On October 27, 2008, Kashmiri-Canadians from coast-to-coast and Kashmiris all over the world observed 61st anniversary of Indian invasion of Kashmir as a “Black-Day.” It was exactly 61 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 the right of self-determination in accordance with their freely expressed will, unhindered by any threat of internal disorder or external aggression.
Deceitfully, India did the exact opposite –” those who have followed developments in Kashmir know that the ongoing struggle for freedom began in 1931 when people came out in open revolt against then autocratic and tyrannical regime; they had nearly succeeded in over-throwing the regime when India stepped in to take its place in 1947, faced with stiff resistance from the locals New Delhi transformed Kashmir into a purely military cantonment, killing hundreds of civilians.
The first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir broke out in 1947. In 1948 India took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations Security Council, which constituted a special commission –” the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan –” with the mandate to independently investigate the matter and help the contending parties reach a negotiated settlement. The most important outcome of the deliberations of the commission were two resolutions passed by the Security Council on August 13th, 1948 and January 15th, 1949 respectively, calling upon the governments of India and Pakistan to hold a free, fair and impartial plebiscite under UN auspices in order to enable the people of Kashmir to decide whether they wanted to join India or Pakistan.
This was followed by commitments on the part of the Indian leadership to allow the people of Kashmir to determine their future. In a statement to the Indian parliament on February 12th, 1951, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said: “We had given our pledge to the people of Kashmir and subsequently to the United Nations. We stood by it and we stand by it today. Let the people of Kashmir decide.”
Failing to legalise its occupation fraudulently, on August 9th, 1953, New Delhi arrested then prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir and popular leader Sheikh Abdullah in a coup d’Ã©tat –” the occupying forces killed more than 1,500 defenceless Kashmiris to silence the massive revolt against its occupation. Since then, India has tried to gradually strengthen its grip over the occupied region by means fair and foul unmindful of its constitutional commitment about the future status of the occupied state.
1987’s rigged elections and India’s refusal to honour her commitment about the right of self-determination pushed the people of Kashmir from “passive resistance” to “militancy” against state-sponsored terrorism.
India’s latest attempt to change the demography of the state followed by economic blockade against the people of Kashmir backfired, triggering huge tsunami of protests across Kashmir, chanting: “we want freedom,” a classic people’s movement. The Indian occupation forces fired indiscriminately on the protesters, killing hundreds of civilians, including a senior freedom movement leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz and injuring thousands more.
Spontaneous and massive tsunami of protests all across Kashmir has reinvigorated the freedom movement. For the first time in Indian history, the opinion makers and community leaders have spoken publicly against New Delhi’s Kashmir policy and urged politicians to let the people of Kashmir decide their own future. Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar wrote for The Times of India on Sunday, August 17th, 2008, Independence Day for Kashmir: “On August 15, India celebrated independence from the British Raj. But Kashmiris staged a bandh demanding independence from India. A day symbolising the end of colonialism in India became a day symbolising Indian colonialism in the Valley… I was once hopeful of Kashmir’s integration, but after six decades of effort, Kashmiri alienation looks greater than ever… The British insisted for a long time that India was an integral part of their Empire, the jewel in its crown, and would never be given up. Imperialist Blimps remained in denial for decades. I fear we are in similar denial on Kashmir… democracy in Kashmir has been a farce for most of six decades… We promised Kashmiris a plebiscite six decades ago. Let us hold one now, and give them three choices: independence, union with Pakistan, and union with India. Almost certainly the Valley will opt for independence.”
Los Angeles Times carried a news story on Wednesday August 13th, 2008, Kashmir protests spread to Indian cities: “The lockdown, the first to be imposed across the entire Kashmir region in 18 years, was ordered after separatist leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz and four others were killed Monday [August 11th] while attempting to march to the Pakistan-controlled portion of Kashmir to protest a blockade by Hindus of the highway linking the Kashmir Valley with the rest of India… Police shot and killed 15 others Tuesday [August 12th] as thousands took to the streets across Kashmir to protest Aziz’s death. Some 100,000 people defied the curfew to attend his funeral at the Martyrs Graveyard in Srinagar, vowing to fulfil his legacy and achieve independence for Kashmir from India… The protests have crystallised anti-Indian feeling in Kashmir just as Indian forces appeared to be gaining an upper hand in their nearly two decade fight against the region’s separatist rebels.”
The realisation in New Delhi and Islamabad that there is no military solution to the Kashmir issue is much welcomed in Kashmir. More importantly, the new phase of friendly relations between India and Pakistan is highly appreciated by the people of Kashmir. Nonetheless, the people of Kashmir continue to live in an atmosphere of perpetual war; they continue to remain hostages of the so-called emerging friendly environment between New Delhi and Islamabad, as they have been victims in the past decades of their enduring rivalry.
Despite the warming ties between the rivals there is no let-up in systematic human rights abuses. Moreover, India has failed to live up to its promise of a “zero-tolerance” policy towards human rights violations; in March 2008, the grisly discovery of thousands of unidentified graves in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir containing remains of victims of summary executions, custodial killings, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and other abuses show the real face of India’s barbarity!
