The Rape of Kashmir

Parallels with the Israeli Occupation of Palestine

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Partition
Rebellion
III. Denial of Self-Determination
How India Subscribes to “Self-Determination”
Occupation
UN Recognition of the Kashmiri Plight
VII. Ethnic Cleansing
VIII. Roots Of The Kashmiri Resistance Movement
The Militant Kashmiri Rebels Solutions?
APPENDIX

Partition

Since 1948, as a result of the British Mandate, Palestine has been under the occupation of the Zionist regime of Israel, consequently being subjected to genocide, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. However, one year earlier in 1947, Kashmir was similarly handed over to the Indian Government by the British – yet we hear or see little of the ongoing crisis in Kashmir in the media. The escalating conflict in Palestine that we witness today, indeed, is not a unique phenomenon as far as Muslim countries are concerned – the problem of Kashmir bears strong parallels to the ongoing crisis in Israel.

Kashmir, officially known as Jammu & Kashmir, is an area on the northern borders of India and Pakistan. About 12 million people live in Kashmir, of which around 70 per cent are Muslims, the rest including Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. Hindus live mostly in the south and around the city of Jammu. To the east is the Ladakh region, where the majority of the people are Buddhists and of Tibetan origin. Wedged between Pakistan, India, China, and Afghanistan, ‘greater Kashmir’ (including both the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-controlled Azad Kashmir) sits squarely in the middle of a web of disputed borders. The Kashmir valley is the passageway through the Himalayas to the entire subcontinent. From Kashmir flow the Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum rivers, upon which Pakistan depends for water. As India’s northernmost territory, the state of Jammu and Kashmir provides a valuable window on the other regional powers, including China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the nearby former Soviet republic of Tajikistan.

There is a clear general parallel between the partition of the subcontinent under British tutelage into two states – India and Pakistan – based loosely on religious distinction, and the partition of Palestine based once more on allegedly religious issues. Both partitions resulted in the deportation and killings of millions, and their aftermath has continued to this day in the form of ongoing disputes over territory. Certainly, the cases are not exactly the same, but they are similar in this respect. Distinguished authorities in the field of postcolonial studies agree with this assessment. The Postcolonial Studies Project of the Department of English at Emory University, run by Deepika Bahri, observes that:

“The British left India divided in two. The two countries were founded on the basis of religion, with Pakistan as an Islamic state and India as a secular one. Whether the partition of these countries was wise and whether it was done too soon is still under debate. Even the imposition of an official boundary has not stopped conflict between them. Boundary issues, left unresolved by the British, have caused two wars and continuing strife between India and Pakistan.

The partition of India and its freedom from colonial rule set a precedent for nations such as Israel, which demanded a separate homeland because of the irreconcilable differences between the Arabs and the Jews. The British left Israel in May 1948, handing the question of division over to the UN. Un-enforced UN Resolutions to map out boundaries between Israel and Palestine has led to several Arab-Israeli wars and the conflict still continues.”[1]

The partition problems of Israel and India, respectively manifesting in conflict over Palestine and Kashmir, are therefore sufficiently similar to warrant noting that what happened in south Asia in 1947 set a historical precedent for events in the Middle East in 1948. A major difference between the two colonial endeavours, however, is that in the first case, no Palestinian state has yet emerged even after 53 years, despite the stipulations of international law. In contrast, both nations of India and Pakistan as they stand today were altogether “artificially created”. Partition entailed the division of a single region under British rule into two separate nation-states, which therefore constituted the artificial creation of two nations. As Anjali Gupta observes in the online Indian magazine Bojoli: “August 15, 1947 was a very significant day for Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and many others. It marked the day of the British partition of India into a Muslim-controlled Pakistan and a Hindu-dominated India.”[2] British historian Francis Robinson, Professor of the History of South Asia at the University of London, similarly characterizes partition as the artificial creation of two independent nations: “The partition of india at independence in 1947 into the sovereign states of India and Pakistan is one of the more important events of twentieth-century world history.”[3] The partition process thus constituted the carving up under British tutelage of a single territory into two states. Consequently, most authorities characterize the process as the artificial creation of two nations.

It is well known that the British were instrumental in the accession of Kashmir to India. The fact is attested to by the Treat of Amritsar document in which is recorded the following crucial stipulations:

Article 1: The British government transfers and makes over, forever, independent possession, to Maharaja Gulab Singh, and the heirs male of his body, all the hilly or mountainous country, with its dependencies, situated to the eastward of the river Indus, and westward of the river Ravi, including Chamba and excluding Lahore, being part of the territory ceded to the British government by the Lahore state, according to the provisions of Article 4 of the Treaty of Lahore, dated 9th March 1846.

Article 2: The eastern boundary of the tract transferred by the foregoing article to Maharaja Gulab Singh shall be laid down by commissioners appointed by the British government and Maharaja Gulab Singh respectively, for that purpose, and shall be defined in a separate engagement, after survey.

Article 3: In consideration of the transfer made to him and his heirs by the provisions of the foregoing articles, Maharaja Gulab Singh will pay to the British government the sum of seventy-lacs (seven and half millions) of rupees (Nanakshahi), fifty lacs to be paid on ratification of this Treaty, and twenty-five lacs on or before the 1st of October of the current year, AD 1846.

Article 4: The limits of the territories of Maharaja Gulab Singh shall not be, at any time, changed without concurrence of the British government.

