in cold blood. There is round the clock curfew in large parts of Kashmir. Despite the presence of 700,000 heavily armed troops, India has had to withdraw the bulk of its forces from South Kashmir and concentrate them in cities like Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramula, Batamaloo and other urban centres to control the protests, to evident failure.
Ambulances taking the injured to hospital are attacked; hospitals are raided and patients abducted from their beds. Even universities and colleges are not safe as the case of a young Kashmiri Professor Shabbir Ahmed showed. He was abducted from his house in the middle of the night and his badly beaten and tortured body was handed over to his family the next morning. Such killings are routine; no one is safe including a three-year-old child shot and killed by the unruly mob that goes for the Indian Reserve Police Force that admitted on August 19 to beating the young professor to death.
In a new twist, the Indian occupation forces have resorted to pellet guns that spray hundreds of rubber-coated steel pellets at the victims. These are considered to be “non-lethal” weapons. There is nothing non-lethal about them; hundreds of Kashmiri youth have been blinded when hit by such pellets. Additionally, more than 6,000 others including children, have been injured, according to Reuters and AFP reports from Srinagar (August 18). Such attacks constitute war crimes.
As an occupying power, India is legally obliged to provide protection to people under its occupation instead of killing, wounding, and maiming them. Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations as well as Article 2 of the Four Geneva Conventions (1949) establish India’s position as an occupying power. Similarly, the UN Charter as well as the law jus ad bellum reaffirm this. Far from fulfilling its obligations under International Humanitarian Law, India is guilty of gross violations of the basic rights of the Kashmiri people.
Indian crimes have not gone unnoticed even if the level of international opprobrium of Delhi’s atrocious conduct is not commensurate with the severity of its crimes. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed deep concern over the killings of innocent Kashmiris as have the US and British governments. The UN Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) response was quite disappointing.
On August 5, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wrote separate letters to the UN chief as well as High Commissioner of UNHRC, Prince Zayd Ra‘d Aal Husayn (he is from Jordan). In his response to the Pakistani prime minister, Ban again expressed concern over the killings and offered his good offices to facilitate a dialogue between India and Pakistan. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s position was a cop out.
He issued a statement that he had offered to send a fact-finding mission to both Indian Occupied Kashmir as well as Azad Kashmir to independently verify the situation on the ground but “both countries rejected it.” There are two problems with this. First, Pakistan did not refuse a visit by the UNHCR team; India did. Perhaps, his “highness” has not bothered to read the report prepared by his own office. Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria confirmed that Islamabad had no objection to a visit by the UNHCR team but urged the Council to take serious note of the dire situation in Indian occupied Kashmir.
Second, there is no equivalency between what is underway in Indian occupied Kashmir — the brutal killings of innocent civilians and rape of women — and Azad Kashmir where people are not up in arms. They have neither been killed nor molested. So why is Prince Zayd so blind to the reality of what is going on in Indian Occupied Kashmir; is he trying to please somebody? If so, he is not fit to occupy the post. Indian crimes against the Kashmiris are well documented. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as numerous Indian Human Rights organizations have provided extensive coverage to these crimes. India is guilty of state terrorism as well as crimes against humanity. The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) program coordinator, Khurram Parvez, has been a vocal critic of Indian crimes.
The JKCCS report of 2015, Structures of Violence, gives the total number of deployed Indian forces in Kashmir. The group’s estimate is that anywhere between 650,000 to 750,000 armed personnel are deployed in Jammu and Kashmir. “You can’t have a prison-like reality in Kashmir and expect its people to be silent,” he told the Indian news portal Scroll.in (July 21, 2016). When told that unlike other Indian states, Kashmir was in the grip of militancy, Parvez shot back, “According to government figures, there were only 150 militants in the state last year (2015). Do you need 700,000 soldiers to fight 150 militants?” He went on, “India refuses to allow international intervention in Kashmir. It refuses to accept it is an armed or even non-armed conflict — these are technical terms. Instead, India claims it is an internal law and order problem. But the [Indian] media calls it a Pakistan-sponsored proxy war.”
Instead of protecting the Kashmiri people as part of its obligations as an occupying power, India’s 700,000-strong occupation force has been involved in horrendous crimes subjecting them to collective punishments. These include not only mass killings (since 1989, at least 100,000 people have been killed), but also the rape of more than 11,000 Kashmiri women and young girls.
