by Khadijah Ali
In what must be a first in Canadian history, the Canadian Peace Alliance (CPA), an umbrella group of more than 550 organizations across Canada unanimously approved a resolution presented by the Friends of Kashmir calling for referendum in Kashmir.
In what must be a first in Canadian history, a leading peace group in Canada has unanimously endorsed a resolution supporting the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.
The Canadian Peace Alliance (CPA), an umbrella group of more than 550 student and labour organizations across Canada, unanimously approved a resolution in the final session of its three-day convention endorsing the right of the Kashmiri people to a referendum to determine their own future. The convention held at Ryerson University in Toronto opened on January 17 and ended on January 19.
The Friends of Kashmir, an umbrella group of supporters of the people Kashmir in Canada, had submitted a resolution to the CPA convention. The resolution was accepted and the Friends of Kashmir were invited to make a presentation to the delegates. On January 18, Dr. Azrab Khan and Khawaja Rafiq Shad made a powerful presentation before the delegates. They also showed a video presentation of Indian atrocities against innocent civilians moving many participants to tears.
The scale and level of brutality witnessed in the video shook many delegates. Many expressed dismay that a country — India — claiming to be the “largest democracy” in the world should indulge in such crimes. These have remained largely hidden from the world public because the Indian-doting Western media refuses to report on these atrocities. Through the efforts of organizations like the Friends of Kashmir and their allies in such peace organizations as the Canadian Peace Alliance, this wall of silence is gradually being demolished.
While an important step in the information campaign about the plight of the Kashmiris, the adoption of the resolution does not mean that India will cease its atrocities against the Kashmiris or that it would abide by its international obligations. Far from it, but the struggle to get the truth out must continue in order to mobilize world public opinion.
The brazenness of Indian attitude and its callousness toward the plight of the Kashmiris was demonstrated within days of the CPA convention resolution. An Indian military court on January 23 exonerated five Indian army officers involved in the killing of five Kashmiri civilians 14 years ago. “It is a living example of lawlessness and state terrorism, a slap in the face of the Kashmiri people whose lives have no value for the Indian army,” said Syed Ali Geelani, leader of the All-Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC) of Kashmir in a statement to the media on January 24.
Text of resolution on the right of self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir unanimously adopted by The Canadian Peace Alliance (CPA), January 19, 2014
The Canadian Peace Alliance,
• Having regard to the ongoing human rights violations in Kashmir, in particular those highlighted in the International People’s Tribunal for Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir (IPTK), and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) on December 6, 2012,
• Having regard to United Nations Security Council resolutions to determine the future of Jammu and Kashmir through a free and impartial plebiscite (referendum), namely UNSC resolution 47 (1948); UNSC resolution 51 (1948); UNSC resolution 80 (1950); UNSC resolution 91 (1951),
• Having regard to the repeated pledges made by Indian officials at the highest level including Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru to the people of Kashmir to allow them to decide their own future through a plebiscite, in particular the statements by Nehru in October 1947 and 1951, that “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given… 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 order have been established to have a referendum held under the auspices of the UN,”
• Having regard to the escalating tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan on the Line of Control in Kashmir,
1. Whereas the human rights situation of the people of Kashmir has continued to deteriorate;
2. Whereas egregious crimes are being perpetrated against defenceless civilians, particularly women, more than 10,000 of whom have been gang raped;
3. Whereas not one Indian civilian or security official has been arrested, much less prosecuted for such crimes;
4. Whereas the culture of impunity has continued as per the Dec. 6, 2012 report of the IPTK and APDP;
5. Whereas India maintains an army of occupation of more than 700,000 in Indian-held Kashmir;
Be it, therefore, resolved that:
1. India must cease forthwith all human rights violations against the people of Kashmir;
2. Calls on the government of India to allow UN observers to monitor the human rights situation, to establish responsibility and determine appropriate punishment for the perpetrators of such heinous crimes that are against the Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Laws;
3. Calls on India to withdraw all its armed personnel from Kashmir, particularly from cities, towns and villages so that the people can resume normal life;
4. Calls on India to abide by all United Nations Security Council resolutions to hold a referendum in Kashmir so that the people can determine their own future free from threats or coercion;
5. Calls on the United Nations to assume its responsibility of organizing a referendum by appointing international monitors to arrange, facilitate and conduct such a referendum;
6. Calls on the Canadian government to exert pressure on the government of India to fulfil its international obligations with regards to Kashmir;
7. Calls on the Canadian media to highlight the continued suffering of the Kashmiri people;
8. Calls on all Canadians to remain engaged with this tragic situation where the rights of 17 million Kashmiris have been violated for more than six decades by denying them the fundamental right to hold a referendum to determine their own future.
The Canadian Peace Alliance will continue to remain engaged with and cognizant of the suffering of the Kashmiri people and their demand for a referendum so that this ongoing dispute can be resolved peacefully.
There were immediate protests in Srinagar, capital of Indian-occupied Kashmir where India maintains 300,000 troops. With a total population of one million, Srinagar is the most militarized city in the world with one soldier for every three civilians. There are 700,000 Indian occupation troops in the state that have indulged in gruesome crimes against the Kashmiris. More than 100,000 Kashmiris have been murdered in cold blood since 1989. Thousands of Kashmiris have simply disappeared and at least 10,000 women have been raped by occupation troops.
There has, however, been no accounting whatsoever of these crimes. The case involves five Kashmiri civilians killed in Pathribal village days after the massacre of 35 Sikhs in a remote village of Chattisinghpora in May 2000. As is their wont, the army claimed the victims were “foreign militants,” accusing them of being responsible for the massacre. A subsequent probe by India’s top investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), however, described the killings as “cold blooded murder,” paving the way for a trial in a military court held behind closed doors.
The five military officers were cleared on January 23 as “the evidence recorded could not establish a prima facie case against any of the accused persons,” according to an army statement. In its verdict, the tribunal did not dispute the CBI’s findings that the victims were civilians but it added that they were killed during an operation “based on specific intelligence.” This is the kind of justification that has been used carte blanche by Indian occupation troops to continue with murdering civilians in cold blood.
Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization said the verdict was an example of the culture of “impunity” in Kashmir. “Perhaps it isn’t surprising that the army, after deciding to investigate its own alleged abuses, has given itself a clean chit,” said Amnesty’s Christine Mehta. Pervez Imroz, a Kashmir-based rights lawyer, said it was “yet another display of absolute impunity the Indian army continues to enjoy.”
The Kashmiris are all too familiar with this kind of behavior yet they are not prepared to let their rights be forgotten, hence their struggle to reach out to any forum, any organization anywhere in the world to seek support for their just cause.
Last month’s CPA convention in Toronto and unanimous adoption of the resolution in support of the people of Kashmir is an important step in this direction. More work needs to be done to expose Indian crimes against innocent Kashmiri civilians and to secure their rights recognized under International Law and confirmed by numerous Security Council resolutions.