That is also why the reknowned humanitarian law specialists Karen Parker and Anne Heindel observe in their authoritative report:  “During British colonial rule, Britain ‘sold’ Kashmir to a Hindu warlord.”[4]

To briefly recap over this crucial history, we may begin with the observations of University of London historian Francis Robinson, who records: “For the British it [i.e. partition] was a regrettable necessity. They did not have the power to impose a solution on their Indian empire which left it unified; partition came to be the only way in which they could extract themselves from a commitment which they could no longer afford… A Labour Government in Britain was keen to leave india as fast as possible; every extra day that British troops remained added to British debt. In February 1947 Mountbatten was sent out as Viceroy with a brief to pressure the politicians into agreement. Mountbatten quickly saw that Britain could only withdraw by transferring power not to one government, but to two.” Professor Robinson further notes that: “Congress did have a hand in the process itself. In the complete edition of his autobiography, India Wins Freedom, the Muslim member of the Congress high command, Abul Kalam Azad, makes it clear that of its other three members, Vallabhbhai Patel was positively in favour of partition before Mountbatten arrived, Nehru was quite quickly persuaded, and Gandhi accepted the inevitable. Patel and Nehru were keen to take over a strong central government and relatively weak provinces. Patel wanted strong central government to hold the new state together; Nehru was keen to put Soviet style five-year plans into effect… Partition happened because, in the circumstances, the Congress leaders wanted it.”[5]

Thus, when the decision was made that British rule in India would come to an end, there were two dominant competing political philosophies struggling for independence on the subcontinent. Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s philosophy of Two Nations divided on communal lines competed with the secular ideology of Jawaharlal Nehru. According to Michael Kolodner: “The British, in the end, chose to partition the subcontinent into two states according to the demographics of each province. All areas which were predominantly Muslim in population would join to form Pakistan while the non-Muslim areas would become India. In the Princely States, the Maharajas were given the choice to accede to the state of their choice or, in theory, to remain independent when Paramountcy lapsed with the British departure. For most Princely States, it was a foregone conclusion that they would join Pakistan or India, whichever their population dictated. Otherwise, they would have been surrounded by territory of the opposite state. In Jammu and Kashmir, however, this choice was not simple or straightforward: the Maharaja was a Hindu who ruled over a predominantly Muslim population.”[6]

Just as in Palestine, the British role appears to have been deliberately designed to bypass the right of the indigenous Kashmiri population to self-determination. As has been noted by British historian and Kashmir authority Alastair Lamb, whose research on the Kashmir issue is the most complete and impartial, Lord Mountbatten, the British Viceroy, engineered Partition in such a way that Jammu and Kashmir would inevitably go to India regardless of the sentiments of the indigenous population. At the very least, it seems evident that he tampered with the process sufficiently to leave that option wide open. By allocating the Gurdaspur district of the Punjab to India, even though it ought to have gone to Pakistan by the logic of partition, the possibility of Jammu and Kashmir joining India was left open. Had Gurdaspur gone to Pakistan, there would have been no land-route connecting India to Kashmir. The evidence, as Lamb observes, suggests that Mountbatten meddled with the proceedings of the Radcliffe Commission, whose job it was to assign territories to either Pakistan or India, intending India rather than Pakistan to be the guardian of the Northern Frontier because he had more trust in India’s secular leadership.[7]

In this respect, the parallel between Palestine and Kashmir is quite obvious. In both cases, British colonial manipulation resulted in the violation of the right of a people to self-determination, and the blocking of the emergence of a legitimate independent state.

  1. Rebellion

During the uncertain times surrounding partition in 1947, an entirely indigenous revolt against the rule of the Maharaja broke out in the Kashmiri town of Poonch. Starting in June 1947, two months before the Transfer of Power, a “no-tax” campaign began which evolved rapidly into a popular secessionist movement. We may note that UN mediator Sir Oxford Dixon records that the movements of external forces into the region occurred in October 1947, and later in May 1948 – long after the popular indigenous protest movement of June 1947. As is noted by both Alastair Lamb and Michael Kolodner then, this revolt began indigenously, rooted in the sentiments of the majority of Kashmiris.[8] As the Poonch troubles continued, Pakistan was faced with three options to deal with the Muslim uprising – in Lamb’s words: “to ignore what was going on and leave the Poonch Muslims to their fate, to assist the Hindu Maharaja in suppressing the rebellion, or to permit (be it overtly or covertly, officially or unofficially) some degree of material assistance to reach the rebels from or over Pakistani territory.”[9]

Political analyst Michael Kolodner, Reader at the Department of Middle East Studies of Amherst College in Massachusetts and President of the independent political affairs forum, Traveler’s World, observes that at this stage, “the course of action they eventually chose was very mild. The Pakistani leaders gave minuscule amounts of military material to the rebels (mainly because they had little to spare that would not attract the attention of the British officers still commanding the Pakistani Army). At the same time, they tried to persuade Maharaja Sir Hari Singh that it would be beneficial to accede to Pakistan. To this end, Pakistan imposed mild economic sanctions on Jammu and Kashmir. Singh did not take kindly to this, and on October 18, 1947 he threatened to ask India for military assistance to overcome the sanctions. >From here, relations between the Maharaja and the state of Pakistan began to decline.”[10]

It was between September and early October, 1947, that Maharaja Sir Hari Singh asked the Sikh Maharaja of Patiala state for help in suppressing the Poonch rebellion. He received assistance in the form of a battalion of infantry and a battery of mountain artillery supplied by the Sikh ruler from his State Armed Forces.[11] The government of India subsequently took steps to protect the Maharaja’s position in power and prepare for a possible military intervention. When the Maharaja began to open discussions with Sheikh Abdullah, the prominent Muslim leader jailed by the Maharaja’s regime, it became obvious that Jammu and Kashmir was about to accede to India.

It is around this time that Pakistan began to accelerate its support of the indigenous rebellion against the Maharajah’s rule. Pakistani army officer Major General Akhbar Khan, who was given responsibility for the operation to support the Kashmiri rebellion, reports in his book Raiders in Kashmir: “As open interference or aggression by Pakistan was obviously not desirable it was proposed that our efforts should be concentrated upon strengthening the Kashmiris internally – and… to prevent arrival of armed civilian or military assistance from India into Kashmir”.

