Kashmir is Still Burning

On October 27th, 1947, India airlifted its troops and deployed them in Jammu and Kashmir and to this day they continue to occupy a major part of the territory. India proclaimed that her forces would help restore normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir and allow the people to exercise their right of self-determination in accordance with their freely expressed will, unobstructed by any threat of internal disorder or external aggression.

Deceitfully, India did the exact opposite. It has tried to gradually strengthen its grip over Jammu and Kashmir by means – fair and foul – unmindful of its international and constitutional commitments that the future of the territory shall be determined by the people of Kashmir in a-UN supervised vote.

During the past twelve years of popular uprising against Indian rule, the occupying troops have been involved in widespread, systematic, and gross violations of human rights to silence each and every voice demanding their right of self-determination. 

Since October 1989, unparalleled crackdowns, custodial killings, extra-judicial executions, disappearances, rape, extensive torture, maiming, abductions for ransom, arbitrary arrests, prolonged-detentions without trial, looting and destruction of property, and other such methods are all being used as a “weapon of war” against the oppressed people of Kashmir to suppress their quest for self-determination.

Impunity has become a license for the occupying Indian troops to wreak havoc with the lives of innocent Kashmiris. As a result, more than 60,000 people have been killed; 7,000 women (young and old) raped; there are almost 20,000 orphans, and 4,000 of them were born after the death of their fathers; 6,000 widows and 2,000 half widows (those who do not know the fate of their disappeared husbands) and more than 3,000 people have disappeared since early 1990, but their fate still remains unknown.

The vale is dotted with interrogation and detention centers equipped with sophisticated instruments of torture. The non-stop panicky midnight knocks have shaken the people of Kashmir, who continue to live in constant fear and terror.

The so-called human rights commissions of India and Kashmir have no jurisdiction to investigate the crimes committed by the Indian forces against the innocent Kashmiri people.

In its human rights report on India, the US Department of State noted that the UN Special Repporteur on Torture stated that torture victims or their relatives reportedly have had difficulty filing complaints because police in Jammu and Kashmir were issued instructions not to open a case without permission from higher authorities and that the rape in custody is part of the broader pattern of custodial abuse. In addition, the UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and on Extra-judicial killings renewed their requests to visit Jammu and Kashmir to the Government of India, but they were not permitted to do so.  

The international human rights groups, including Amnesty international and Human Rights Watch, have thoroughly documented human rights violations in Kashmir and blamed India for committing massive human rights abuses in occupied-Kashmir. These groups are concerned that the world community is not exerting sufficient pressure on New Delhi to stop this bloodshed.

For last many years India did not allow any human rights or humanitarian NGOs to visit the occupied territory.

India might have been slow in privatizing its economy, but in the field of human rights abuses it has made a name for itself. One could say that India has become a pioneer at privatizing its own form of human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir. By assigning the job of human rights violations to private agencies, the state is trying to shield itself. It has become easy for the state to attribute abuses to militant groups so as to defame them and justify its own military actions against them.

Having failed to suppress the Kashmiri freedom movement, the Indian-sponsored state terrorism has intensified its drive to divide and weaken the Kashmiri resistance. Indian forces are increasingly promoting Kashmiri-on-Kashmiri violence through a mix of brute oppression, blackmail, and temptations. These pro-government militants do all the dirty work of the Indian troops, including cold-blooded massacres, disappearances and burning of neighborhoods.

It is the law of the jungle in Kashmir.

In order to save face India has blocked all sources of information to the outside world. Nothing is being allowed to get out.

The failure of the world community, particularly the western industrialized nations, to hold India accountable has resulted in the failure to put an end to human suffering in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

Moreover, massive displacements and casualties on the border areas of both sides of the cease-fire line have added to the suffering of the Kashmiri people.

Nevertheless, intensification in New Delhi’s state terrorism in occupied-Kashmir has backfired on India. Now more than ever, the freedom struggle is in full momentum and the demand for a UN-sponsored referendum is at an all-time high.

During the past fifty-three years India has never shown willingness to have a meaningful dialogue to resolve the dispute. The non-resolution of the dispute is at the core of all regional tensions, which has transformed the dispute into a global flashpoint.

The atmosphere of hatred and animosity between the two “nuclear” neighbors is increasing day-by-day, and the people of Kashmir are paying the price for this Cold War. The conflict in Kashmir is a “political” and “human” tragedy, and the world community, including India and Pakistan, has overlooked this critically important human dimension of the dispute.

India’s refusal to address the Kashmir issue has heightened tensions in the region, thus making it a nuclear flashpoint for the world community. With two armies facing each other like never before across the CFL, the danger of a new war breaking out is imminent. It is now unequivocally evident that should the status quo in Kashmir go undressed it will lead to much instability in the region with serious global repercussions.

