Sunday, 15 July 2012

HELL IN PARADISE: `KASHMIR`


Kashmir is one of the worst neglected cases of humanitarian crisis. Kashmir – best known as the sore point of relations between Pakistan and India and perhaps the biggest concern of becoming a nuclear flashpoint between the two countries. Two wars and one low intensity conflict have been fought over Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Violence in Kashmir has engulfed hundreds and thousands of innocent Kashmir’s in the last six decades. The history of violence in Kashmir began in 1931, when Kashmiris started taking a stand against the autocratic rule of the Dogras. It was immensely aggravated again when Maharaja Hari Singh, at the time of partition in 1947, acceded to India instead of Pakistan without the consent of its Muslim-dominated population and hence setting the benchmark for instability and violence seen in years to follow.

Kashmir’s accession to India also laid the foundation of the so-called “freedom struggle” of the Kashmiri people against the clutches of Indian brutality. After the first Indo-Pak war of 1947-1948, it was India that went to the UN for the resolution of the Kashmir problem but conveniently played off upon the UNSC resolution no. 47 which called for the resolution of Kashmir according to the wishes and desires of its people. Nehru even publicly stated in 1948 that the Kashmiri people should have a plebiscite to confirm or deny their accession to India but even that promise which the Indians had made themselves was placed in cold storage. He would repeat this promise time and again in various speeches from 1947-1951 and the 1948 Indian White Paper clearly records that the accession of Kashmir to India is provisional until such time as the will of the people(self-determination) of the State could be ascertained by a plebiscite.  Moreover, in the Simla Agreement signed between Pakistan and India in 1972, it was decided that the issues between the two countries would be solved bilaterally and a third party would not be involved.  But alas, Indians could not even fulfill this commitment despite Pakistan’s insistence.



A new dimension of Kashmiri freedom struggle was seen in 1989 and years following, when the young Kashmir’s took to the streets against the Indian brutality that had followed since 1947. Indian officials blamed Pakistan for this fresh wave of struggle, simply ignoring the fact that in 1987 nearly 10,000 university graduates were unemployed, and between 40,000 and 50,000 school graduates suffered from unemployment. Reportedly, there were between January 1 and January 19, 1990, 319 violent acts, 21 armed attacks, 114 bomb blasts, 112 arsons, and 72 incidents of mob violence, committed by the Indian soldiers. These ground realities were ignored by the Indian authorities because it was easier to blame Pakistan for supporting the uprising then actually doing anything about it. Even the governments that operated in Kashmir were seen as mere puppets dancing on Indian strings. Much to the Indian propaganda it should be well understood that although Pakistan has always supported Kashmiri freedom struggle but it has been more of a moral support than a physical one.


In the first decade of the 21st century, India has been somewhat successful in downplaying the problem of Kashmir and also in claiming that the insurgency has decreased and so have the military operations but the facts prove otherwise. Moreover, India also tried to interlace the freedom struggle of Kashmir to terrorism, especially after 9/11 and has put immense pressure on Pakistan as the world community has been intolerant to terrorism.  At UNGA, President Musharraf of Pakistan observed: ‘the just struggles of a people for self-determination and liberation from colonial or foreign occupation’ cannot be outlawed in the name of terrorism.” India had consistently accused Pakistan of waging a “proxy war”, a “low intensity conflict’ and ‘cross-border terrorism’ in IHK. Pakistan even went ahead and in 2004, at the end of SAARC summit in Islamabad said in a joint statement with India “the resumption of the composite dialogue will lead to peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir”. Islamabad agreed that it “would not permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used to support terrorism in any manner.” What Indians have failed to comprehend is that the public support from Pakistan to the Kashmiri people is also because of the religious bond they share. The religion of Islam that binds the Muslims together as brothers and sisters, the Pakistanis can not see their sufferings, hence the support.


Upon the lack of interest of the international community on the problem of Kashmir, some analysts even say that the problem of Kashmir remains unsolved because it doesn’t fulfil anybodies agenda and the international community does not want to interfere or try to solve the constant volcano between Pakistan and India.


The human rights abuses have been ignored by the international press for the most part. The case of fake encounters, extra judicial killings, unmarked graves, disappearances, shooting of civilians and dishonor of women has been more or less ignored by the press.  Indian security forces are allowed to shoot civilians under the authority of laws such as the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, which allow lethal force to be used “against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area.”