However, the resulting Pakistani military assistance cannot be equated with the raiding Pathans who took advantage of the tensions for their own sordid purposes. According to the findings of Alastair Lamb it seems that a few resistance commanders in Poonch had “toyed” with the idea of getting assistance from Pathan tribes in the North-West Frontier. Pathans had a reputation for being vicious fighters but not very disciplined, even in their home region. Kashmiri rebels in Pooch, unlike the Pakistani authorities, had not anticipated the level of fierce brutality the Pathan tribes would employ. Lamb points out that as a result of the prospects of Pathan intervention: “More experienced Pakistani soldiers and politicians who were aware of what was brewing were seriously alarmed.”[12] Unfortunately, however, once contacted for assistance, it was too late to turn them back. Kolodner notes that: “the Pathans had mobilized for battle and little could stop them from joining it.”[13] Thus, “Contrary to the claims of some pro-Indian writers, it seems unlikely that Pakistan was involved in sending the Pathans to Kashmir in order to capture the territory without using the Pakistani army.”[14]

Thus, just like the previous and current Palestinian Intifidahs, the Kashmiri rebellion was undoubtedly popular and indigenous. Pakistan did intervene to assist that rebellion, just as India intervened to crush the rebellion. The attempt of Pathan tribes to exploit the conflict for their own bloody material gain was elicited by the mistaken assumption of some Kashmiri rebel commanders that they would be of genuine assistance. There is no evidence, on the other hand, that the Pakistani government was supporting the Pathan tribes in anyway; indeed, the tribes’ arbitrary looting and slaughter of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs without distinction hardly added to their credibility in the eyes of the indigenous Kashmiri resistance centralized in Pooch. Indeed, according to Srinagar-based journalist Singh Oberoi, “Singh, a Hindu ruling a Muslim-majority population, finally agreed to Indian dominance on October 27, 1947, partly to gain Indian military assistance against an Islamic revolt.”[15] Therefore the fact remains that Islam remained the most powerful stimulus for political activity in the Vale of Kashmir.[16]

III. Denial of Self-Determination

Clearly, the accession of Kashmir to India had been an issue as early as the time of accession. Attempts to hold a plebiscite have been met with fierce opposition from India. India has known, right from the start, that the result of a plebiscite is a foregone conclusion – the population of Kashmir would have voted to rid themselves of India’s brutal occupation. This has been the case from 26th October 1947 to the present day.

As Alastair Lamb records, included in the Instrument of Accession itselfwas a special clause requiring a plebiscite to determine the wishes of the people once law and order had been reestablished.[17] The Governor-General’s further confirmation that “the question of the states’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people,” actually concords with the Independence Act of 1947: “An Indian State shall be deemed to have acceded to the Dominion if the Governor General has signified the acceptance of an Instrument of Accession executed by the Ruler thereof”. For the Governor General Lord Mountbatten did not accept the Instrument of Accession unconditionally. Rather, in Lord Mountbatten’s very letter signifying his provisional and conditional acceptance of the Instrument of Accession signed by the Maharajah, we find the following:

My dear Maharaja Sahib,

Your Highness’ letter dated 26 October has been delivered to me by Mr. V. P. Menon. In the special circumstances mentioned by your Highness my Government have decided to accept the accession of Kashmir State to the Dominion of India. Consistently with their policy that in the case of any State where the issue of accession has been the subject of dispute, the question if accession should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of the State, it is my Government’s wish that as soon as law and order have been restored in Kashmir and her soil cleared of the invader the question of the State’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people.[18]

Unlike other states, therefore, Kashmir had acceded to India conditionally and that conditional integration was accepted without much serious misgiving by India’s post-Independence leadership. Human Rights Watch describes the process as “conditional accession to India.”[19] Thus there is no other choice for the leadership in New Delhi but to come to terms with the historical legacy of the unique nature of the social-contract with the people of Kashmir. But India has refused to do this. Consequently, the accession to India was and remains illegal. Michael Kolodner thus concludes: “There is some question as to the chronology of the accession and of Indian intervention, including the fact that the Patiala brigade, officially troops of the Indian Union after that state’s accession, was in Jammu and Kashmir prior to the accession of Jammu and Kashmir. These questions of timing and the need for a plebiscite lead to significant doubts about India’s claim to the absolute legality of the Maharaja’s accession in 1947.”[20]

The British purportedly chose to partition the subcontinent into two states according to the demographics of each province. All areas that were predominantly Muslim in population would join to form Pakistan while the non-Muslim areas would become India. Kodolner notes that: “According to the logic of Partition and relevant precedent, however, Jammu and Kashmir ought to have gone to Pakistan. No Princely State, when all was said and done, remained independent, though a few tried. If we take it for granted, then, that Kashmir could not have become an independent state, it still seems that Pakistan has the better claim to the territory. The population of the state was overwhelmingly Muslim, economic, geographic, and cultural ties seemed to point towards union with the Pakistan.” This is not my own argument. I do not support Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan; rather I support the Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination. However, Kolodner’s analysis demonstrates that according to the principles by which states were acceded to Pakistan or India, Kashmir should have gone to Pakistan. “A relevant precedent in this issue is the case of the accession of Junagadh to India”, observes Kolodner. “The Muslim Maharaja of Junagadh, believing that he might retain some power by joining Pakistan, opted to accede to Pakistan even though his population was overwhelmingly Hindu. India, in order to prevent the loss of this territory, imposed a plebiscite on the state by sending in the army. The population voted to accede to India. Thus, it seems that, for Jammu and Kashmir, the accession of the Maharaja is not final; it must be ratified by a plebiscite in cases where the Maharaja wishes to accede to the opposite Dominion than his population figures would imply. Pakistan has never accepted the validity of the Junagadh outcome, though it seems likely that they would have traded their claim to Junagadh in exchange for Jammu and Kashmir at the time of Partition.”[21]