The situation prevails in what is recognized under international law, by Canada as a disputed territory. It represents a government’s repression not a secessionist or separatist movement, but of an uprising against foreign occupation, an occupation that was expected to end under determinations made by the United Nations.

The good news is that India with its worst kind of state terrorism in Kashmir has failed militarily and politically to suppress the freedom struggle. There are more than 600,000 troops deployed in the occupied territory and on the other hand, what could be the number of freedom fighters, about 3,000 to 5,000. Moreover, Indian military leadership has repeatedly made it public that Indian troops cannot crush the liberation struggle in Kashmir and New Delhi should find a political solution to the issue.

On the political front, the almost total boycott of Indian (in 1999) elections indicated a clear rejection of India’s presence in Kashmir. More than twenty leaders of the APHC were arrested after their successful campaign to boycott the fraudulent elections. Almost entire population resisted Indian forces’ threats and violence for non-participation. Indian troops killed many civilians for boycotting the polls, yet the fraudulent elections turned out to be a complete failure and a clear signal that the end of India’s occupation is coming to an end. 

The people of Kashmir, once again, demonstrated that they will only accept a UN-sponsored and supervised vote to determine their future.

The so-called elections in Kashmir are to impress the world of India’s “democratic” credentials. Unfortunately, it is not easy for the international community to understand the many well-mannered words for the electoral fraud that has been going on in Jammu and Kashmir.

In a recent referendum organized by the United Nations in East Timor on the issue of the future affiliation of the territory, 22 per cent voted to remain part of Indonesia and 78 per cent voted in favor of independence.

In Indian-occupied Kashmir 87 per cent people did not cast their votes to register protest against India’s illegitimate rule in Kashmir. While the Election Commission of India claimed that 13 per cent votes had been cast. Most of these 13 per cent votes, according to Indian press, were bogus. Thus the position on the ground is that 87 per cent boycotted Indian elections in Kashmir. In addition, they do not accept New Delhi’s claim that “Kashmir is an integral part or atootang of India.”

In Indonesia, the decision of 78 per cent of the voters to separate East Timor from Indonesia over-ruled that of the 22 per cent. India herself supervised the polls in Kashmir, with the help of her more than 600,000 forces, but the result was a complete rejection of Indian rule.

Consequently, it is time for India to appreciate the fact that control over a region does not mean sovereignty over large piece of land alone. It is the people who make up for a nation and if they are continuously alienated, territorial supremacy achieved through force alone can never guarantee long-term peace.

The very scale and substance of the Kashmiris’ current struggle is by itself evidence (of the fact) that the question of self-determination of the Kashmiri people cannot be shelved either by shifting focus to so-called “terrorism,” or by weak arguments of bilateral accord such as Simla Agreement or Lahore Declaration.

Kashmiri people’s demands are simple: a) freedom from military occupation, and b) the right to decide their own future by a democratic and impartially supervised vote. The UN Security Council has already defined the mechanism for the exercise of this right. This mechanism needs to be activated and implemented as soon as possible.

The unprecedented sacrifices and suffering experienced by the people of Kashmir against the volte-face in terms of death and destruction, life and property, torture and persecution, rape and repression over the years, particularly during the past eleven years, is much too great to go un-rewarded. They have certainly not offered themselves for such destruction and tragedy, only to be driven back to square one. The freedom struggle has now entered its twelfth year with solid determination to achieve freedom from Indian rule. 

I believe most of you are aware that there have been many ceasefires between India and Pakistan in the past, e.g., in 1948, 1965, 1971, and then in 1999. But all these ceasefires did not bring peace between the two neighbors because India never showed sincerity and seriousness to resolve the Kashmir issue. Similarly, the month of Ramadan ceasefire offered by India and extended twice, so far, is without a blueprint for meaningful negotiations to resolve the Kashmir issue.

You may also be aware that last year in July, Hizbul Mujahiden offered a unilateral ceasefire, which was an extraordinary opportunity for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. However, because New Delhi did not show any flexibility in its unrealistic stand, the hope of a peaceful solution was, once again, shattered. India refused to involve Pakistan in talks and wanted to have negotiations within the framework of “Indian Constitution.”  

Now, with India’s ceasefire offer the leaders have had a lot of talks and discussions as how to respond to it, finally the APHC welcomed it and committed to make it work. To break the ice, the APHC proposed that one of its delegation would travel to Pakistan to talk with Kashmiris and the government there and other delegation would start talks with New Delhi. You will be surprise to know that India refused to issue travel documents to the delegation and also did not invite the APHC for talks. Moreover, during the period of the so-called ceasefire, custodial killings have increased in recent days, it was also reported in the Indian press. Also during same period there have been many protests against the intensification of custodial executions, including the one yesterday. With all that I want you to judge the seriousness of this so-called ceasefire and sincerity of India to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

Furthermore it will be unrealistic of India insisting on talks be under the umbrella of “Indian Constitution” or converting the Line of Control into international boundary, because this has been repeatedly rejected by a vast majority of the Kashmiri people. Nevertheless, the present situation in the disputed territory and its future direction will depend on how India decides to handle the delicate question of the right of self-determination. 