Despite such egregious crimes, few if any of the perpetrators have been punished. For instance, according to a May 2015 study by the Department of Forensics and Toxicology, Government Medical College Srinagar, in collaboration with the Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes, an NGO working for crimes against women, there were some 3,500 registered cases of rape in 2014 (the actual number is much higher but given the stigma attached to rape, many women suffer in silence without reporting it). Only one person was charged with the offence. Under such circumstances, women and girls are extremely reluctant to report rape cases (http://www.kmsnews.org/news/2016/05/11/data-says-only-one-out-of-3500-sexual-assault-cases-decided.html)
In 2015, there were more than 3,935 registered cases of rape in Kashmir. The perpetrators have always been Indian occupation troops, whether members of the regular armed forces, the Border Security Force, the Central Reserve Police Force or regular police. They are, however, provided protection by a bill, called the “Armed Forces Special Powers Act.” First passed by the Indian Parliament in 1958 for Indian military operations in northeast India (Manipur), it was extended to Kashmir in 1991. Under the Act, the armed forces have blanket immunity and cannot be charged with any crime, no matter how serious, when they are involved in anti-insurgency operations.
Whenever there is escalation of people’s protests in response to the occupation troops’ brutality, India immediately accuses Pakistan of instigating it. The latest eruption of July 9 was no exception. While Pakistan has deep interests in the future of Kashmir, seeing India’s occupation as a serious breach of the partition plan that was agreed to by both countries, the issue is much more than a dispute between two states. At the root lies the fundamental right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to determine their own future as enshrined in several Security Council resolutions that remain on UN statute books to this day.
Let us examine the Indian allegation of Pakistani involvement. The latest uprising occurred in the immediate aftermath of the execution-style killing of the young Kashmiri freedom fighter Burhan Wani. Does Pakistan have so much influence that it can mobilize hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris and bring them out into the streets in a few hours?
Pakistani support to the Kashmiris is limited political, diplomatic, and moral. Islamabad would be perfectly within its right as well as the UN Charter to extend military support. The UN Charter allows people under occupation to resist their occupiers by “any means necessary” including taking up arms. And other states are allowed — indeed encouraged — to assist such people. On November 30, 1970, the UN General Assembly Resolution 2649 “affirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples under colonial and alien domination recognised as being entitled to the right of self determination to restore to themselves that right by any means at their disposal.”
Debates at the UN explicitly recognised that “any means at their disposal,” includes armed struggle. The resolution also “recognises the right” of such peoples “to seek and receive all kinds of moral and material assistance” in the “legitimate exercise of their right to self-determination.”
Pakistan has repeatedly called upon India to honour its pledges made to the UN, to the global community and to the people of Kashmir to hold a referendum. India has stubbornly refused to do so. Instead, it has unleashed a reign of terror. This not only entitles the Kashmiris to resort to armed struggle but also for outsides powers to assist them in their legitimate struggle to overthrow the yoke of colonialism. Indian militarism and brutalities must be exposed.
On July 28, more than 850 academics, writers, and novelists published an open letter in the Guardian newspaper of Britain demanding that India must end state violence in Kashmir. The signatories included such well known figures as Professor Noam Chomsky (MIT), international Writer Gillian Slovo, academic Nitasha Kaul (University of Westminster, London), Indian writers Meena Kandasamy and Madhushree Mukherjee, and novelists Mirza Waheed and Kamila Shamsie and 850 others (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/28/indian-state-must-end-its-violence-in-kashmir).
Two factors will influence India to see reason and fulfill its obligations to the Kashmiri people: intense international pressure and escalation of the cost of India’s continued occupation. While not much can be expected in the first, the price of India’s occupation can be increased through boycott of Indian goods, exposure of its crimes and protests outside Indian diplomatic missions worldwide to make them feel that they are unwelcome because of their atrocious conduct in Kashmir.
Justice-loving people around the world must lend support to this campaign. The Kashmiris should not be left alone or made to feel that they have been abandoned. India can and must be forced to leave Kashmir. The Kashmiris have had enough of Indian brutalities. They want the yoke of Indian colonialism off their backs — now. They are not going to wait for another 70 years.