Since then, “There has never been a plebiscite to determine the wishes of the Kashmiris regarding accession. India has claimed that legislative elections were sufficient to serve as a plebiscite proving that Kashmiris wish to remain in India. This might be true except for some important considerations of the details in Kashmir.” [22] Only one set of elections held in Jammu and Kashmir was even arguably fair: the elections of 1977. However, “Other than the elections of 1977, there has been widespread election rigging and intimidation of voters.” Indeed, “Even the 1977 election, it is argued by some, was accompanied by brutality and intimidation”, contrary to the claims of many pro-Indian writers. “One of the principle methods of insuring victory for Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference was the careful screening of which candidates were even allowed on the ballot. Few opposition parties made it. Thus, elections did not provide an opportunity for the Kashmiri populace to express its opinions; there were not enough options on the ballot between which to choose.”[23]

In the 1977 elections Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference party won 48 seats in a house of 76. The Janata Party, which ruled in New Delhi, won 13 seats; Congress 12, and the Jamaat-I-Islami won one. There is a context here. Regarding the Indian Constitution that was drafted in January 1950, it contained special provisions relating to Jammu and Kashmir. While Article I declared the state an integral part of the Indian Union, Article 370 conferred upon it special status unlike any other state in the Union. Officially, the constitution stipulated that the powers of the Indian Union Parliament in Jammu and Kashmir were limited to defense, external affairs, and communications. The framers of the constitution felt that, if they did not grant the minimal autonomy of Article 370, Sheikh Abdullah might declare that Kashmir wished to join Pakistan. Sheikh Abdullah’s winning National Conference party ferociously contested the Government of India’s official stand on Kashmir, stating that the issue of accession had yet to be settled. In scores of speeches, Sheikh Abdullah and his lieutenants pronounced that: “This [1977] election was in fact an anti-India vote.” Indeed, participation in the Indian political system did not necessarily imply endorsement of that system, but instead indicated that candidates with their own agenda were ready to follow the rules in order to gain power in accordance with the reality of the situation in Kashmir. “Sheikh Abdullah, for example, seemed, in many ways, to have been a puppet of New Delhi. But he always remained a thorn in their side by asserting that Kashmir deserved either independence or autonomy. Thus, even though Sheikh Abdullah accommodated himself extensively to Indian rule in Kashmir and was willing to contest (not to mention rig) elections, he never gave up the belief that Kashmiris retained the right to self-determination and had yet to express their preference in a suitable manner.”[24]

We should also consider what occurred after Sheikh Abdullah was brought to power in the 1977 elections. Indira Gandhi agreed with Sheikh Abdullah in 1975 that he could return to power in exchange for his cooperation in permanently integrating Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian Union. “The plan backfired, however, when Abdullah held elections in 1977 and won by a landslide. Following the election, Sheikh Abdullah began a policy of exceptionally dictatorial measures.”[25]Sheikh Abdullah imposed press censorship, expanded the police powers of detention for up to two years without appeal, commanded his Cabinet members to swear an oath of loyalty to him personally, and generally moved towards one-party rule in the state.[26]

Sheikh Abdullah’s son, Farooq Abdullah, was then passed on the reigns of power from his father in 1981. Abdullah “won” the 1983 elections “amidst widespread violence and hints of rigging”.[27] Farooq Abdullah was soon removed in a carefully planned “coup” engineered by the Indian Governor of Jammu and Kashmir. On 31 July 1984, Governor Malhotra Jagmohan “swore in a true puppet government under G.M. Shah. By 1986, however, the Shah administration had shown its inability to curb the rising violence in the State. Jagmohan announced the imposition of direct Governor’s rule and suspension of the Legislative Assembly on 7 March, 1986. In September, direct rule from New Delhi was imposed.”[28] Rajiv Gandhi attempted to manufacture a semblance of a genuine democratic process by convincing Farooq Abdullah to run in the 1987 elections. However, Farooq Abdullah has admitted that the 1987 elections were entirely unfair, having been covertly rigged.[29]

India’s rigging of elections has been consistent and systematic. For instance, with respect to the 1951 elections held for a Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly in order to give legitimacy to Sheikh Abdullah’s regime, Alastair Lamb records: “In theory its members had been freely elected by secret ballot in a manner hitherto unknown in the state; but somehow Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference Party and those sympathetic to it won all the seats for which they were candidates… Under 5% of the potential electorate [universal adult suffrage] actually voted… No less than seventy-three delegates were returned unopposed; and the whole process was boycotted by the only other tolerably organized party in the State, the Praja Parishad (associated with Jana Sangh in India) which represented the Hindus of Jammu (with a measure of Sikh support), after the nominations for all twenty-seven of its candidates had been rejected.”[30] Although Sheikh Abdullah’s sentiments favoured Kashmiri independence from India, his regime was far from democratic: “the State High Court was effectively shut down, senior appointments were doled out to his clients, trade concessions were sold for personal profit, and potential rivals to the Sheikh’s leadership were allowed to rot in jail.”[31]

This was the type of “democratic” regime Sheikh Abdullah ran and continued to run.  Lamb further notes that “The elections of 1957 and 1962 were carefully managed and opposition groups were unable to participate effectively.”[32] Noted jurist of the Bombay High Court, A.G. Noorani, has similarly commented in The Statesman, that “Sheikh Abdullah rigged the polls with merciless efficiency, drawing grateful applause from Nehru. His advice to the Sheikh’s successor, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, was not to refrain from rigging, but to leave just a few seats for the Opposition and thus provide a fig-leaf to cover the nudity of ravaged credibility. The advice was repeated later by one of Indira Gandhi’s closest advisors.” Indian Home Minister, Mr. Inderjit Gupta, while talking to the press in August of 1996, and as reported by the BBC India Service, testified that “in Jammu and Kashmir allelections held to date were rigged to serve the interests of successive Congress governments.”[33] We should hence take note of Kashmir specialist Singh Oberoi’s observation that: “Muslim Kashmiris have always challenged the Instrument of Accession; India regards it as final”.[34]

  1. How India Subscribes to “Self-Determination”

As has been documented above, India’s political record in Kashmir has hardly been democratic or conducive to the indigenous population’s self-determination. Examples are numerous, since documentation on the matter is rich.