I think it is very important to underline here that the Kashmir dispute is neither bilateral nor territorial, but an issue of a right of self-determination for 13 million people. Kashmiris consider the Line of Control as the line of blood and would never accept it as a permanent border.

I believe most of you are aware that when the Kashmir dispute erupted in 1947-48, Canada was firm that the future status of Kashmir must be determined by the will of the people of the territory, and their wishes must be ascertained through an impartial plebiscite under the supervision and control of the United Nations.

Canada was a principal sponsor and the author of the UN Resolution 47 (1948) that gave the people of Kashmir their right of self-determination.

It was the distinguished Canadian, General Andrew McNaughton, who, as the president of the Security Council, sponsored the proposal for the basic formula for a settlement, and this formula was incorporated in the resolution adopted on 13th August 1948 and 5th January 1949.

Presently, Canada maintains the position that a lasting solution to the situation in Kashmir requires a sustained bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan and the fact that any solution must also take into account the interest of the Kashmiri people. The KCC has been urging Ottawa to redouble its efforts to facilitate such dialogue for a lasting solution of the dispute.

The KCC believes that Canada has a moral obligation to play a leading role in ensuring that a UN-sponsored vote in Kashmir takes place. Canada in uniquely qualified to take the leadership role in resolving the dispute that could give peace a chance in South Asia and an end to unprecedented repression against the innocent people of Indian-occupied Kashmir.

Kashmiri-Canadians appreciate Canada’s role in liberating Kuwait and helping to put an end to the suffering of the people of Kosovo. Now, they would like to see the similar help from Canada and other members of the international community to help put an end to untold misery in Kashmir. Kashmiri-Canadians admire Canada involvement in global affairs and its strong support for the United Nations, e.g., Canada demanding that Iraq abide by the UN Security Council resolutions before sanctions could be lifted. Now, concerned Canadians are urging Ottawa to demand implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions for Kashmiris’ right of self-determination.

A peaceful and negotiated settlement is the only lasting and possible solution. Unlike the past fifty-two years, it would require a real change of heart in New Delhi’s dream about “Akhand Bharat” united India. It does not matter whether a solution is found through a UN-sponsored plebiscite or tripartite negotiations involving India, Pakistan, and the people of Kashmir. 

Nonetheless, the dispute involves three parties India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri people. Any attempt to strike a deal between the two without the association of the third will fail to produce a credible settlement.

Finally, the security and stability of both nations remain under threat without the stability in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. There can be no peace and stability in Jammu and Kashmir without the implementation of the UN resolutions. A peaceful and negotiated settlement of the dispute will help to bring the much needed stability also in the South Asian region and eliminate a potential threat of nuclear war, deadly accidents, mishaps and the aftermath of such catastrophes. Moreover, it will also help to put an end to the meaningless arms race between India and Pakistan. Above all, both Islamabad and New Delhi can focus entirely on sustainable development health, hunger and education projects. This will start a new era of coexistence between India and Pakistan.

Kashmir Solidarity Day

Today, we have gathered here on the occasion of the Kashmir Solidarity Day, which is observed globally and in Pakistan normally on February 5th, i.e., tomorrow Monday. I believe it is incumbent upon us in Canada to help the oppressed people of Kashmir and support their demand for the right of self-determination, so that they can live in peace and dignity. 

Informed and conscientious Canadians can play a vital role in the education process by interacting with parliamentarians and the media. Besides, concerned Canadians can write to the NGOs, and call or write the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, members of the Sub-Committee on Human Rights and your member of parliament to voice your concern about the escalation of human rights abuses in the region and lack of interest of the international community to help resolve the issue.

The KCC believes that Ottawa’s help can aid India and Pakistan to transform the Kashmir dispute from being a bone of contention to a bridge of understanding for lasting peace on the subcontinent.

The role of Canada is important. Ottawa is uniquely qualified to take the leadership role, and help break the silence of the global community on the issue of Kashmir.

The cause for which the people of Kashmir are struggling is a just one, and deserves support from all those who value justice and peace. Particularly from the Canadian government and parliamentarians and more so from the Honorable Derek Lee and his like-minded House of Commons’ colleagues, he enjoys confidence and respect among most of the Kashmiri-Canadians, Pakistani and Indo Canadians. Furthermore, Kashmiri-Canadian Council highly appreciates Mr. Lee’s interest to help find a peaceful solution of the Kashmir dispute.

I thank you all for your attention.

God bless you, God bless Canada and God bless Kashmir.

Mr. Mushtaq A. Jeelani is Executive Director of the Kashmiri-Canada Council. Above are the notes from his speech which he made on the occasion of the “Kashmir Solidarity Day” at Scarborough Civic Center on Sunday February 4, 2001.

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