A Tragic Anniversary

On Friday October 27th, 2006, Kashmiri-Canadians from coast-to-coast and Kashmiris all across the world observed 59th anniversary of occupation of Kashmir as a “Black-Day.” It was exactly fifty-nine years ago, on October 27th, 1947, when the Indian troops invaded and occupied a sovereign nation of Jammu and Kashmir by deception and fraud. The government of India proclaimed that her forces would help to restore normalcy in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and allow the people to exercise their right of self-determination in accordance with their freely expressed will, unhindered by any threat of internal disorder or external aggression.

Fraudulently, India did the exact opposite –” those who have followed developments in Kashmir know that the ongoing struggle for freedom began in 1931 when the people came out in open revolt against the autocratic and tyrannical regime; they had nearly succeeded in over-throwing the regime when India stepped in to take its place in 1947 –” throughout the past fifty-nine years, New Delhi has been persistently working in a highly sophisticated manner to strengthen its grip over the occupied area by means – fair and foul – unmindful of its constitutional commitment that the future of the state shall be determined by the people of Jammu and Kashmir in a UN sponsored plebiscite.

Since October 1989, the mass uprising has taken firm roots and the entire population is in revolt against alien rule. What started as a peaceful protest movement has worsened by the brutal and sustained oppression of the Indian occupation forces to silence each and every individual voice demanding implementation of the UN resolutions promising them the right of self-determination. It has resulted in crackdowns, house-to-house searches; rape; disappearance; arbitrary detentions; custodial killings; extra-judicial executions; politically motivated carnage; looting and plunder, and extended curbs on political activities.

The disputed region is the densest and the largest militarily occupied area of the world. During the past 17 years, 700,000 strong Indian troops have killed more than 98,000 Kashmiris; thousands have disappeared; torture has left thousands paralysed; thousands of young and old women have been raped; property worth hundreds of millions dollars has been destroyed and the suffering and devastation continues unabated. By making Kashmir a garrison area, India simply cannot hope to resolve the issue.

There is not a single family in Kashmir that has not experienced the cruel acts of the Indian occupation forces, which has sadly drawn no significant attention from the international community, including Canada. The fact remains that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are politically alienated and disaffected.

No self-respecting people can be expected to remain unmoved while their families and friends are being killed, tortured and gang raped, their houses burnt down, their businesses destroyed and humiliation of the worst kind heaped upon them through the instrument of state terrorism.

The Kashmiri people are yearning for peace and freedom; they want to live in dignity like other peoples of the world. However, they want a just and dignified peace that guarantees total freedom from foreign occupation and alien domination. A peaceful settlement based on justice and recognition of the right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to decide their own future can guarantee a lasting solution to this longstanding conflict and a durable peace in the region.

The fact of the matter is that systematic human rights abuses against civilians have further intensified since India and Pakistan signed the “Islamabad Agreement” in January 2004 on the sideline of the SAARC Summit. Over two-dozen innocent civilians are killed every week by the occupying troops to silence the people’s demand for freedom, justice and respect for human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Moreover, last May during his visit to Srinagar, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a promise to the people of the disputed region that there will be “zero tolerance” for human rights violations committed by the Army, paramilitary forces and border security police in Kashmir. Regrettably, the killing continues; the promise of “zero tolerance” did not end it –” but intensified it.

Unfortunately, impunity has become a licence for the Indian occupation forces to wreak havoc with the lives of Kashmiris. No perpetrator has ever been prosecuted in a real manner, despite the fact that such crimes have been extensively documented by many international human rights organisations. The recently published 156-page report by a leading New York-based Human Rights Watch warns: “Kashmiris continue to live in constant fear because perpetrators of abuses are not punished…”

The over-hyped peace process and talks at the highest level are meaningless unless human rights violations ends and perpetrators operating under the cover of impunity are brought to justice. Mere polished statements of “zero tolerance” towards the human rights violations will not change the situation. The ground reality cannot be eluded by lustrous statements, but by tangible actions that the people of Kashmir are yet to witness.

Bilateralism has miserably failed to deliver a political settlement of the Kashmir imbroglio or peace between the rivals, because the Kashmir issue is not a territorial or bilateral dispute, it is about the future of the 15 million people, and it does not constitute an un-demarcated frontier between India and Pakistan which could be marked through bilateral negotiations between New Delhi and Islamabad. The disputed Jammu and Kashmir is inhabited by a people with their own history of independence, their own language and culture, their own individuality; it is not real estate, which can be parcelled out between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

The idea of "demilitarisation and self-governance as a final resolution" or "formalising the status quo and greater autonomy" is an exercise in futility. The Kashmiri people will never compromise their right of self-determination. Their struggle to achieve that right of self-determination will not be extinguished until India and Pakistan accept its exercise by the people of Jammu and Kashmir, through what the Security Council has called a “United Nations supervised plebiscite.”

The right of self-determination, enshrined in Article 1 of the United Nations Charter, is the principle on which the whole system of international relations is based. It is the most basic collective right of all people and nations, and the indispensable foundation of all individual human rights.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights imposes specific obligations on all nations not only in relation to their own population but vis-à-vis all people, who have not been able to exercise, or have been deprived of the possibility of exercising their right to self-determination. It urges nations to take positive action to facilitate the realisation of, and respect for the right of people to self-determination.

The 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, the 1994 Social Summit in Copenhagen, the Millennium Summit 2000 and the UN World Summit 2005 have all affirmed the right of all people to self-determination in situations of foreign occupation and alien domination.

In accordance with their obligations under the UN Charter and the International Covenants, the world community should play a positive role to enable the people of Jammu & Kashmir to exercise their right of self-determination and to end their suffering and deprivation.

Today, the unfortunate tragedy with Kashmir situation is that some “special interest groups” inside and outside Kashmir are vigorously advocating “self-rule” or “greater autonomy” as a final solution. Disregarding the unprecedented sacrifices and suffering experienced by the people against this volte-face in terms of death and destruction, life and property, torture and persecution, rape and repression over the years, particularly during the past 17 years, is much too great to go unrewarded. They have certainly not offered themselves for such destruction and tragedy, only to be driven back to square one. Thus whenever there is talk of “self-rule” or “greater autonomy” as a “final solution” it adds salt to an already open wound. But the large majority of people have rejected it and the ground reality is very encouraging as the people are determined to achieve freedom, therefore, the struggle is in full momentum and the demand for a UN supervised plebiscite is at an all-time high.

The conflict in Kashmir is a “political” and “human” tragedy, but the world community, including India and Pakistan, have overlooked this critically important human dimension of the issue. The Kashmiris’ demand is simple and in accordance with the international law: the implementation of the United Nations resolutions for a plebiscite to determine the future status of the disputed region in a peaceful and democratic way. Whatever the outcome, it will be impartial and binding for all three parties –” India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir.

The cause for which the people of Kashmir are struggling is a just one, and deserves support from all those who cherish justice and peace.