For instance, India decided to hold elections for 6 Lok Sabha seats in Indian-held Kashmir in three phases soon after the general elections in India. The first round of voting was held in Ladakh and Jammu on 7th May 1996, in Baramula and Anantnag on 23rd May 1996 and in Srinagar and Udhampur on 30th May 1996. CNN reported on the “elections”:

Soldiers roused many villagers and townspeople from their homes soon after dawn Thursday to vote in the first elections in seven years in the predominantly Muslim Jammu-Kashmir state. Many voters complained of being forced to participate in a government they don’t support. At stake are six seats in the 545-member parliament in New Delhi. It’s the first election since a campaign for independence from Hindu-dominated India turned violent in 1989.

‘The army came early in the morning and dragged people from their houses. But we gathered all the men, women, boys and girls to come here. We will not vote,’ said Mohammed Safi, a pharmaceuticals salesman in Sopore. ‘We don’t want to be with India. They have destroyed our lives. We want only freedom,’ he said. ‘These are fake elections.’

The soldiers escorted the Kashmiris to polling stations. Security forces also visited mosques, telling people to vote after morning prayers. ‘They said if we do not vote, they will beat us,’ Gulan Mohidin said. Police wielding clubs clashed with demonstrators. The officers fired shots in the air, launched tear gas and charged protesters in Baramula, about 35 miles northwest of the Himalayan state’s summer capital of Srinagar… Witnesses said protesters stormed polling booths, prompting police to use force. ‘We do not want elections, we want freedom,’ screamed a group of women.

Officials predict a turnout of 25 percent, a dramatic increase from the 5 percent who voted in 1989.[35]

American Washington Post correspondent Kenneth J. Cooper was thus led to observe: “The central government has a long history of manipulating elections and hand-picking leaders in Kashmir, where democracy has been the least realized in India. Journalists who observed today’s voting in the two Kashmir Valley districts saw widespread evidence of security officers forcing residents to the polls… Some villagers said security forces began making threats more than a week ago.”[36]

According to the Associated Press:

… [C]orrespondents visiting dozens of villages and townships found few people who said they were voting willingly. Most voters did not know who the candidates were, and some claimed that military officials had threatened to cut off a finger of anyone who did not vote…

Diplomats from the United States, Great Britain and Japan toured polling stations, escorted by local police. One diplomat, who spoke on condition that his country not be identified, said he would report back that the election was a sham.

Villagers said troops waving sticks and carrying rifles slung over their soldiers banged on doors in the morning to bring voters to the polls in groups. ‘Nobody can take a risk with his life. God has given us just one,’ said a 42-year-old man who refused to give his name for fear of retaliation. ‘My wife locked me out of the house. She said, `You must go. I don’t want you to be killed.` I don’t even know who the candidates are, but I will vote. What choice do I have?’[37]

The next day, the Associated Press reported:

Armed troops herded Kashmiris to the polls today for the rebellious state’s first elections in seven years, forcing them to pick representatives to an Indian government they reject… India portrayed today’s election as evidence that Kashmiris are weary of war and that the insurrection is waning…But in dozens of towns and villages, few people said they were voting voluntarily. Most did not know who the candidates were, and many said they deliberately spoiled their ballot by marking more than one name… At Delina, a village on the road from Baramula to Srinagar, a half-dozen soldiers herded a line of men toward a polling station. Wearing camouflage helmets, the soldiers blew whistles and waved sticks to keep the men moving, and tried to prevent reporters from interviewing them. ‘We are being forced to vote. We do not want this election,’ said one man, as dozens of others shouted their support.[38]

The Independent reported that:

In the old Kashmir town of Baramulla, the Indian army obliged people with 5am wake-up call so they would not forget to vote in yesterday’s elections. It was not a courtesy call but a threat. Armed soldiers filed through the rainy alleys of Baramulla, forcing their way into the cedar beamed houses and dragging people from their beds… But when polls opened at 8am the expected queues of eager Kashmiri voters failed to appear. So the soldiers went back. This time they used their rifle butts and bamboo sticks to herd the people through the mud like frightened animals. One grizzled old man held out his thumb, marked with an indelible stain by polling officers which showed he had voted. He was relieved but bitter.

‘The army said that if I didn’t come back with this ink on my thumb, I’d be shot dead. But none of us wanted these elections. We want freedom from India’, said the old man. The crowd pressing in on us shouted ‘Azadi-Azadi’ (freedom).

The army’s coercion in Baramulla, was not a single, ugly incident. Throughout Kashmir valley, systematic use of intimidation and vote-rigging was carried out by Indian authorities… Everywhere, from Baramulla to Anantnag in southern Kashmir, the story was the same: Indian soldiers and police forced the Kashmiris to vote. It was a fraud of careless transparency and brutality, one that has convinced many Kashmiris that Indian democracy, at least in the troubled Himalayan state, is only a sham.[39]

I could elaborate further but this should suffice to illustrate the point.

