Yesterday (October 27, 2009), Kashmiri-Canadians from coast to coast and Kashmiris all over the world observed 62nd anniversary of Indian invasion of Kashmir as a “Black Day.” It was exactly 62 years ago, on October 27th, 1947, when the Indian troops invaded and occupied a sovereign nation of Jammu and Kashmir by deception. 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 to 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 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 1947 to take over the tyrant disposed regime, faced with stiff resistance from the locals against its invasion –” India transformed Kashmir into a purely military camp, 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 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 legalize its occupation, 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 defenseless Kashmiri civilians 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 to self-determination pushed the people of Kashmir from “passive resistance” to “militancy” against state-sponsored terrorism.
Since October 1989, the 700,000 strong Indian forces have killed more than 100,000 Kashmiris to silence the people’s demand for freedom, justice, and respect for human rights. They continue to carry out arbitrary detention, summary executions, custodial killings, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, rape, sexual exploitation, torture and fake encounters. Generations of Kashmiris have grown up under the shadow of the gun; not a single family is unaffected; property worth hundreds of millions of dollars has been destroyed and the suffering and devastation continues unabated, sadly drawing no significant attention from the international community.
Impunity has become a license for the Indian occupation forces to wreak havoc with the lives of Kashmiris. The deliberate and unprovoked attacks and other patterns of abuse have all become too frequent to report. 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 organizations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
In 2008, when India attempted to change the demography of the state of Jammu and Kashmir followed by economic blockade against the people of Kashmir it backfired; triggering 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.
This year was no different, when the occupying Indian troops kidnapped and killed 17-year-old Aasiya Jan and her sister-in-law, Nilofar Shakeel, 22; their corpses were found floating in a shallow stream on May 30th, 2009 after disappearing from their family’s apple orchards in the city of Shopian in Indian-administered Kashmir. Subsequently, the occupation forces’ attempt to cover it up set off months of massive demonstrations, several protesters were killed and hundreds injured in pitched street battles between anti-India demonstrators chanting: “we want freedom,” and the Indian occupation troops using brute force to get the situation under control.
Lydia Polgreen wrote for The New York Times on August 16th, 2009: “Little more than 12 hours later their battered bodies were found in the stream. Asiya, a 17-year-old high school student, had been badly beaten. Blood streamed from her nose and a sharp gash in her forehead. She and her 22-year-old sister-in-law, Nilofa[r], had been gang raped before their deaths. “It is now the focal point for seemingly bottomless Kashmiri rage at the continuing presence of roughly 500,000 Indian security forces… ‘India says Kashmir is a free part of a free country,’ said Majid Khan, a 20-year-old unemployed man who has joined the stone-throwing mobs. ‘If that is so, why are we being brutalized? Why are women gang raped?'”
Last two years have seen spontaneous, massive and non-violent protests where virtually everyone young and old, men and women, boys and girls are out on the streets protesting against India’s continued occupation. Such –” on and off –” protests have totally re-energized the Kashmiri freedom struggle into a classic people’s movement, which has stunned the Indian government.
The perception that the Kashmir issue is a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan is unfounded. Kashmir is not a territorial or bilateral issue. It is about the future of 15 million people with their own history of independence; their own language and culture. This has been an explicit explanation for the failure to resolve the Kashmir issue through on-again and off-again bilateral dialogue for the past 62 years. The people of Kashmir have lost complete faith in the bilateral process of India and Pakistan and their ability to resolve the issue.
The 15 million people of Kashmir are yearning for peace, justice and freedom. They want a just and dignified peace that guarantees total freedom from foreign occupation and alien domination. Their struggle to achieve that right to self-determination will not be extinguished until India and Pakistan accept its exercise by the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
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 20 years, is much too great to go unrewarded. The Kashmiri freedom movement is now entering its twenty-first year with firm and unwavering courage and determination in the face of unspeakable suffering and injustices to achieve the right to self-determination. 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 right to self-determination is the cornerstone of the United Nations system that underpins the contemporary international order. Its unquestioned acceptance has been established by core international instruments including the Charter of the United Nations, the two Covenants on Civil and Political and Economic, Social and Cultural rights and the declaration adopted by General Assembly resolution 1514.
International human rights fora continue to reaffirm the validity and significance of the right of peoples to self-determination in situations of foreign occupation and alien domination. Contemporary international developments further testify the importance of this right, and its centrality to the international system.
Effective exercise of a people’s right to self-determination is an essential pre-requisite for the genuine exercise of other human rights and freedoms. Only when self-determination has been achieved can a people take the measures necessary to ensure human dignity, the full enjoyment of all rights including the political, economic, social and cultural progress without any form of discrimination.
The right to self-determination is thus the raison d’etre of the contemporary international order and an absolute must for the progressive realization of all fundamental human rights. The right must be exercised freely without covert influence, coercion or repression. It cannot be exercised under conditions of foreign occupation and it is non-lapsable.
It is high time India realized 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 issue. The Kashmiris’ demand is simple and in accordance with the international law: 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.
For New Delhi to help resolve the Kashmir issue through peaceful negotiations, following actions are necessary and urgent:
- India must cease all military and paramilitary actions against civilians in 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 20 years. Or transfer all such cases to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for impartial justice.
- India must continue to help the displaced Kashmiri Hindu families to resettle in their homes in Kashmir and provide them all necessary assistance.
- India must allow International human rights monitors and the world media to visit Kashmir for their investigative work.
- Last but not least, India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir together with help from the international community can resolve the Kashmir issue peacefully; it may be time that India return to the negotiating table to resolve the 62-year-old Kashmir issue; this is essential for regional peace and security.
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.