In its report issued on July 1st, 2008, the New York-based Human Rights Watch recommended: “an independent and time-bound commission to investigate allegations of ‘disappearances’ and extrajudicial killings. Such a commission should have the capacity to use forensic tests to identify the bodies and security forces should be ordered to cooperate with the commission’s inquiries.”
Individual (s) who label the people of Kashmir as “terrorists” rather than “freedom fighters” are ignorant about the Kashmir issue. It’s time that they educate themselves and learn more about the inhuman state of affairs inside Kashmir before making such irresponsible comments! 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.
Arundhati Roy wrote for The Guardian on Friday, August 22nd, 2008, Land and freedom: “Not surprisingly, the voice that the government of India has tried so hard to silence in Kashmir has massed into a deafening roar. Raised in a playground of army camps, checkpoints, and bunkers, with screams from torture chambers for a soundtrack, the young generation has suddenly discovered the power of mass protest, and above all, the dignity of being able to straighten their shoulders and speak for themselves, represent themselves. For them it is nothing short of an epiphany. Not even the fear of death seems to hold them back. And once that fear has gone, of what use is the largest or second largest army in the world?”
BBC carried a news item on Saturday September 6th, 2008, What freedom means in Kashmir: “In the eye of the storm is the demand for azadi (freedom) for people living in the valley; the latest bout of unrest has brought the contentious issue back into the limelight again… Sayed Zubair, a government schoolteacher, is seething after the [Indian] security forces shot down his elderly neighbour during a recent curfew. ‘We live in fear. A free Kashmir is the only solution to make us feel safe,’ he says. His neighbour, Hilal Ahmed, a bank manager, says freedom can help Kashmiris get rid of a twin stigma: ‘India says it is the biggest democracy in the world. Living in Kashmir, we do not get any sense of that. Being a Kashmiri is a curse, being a Muslim is a crime. So we are doubly disadvantaged in these troubled times. The only way to set things right is to India get out of our lives and leave us free.'”
The world media did commendable job by giving even-handed coverage to massive protests against India’s continued occupation of Kashmir. The people of Kashmir made their voices heard throughout the world that they want a just and dignified peace that guarantees total freedom from foreign occupation and alien domination. The world watched. The people across India watched, surely with a sense of dejection. After all, that is India planning to conduct, yet again, a fraudulent and gunpoint election? Not only will such poll be absolutely sham, but utterly immoral, too.
Indian policy makers must take heed to this simple message: Vir Sanghvi wrote for Hindustan Times on Saturday, August 16th, 2008, Think the Unthinkable: “Have you been reading the news coming out of Kashmir with a mounting sense of despair? I know I have. It’s clear now that the optimism of the last few months –”all those articles telling us that normalcy had returned to Kashmir –” was misplaced. Nothing has really changed since the 1990s. A single spark –” such as the dispute over Amarnath land –” can set the whole valley on fire, so deep is the resentment, anger and the extent of secessionist feeling. Indian forces are treated as an army of occupation. New Delhi is seen as the oppressor… it is true that we have rigged elections in Kashmir… The world looks at us with dismay. If we are the largest democracy on the planet then how can we hang on to a people who have no desire to be part of India? … So, here’s my question: why are we still hanging on to Kashmir if the Kashmiris don’t want to have anything to do with us? … I reckon we should hold a referendum in the Valley. Let the Kashmiris determine their own destiny.”
It is high time India realised the fact that control over a region alone does not mean sovereignty over a chunk of land. It is the people who make up a nation and if they are perpetually alienated, any territorial supremacy achieved through brute force alone can never guarantee long-term peace.
The conflict in Kashmir is a “political” and “human” tragedy and the world community, including India and Pakistan, have overlooked this critically important human dimension of the dispute. 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 the three parties –” India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir.
- India must restore the right of peaceful association, assembly and demonstration to the people of Kashmir.
- Kashmiri-Canadian Council (KCC) condemns in the strongest possible terms killings of civilians in Kashmir, more particularly, the cold-blooded killing of Sheikh Abdul Aziz.
- KCC urges India to dismantle the 600km long formidable fence that has been erected on the ceasefire line, as it is in total contravention of the UN resolutions and against the spirit of the peace process between the two neighbours.
- India must cease all military and paramilitary actions on its side of Kashmir.
- India must end torture, custodial killings and extra-judicial executions of prisoners immediately.
- India must withdraw its military and paramilitary forces from all the urban areas immediately.
- India must release all the prisoners immediately arrested or captured in connection with the resistance movement and false cases instituted against them under the so-called emergency laws must be withdrawn.
- India must annul the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, the National Security Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, with respect to Kashmir, immediately.
- India must bring to justice all those killers and murderers who have committed horrendous crimes against innocents in Kashmir during the past 19 years. Or transfer all such cases to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for impartial justice.
- India must help the displaced Kashmiri Hindu families to resettle in their homes in Kashmir and provide them all necessary assistance immediately.
- India must allow International human rights monitors and the world media to visit Kashmir for their investigative work.
- KCC welcomes trade across the ceasefire line.
Informed and conscientious Canadians can play a vital role in the education process by interacting with parliamentarians and the media. In addition, concerned Canadians can write to the UN Secretary General, NGOs, and call or write to the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to voice their concern about systematic human rights abuses in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The cause for which the people of Kashmir are struggling is a just one, and deserves support from all those who cherish peace and justice.