  1. Occupation

The United Nations explicitly recognizes the Israeli army in the West Bank and Gaza as an occupying force. Although UN resolutions do not explicitly describe the presence of Indian troops in Kashmir as an “occupation”, they do implicitly recognise this fact.

A UN Security Council Resolution of 13 August 1948 asserts: “The Government of India and the Government of Pakistan reaffirm their wish that the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be determined in accordance with the will of the people and to that end, upon acceptance of the Truce Agreement both Governments agree to enter into consultations with the Commission to determine fair and equitable conditions whereby such free expression will he assured.” UN Security Council Resolution of 5 January 1949 asserts: “The question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite.” A UN Security Council Resolution of 24 January 1957 reminds “the Governments and Authorities concerned of the principle embodied in its resolutions of 21 April 1948, 3 June 1948,14 March 1950 and 30 March 1951, and the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan Resolutions of 13 August 1948 and 5 January 1949, that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will he made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.”

Indeed, an inspection of the text of the UN Resolution on the India-Pakistan Question submitted jointly by the Representatives of Belgium, Canada, China, Colombia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and adopted by the Security Council at its 26th meeting held on 21st April 1948, reveals that the vast majority of stipulations apply to the Indian government and thereby attribute primary responsibility for the Kashmir dispute to Indian policies.[40] The resolution – confirmed by numerous subsequent UN resolutions – calls on India to withdraw its forces from Kashmir and pursue a path to establish conditions suitable for a plebiscite allowing Kashmiris to vote on the fate of Kashmir as either an independent state, an accession to India, or an accession to Pakistan. The ongoing presence of Indian troops in Kashmir is therefore a violation of international law and the rights of the indigenous population to self-determination, thereby constituting in effect an illegal occupation. This, of course, does not absolve Pakistan of its own complicity in attempting to establish hegemony over the region. But as the UN resolution makes clear, primary responsibility for the devastation of Kashmir lies with the policies of the Indian authorities – the illegal presence of troops and their systematic oppression of the indigenous population.[41]

Other highly respected authorities and organizations view the Kashmir dispute as primarily an Indian occupation. We may refer, for example, to the authoritative observations of U.S. public advocacy attorney Karen Parker, a specialist in human rights and humanitarian law. Karen Parker reports regularly at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva and its Subcommission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. Her legal arguments are frequently cited by UN officials and included in the final drafts of resolutions. According to many observers, Karen can be counted among the most skilled humanitarian advocates on the international scene today. Her recommendations have led to the adoption of key resolutions by the United Nations, the appointment of special rapporteurs, and the extension of human rights law into new areas such as the environment and disability. Her “six-prong test” for determining whether or not economic sanctions violate human rights and humanitarian law was adopted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Sanctions in his report to the Commission on Human Rights in August, 2000. She is the chief U.N. delegate of International Educational Development – Humanitarian Law Project, an accredited nongovernmental organization (NGO) which advocates on behalf of the victims of war, human rights abuses, and the denial of self-determination to ethnic nationalities worldwide, and which is in consultative status with the United Nations. She is the founder of the Association for Humanitarian Lawyers which among other research and campaign activities, provides emergency funding for human rights activists and attorneys in various countries to attend UN meetings in Geneva. She has also served as the senior UN representative for Disabled Peoples International, specializing in the area of disability rights, including issues arising from armed conflicts.

In relation to Kashmir, after dispatching several human rights monitors to conduct a long-term investigation, Karen wrote a legal analysis on The Situation in Kashmir, published by none other than the UN Subcommission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. Several briefing papers followed, the latest issued in the spring of 1996. Karen Parker is therefore an ideal human rights observer to turn to if we wish to comprehend the UN’s interpretation of the Kashmir dispute.

In their fourth annual review of armed conflict around the world compiled as a report for both the Humanitarian Law Project of International Educational Development and the British Parliamentary Human Rights Group, Parker describes the Kashmir dispute as follows: “The situation in Kashmir is a war of national liberation in exercise of the right to self-determination.” She goes on to record the history of the dispute and its ongoing ramifications:

During British colonial rule, Britain ‘sold’ Kashmir to a Hindu warlord. At the time of the British withdrawal, the predominantly Muslim Kashmiris were given the option of joining India or Pakistan. Before an election could be held, the Maharajah Hari Singh, a Hindu, asked India for assistance in quelling the aspirations for independence and in return signed an instrument of accession to join India. Indian troops seized much of Jammu and Kashmir and Kashmiris have resisted their rule since that time. Part of Kashmir is under Pakistani influence (called Azad Kashmir) and part is now under Chinese control. The war, however, is limited to Indian-occupied Kashmir. In 1948 and 1949 the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan, which was formed by the Security Council, adopted resolutions mandating a ceasefire, the withdrawal of troops, and a plebiscite to determine the will of the people. Subsequent resolutions have reaffirmed the right of the Kashmiri people to chose their future form of governance, but the plebiscite has never been held. In 1972 the Simla Agreement was signed by both India and Pakistan countries and committed them to reach a ‘final settlement’ on the issue, but this has yet to happen. The crisis in Indian-occupied Kashmir has worsened since 1990 due to escalating pressures for the plebiscite and increasing Indian military presence to quell independence movements. As of January 1997, troops are said to number more than 600,000 (estimates vary from 600,000 to 800,000). Fact-finding missions to Indian-controlled Kashmir verify a widespread pattern of human rights and humanitarian law violations. Captured Kashmiri fighters are killed without trial and civilians are tortured and raped. Estimates place deaths between 1990-1997 at more than 20,000, mainly civilians.[42]

As thus noted by Michael Kolodner:

What makes the Indian control of Kashmir a military occupation, and unjustifiable even in comparison with other international absurdities, are India’s actions over the last half-century. In their attempt to maintain control over Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian government has been anti-democratic, arbitrary, and frequently brutal. From the moment they gained control of Kashmir, the Indian policy was to avoid, if not punish, all talk of a plebiscite. By installing Sheikh Abdullah, Nehru believed that he could convince the world that Kashmiri public opinion really favored union with India… India was also not above using underhanded, often unconstitutional, tricks in order to maintain control over Kashmir… [M]ost of the changes of government in Jammu and Kashmir were engineered by India when it felt threatened in Kashmir. Planned party splits, such as the one which brought G. M. Shah to power in 1984, were a favored weapon of the Indian government, though it was not averse to the simple device of dismissing the legislature and imposing direct rule, as in 1986 and 1990. Such moves, even though the common Kashmiri may not understand what happened, tend to erode faith in government, regardless of who runs it. Because it was India that always seemed to come out in control, Kashmiris assumed that the changes were planned by New Delhi…

The final issue in the Indian occupation of Kashmir is the one that shows the true leap from control to occupation. Regardless of the argument one could make about the situation between 1947 and 1989, there is no other description possible for the status of Kashmir since 1990 than occupied. The behavior of Indian soldiers and paramilitary troops in Kashmir has been systematically brutal.[43]

Even longtime Labour MP George Galloway has described the resistance movement as a “liberation struggle in the Indian-occupied territory of Kashmir.”[44]

In the same way that Israeli representative’s ongoing pronouncements of their commitment to peace are in practice largely irrelevant in relation to reality, the Indian government’s pronouncements in regard to the occupation of Kashmir are similarly irrelevant. In both cases, this is clear on inspection of the record of behaviour of the occupying powers. Citing independent reports by the international press and human rights groups (including the BBC World Service, Voice of America, Associated Press, Reuters, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Asia Watch, etc.) the Lord Avebury-endorsed Kashmir Council for Human Rights outlines the Indian government’s violations:

(1) Repression of right of free speech and freedom of press.

(2) Repression against holding peaceful demonstrations.

(3) Ill treatment, torture and deaths in custody.

(4) Denial of civil liberties.

(5) Denial of right to a fair trial.

(6) Persecution, humiliation and denial of a right to secure life.

(7) Disappearances of people taken into custody.

(8) Violations of the privacy of homes.

(9) Opprobrious treatment of elderly.

(10) Ill treatment of children.

(11) Physical and sexual assault on women used as a ‘weapon of combat’.

(12) Excessive force used by the members of the Indian security forces.

For the Indian government to stress its commitment to peace while systematically perpetrating the above gross abuses on a scale that far outweighs anything perpetrated by Kashmiri rebel groups, amounts to the most appalling cynicism. This scale of cynicism is familiar to those who have analysed the Israeli occupation of Palestine impartially.

UN resolutions on both Palestine and Kashmir effectively endorse the establishment of an independent state for the indigenous people. In the former case, this is explicitly indicated by the relevant resolutions, whereas in the latter it is implicitly – though directly and logically – indicated.

As already mentioned, numerous UN resolutions[45] directly endorse the right of the Kashmiri people to self-determination – to choose their future in terms of establishing either an independent state, or joining India or Pakistan. UN resolutions similarly endorse the right of Palestinians to self-determination in the form of an independent state – there is no need to hold a plebiscite on this matter because the international community is already well aware that the Palestinians are calling for self-determination in the particular form of an independent state. The similarity here is in the fact that the UN in both cases legislates for the self-determination of the indigenous population, a right that is deliberately violated by an occupying force.

The outcome of a possible plebiscite is, in fact, predicted to be against union with India, and in favour of either independence or accession to Pakistan. It is well known that the majority of Kashmiris are against accession to India. According to a poll conducted by MODE, India’s foremost public opinion organization, 77 per cent opted for “No solution within Indian Constitution”.[46] This echoes the proceedings of the Kashmir People’s Convention held in 1970: “In the Kashmir People’s convention held in the summer of 1970, but for a few feeble voices in our [India’s] favour, most of the delegates favoured either accession to Pakistan or creation of an independent Kashmir.”[47] Similarly, U.S. journalist Eric Margolis, who specializes in foreign affairs particularly in the Middle East, observes that: “India has been unable to extinguish the revolt by the Muslim majority, which demands either union with Pakistan, or independence”. He therefore further observes that “implementation of the plebiscite that the UN originally mandated in 1949 [would result in] a vote that would inevitably end Indian rule.” Accordingly, “India is just as determined to avoid ever holding a vote, or allowing any outside intervention in Kashmir… The issue of Indian-ruled Kashmir deserves world attention. Its long-oppressed Muslim majority has been misruled and brutalized by India, and denied the right to vote on its future in direct violation of a series of UN resolutions.”[48]

It is therefore important to also note the findings of the Indian NGO, the Delhi-based All India Peoples Resistance Forum (AIPRF). An all-India fact-finding team led by AIPRF consisting of twelve members toured the Kashmir valley between 14th September and 18th September 1999. AIPRF decided to send this team to Kashmir valley in the context of the nuclearisation of both India and Pakistan: “The fact-finding team led by AIPRF toured Pulwama, Budgam, Anantnag (Islamabad), Kupwara, Baramulla and Srinagar districts from 14/09/1999 to 18/09/1999. We have interviewed a cross section of people, besides government officials, military personnel and political personalities focussing our attention mainly on the common Kashmiri people. We have listened to heart-rending accounts of the reign of terror unleashed by the Indian security forces and also by pro-government militants, locally called “renegades”. Such accounts speak of custodial killings, crackdowns, indiscriminate firings, rapes, torture, etc. It gave us a semblance of an undeclared military rule.” The AIPRF fact-finding mission concluded that “The Kashmiri peoples aspiration for ‘rayshumari’ (referendum) / hakkhudiradiyat (self-determination) was heard wherever we went. The people of Kashmir do not want to be ‘aliens in their own land’ (“apne hi mulk mein paraye”) any more. Overwhelming majority of them wanted ‘azadi’ [freedom] both from India and Pakistan. They expressed the desire for a united Kashmir including India and Pak-occupied Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh.”[49]