Indian security forces are also bound by international human rights law, such as is found in the


International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which India ratified in 1979. Human rights


law prohibits extrajudicial executions, torture and other mistreatment, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrest and detention. In 2009, after a visit to India the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay called upon the government to bridge the gap in implementing “national laws and policies that promote and protect human rights and seek to support the most vulnerable.” She also sought the repeal of laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act “that breach contemporary international human rights standards” and encouraged India to welcome the visits of UN special rapporteurs.


On February 23, 2006, soldiers in Handwara shot at a group playing cricket, suspecting that a militant was hiding among them, and killed four boys, including an eight-year-old. Even the army has admitted that the extraordinary powers to shoot have led to “mistakes.” The army described as an “error of judgment”, the July 2005 killing of three teenage boys in Kupwara who had sneaked away to smoke a cigarette at night and were shot without warning by troops. Such mistakes, which are not uncommon, greatly inflame public passions in Jammu and Kashmir.


Moreover, a police investigation in 2011 by the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) found 2,730 bodies dumped into unmarked graves at 38 sites in north Kashmir. A WikiLeaks issue accused India of systemic human rights abuses it stated that US diplomats possessed evidence of the apparent wide spread use of torture by Indian police and security forces. A US state government finding reports that the Indian army in Jammu and Kashmir, has carried out extrajudicial killings of innocent civilians and suspected insurgents, however the report has also mentioned killings and abuse being carried out by insurgents and separatists. According to a state human rights commission inquiry there are thousands of bullet-ridden bodies buried in unmarked graves in Jammu and Kashmir. Of the 2730 bodies uncovered so far 574 bodies were identified as missing locals in contrast to the Indian governments insistence that all the graves belong to foreign militants.  According to the statistics presented in 2010 in Cabinet committee on Security the number of civilians killed in firings by security forces is almost three times the number of those killed by terrorists. A total of 27 civilians have allegedly died in terrorist attacks this year till date, while 68 civilians have died in actions by security forces.


According to Kashmir media service, the total number of Killings in Kashmir by the Indian forces from Jan. 1989 to June 30, 2012 has been


Total Killings                                             93,763
Custodial Killings                                     6 ,994
Civilians Arrested                                120,013
Structures Arson/Destroyed       105,944
Women Widowed                                   22,763
Children Orphaned                             107,436
Women gang-raped / Molested     10,033






The findings appear in the report Facts under Ground, issued on 29 March by the Srinagar-based Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). Since 2006, the graves of at least 940 people are reported to have been discovered in 18 villages in Uri district alone.


The report alleges that more than 8,000 people have gone missing in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989. Amnesty International in 2008 said that , “In Jammu and Kashmir, the state and non-state actors continued to enjoy impunity for torture, deaths in custody, abductions and unlawful killings” and further urged India to investigate hundreds of unidentified graves discovered by human rights researchers, saying they may contain the bodies of innocent people killed by the Indian forces. The European Parliament passed a resolution in 2008, demanding an impartial and transparent probe into the unnamed graves discovered in IOK.   In 2008, thousands of Kashmir’s thronged the streets of major cities of Occupied Kashmir at the call of the All Party Adhoc Committee for Right of Self-determination on October 14, defying the curbs of curfew imposed by Indian forces. In 2009, the Vice Chairman of 9/11 commission Lee Hamilton said, ”United States should support the resolution of the longstanding Jammu and Kashmir Dispute”. In 2009, a US State Department Report criticized India on its policies in IOK. The report underlined that “in Occupied Kashmir 3575 persons died in custody during the past six years.”


In the light of these independent reports, it is pertinent that the problem of Kashmir is solved and that the international community plays its role more than just releasing reports giving statements. It should also be clear that even the international community admits to the fact that the situation in Kashmir is no longer in status-quo and the young Kashmiris are standing up for their rights against the Indian occupation. As the Indians refer to themselves as the biggest democracy in the world, they should also accept and bow to the wishes of the Kashmirs which would ultimately lead to a peaceful solution to the problem and hopefully, peace between Pakistan and India.


Ifrah Wakar is a Student of International Relations at NDU, Islamabad. She can be reached on twitter at @IWpakistani

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