  1. UN Recognition of the Kashmiri Plight

One writer, a researcher for the British news broadcast network ITN, Mehdi Hasan, argues that: “The irrelevance of the 1948 and 1949 resolutions to the contemporary situation was highlighted by the representative of the United Nations Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP), Dr Frank Graham, who stated in March 1958 that: ‘…the execution of the provisions of the resolution of 1948 might create more serious difficulties than were foreseen at the time the parties agreed to that. Whether the UN representative would be able to reconstitute the status quo which it had obtained ten years ago would seem to be doubtful…’”

He then extrapolates from this statement and asserts that: “If, in 1958, the UNCIP representative felt that the resolutions of 1948 and 1949 could not be implemented because of the changed situation, the sheer implausibility of these resolutions having any meaning today is self-evident.”

A careful inspection of Dr Frank Graham’s statement as cited by Hasan shows that the UNCIP representative never once stated that the resolutions of 1948 and 1949 could not be implemented – nor did he assert that those resolutions were irrelevant. On the contrary, he only states that due to the fact that the status quo in 1948 has changed ten years later, “the execution of the provisions of the resolution of 1948 might create more serious difficulties” than previously foreseen, because the previous conditions “cannot be reconstituted”. That does not imply that the resolutions are “irrelevant”, nor that they simply “could not be implemented” at all. What Mehdi Hasan omits to indicate is that if the United Nations Security Council considered the 1948 resolution to be as meaningless as Hasan attempts to construe it, the UN would have repealed that resolution by instituting another new resolution nullifying the old one. This is the established legal protocol of UN resolutions and their effectiveness – unless a resolution is repealed by another UN resolution, it remains in effect. Previous UN resolutions have been repealed in this manner when, for whatever reason, it is decided that the resolution is irrelevant or inaccurate. That Dr Graham’s remarks on the rather predictable difficulties in implementing the resolution did not elicit such a repeal, only confirms further that Dr Graham did not intend to imply that these resolutions are irrelevant or without meaning, as Hasan attempts to construe by extrapolating without warrant from the UNCIP representative’s observation. Mehdi Hasan’s convoluted interpretation of Dr Graham’s statement is further brought into question by the fact that a UN resolution in 1957 – only one year before Dr Graham’s remark (9 years after 1948) – confirmed all previous resolutions on Kashmir and their contents. UN Security Council Resolution S13779, 24 January 1957:

Reminding the Governments and Authorities concerned of the principle embodied in its resolutions of 21 April 1948, 3 June 1948,14 March 1950 and 30 March 1951, and the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan Resolutions of 13 August 1948 and 5 January 1949, that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will he made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.

So in 1957, the international community confirmed the relevance of the previous resolutions of 1948, 1949, and 1951. It is rather unlikely that the situation would change so much after one year that the UNCIP representative would end up concluding that the previous resolutions re-confirmed by the Security Council just a year earlier are suddenly obsolete or “irrelevant”.

Indeed, Hasan should have considered the Statement of the President of the Security Council (French Representative) made on the 18th May 1964 1117th meeting of the Security Council (Document No S/PV.1117, dated the 18th May, 1964) summarising the conclusion of the debate on Kashmir:

[ I ] (a) The members of the Council noted that this week’s debate was a continuation of our discussions of February and March on the question of  Jammu and Kashmir. They recalled that they had already, particularly during the debate in February, stated the views of their Governments on the basic facts of the problem, including the relevant United Nations resolutions, the question as to the juridical status of Jammu and Kashmir, and the principles of the Charter applicable to the case. They confirmed that the statements which they had made at that time were still valid;…

The ITN Researcher’s unique rendition of Dr Graham’s statement is thus seen to be further ridiculous in light of recent affirmations of UN representatives. The spokesman of the UN Secretary-General in a statement on 6th January 1994 categorically contradicted Hasan’s novel interpretation, reiterating the solemnity, effectiveness and continuity over time of the resolutions adopted by the United Nations.

VII. Ethnic Cleansing

While Israel has engaged in the wholesale ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their historic homeland, India has also performed equivalent action in Kashmir. There are numerous examples of Indian security forces conducting scorched earth polices throughout Kashmir in attempting to root out Kashmiri rebels, resulting in the mass destruction of Kashmiri homes and the effective “cleansing” of the civilian population from those homes, to become homeless refugees.

One particularly horrifying example is the “cleansing” that occurred on the holy day of Eid-al-Adha, 10 May 1995. The Indian armed forces desecrated and destroyed a 14th century Muslim shrine of Sheikh Noorud-Din Wali, a patron saint of Kashmir in the city of Charar-e-Sharief, about 30km southwest of the capital Srinagar. In the army operations to flush out Kashmiri militants holed up since mid-January in the town of Charar-e-Sharief, an estimated 2,200 residential houses shops were razed to the ground, and 30,000 people made homeless. The operation was reported by international news agencies such as Reuters, Associated Press and United Press International, as well as several Kashmiri human rights groups.

The London-based Kashmir Council for Human Rights (KCHR) whose Patron is Lord Eric Avebury, Chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group (UK), reports that: “Any home can be torched, any built-up area evacuated at a moment’s notice. In the name of chasing ‘militants’ the whole population can be cordoned off and incarcerated”, with the result that an estimated “14,950 homes” have been “gutted”. The KCHR gives a representative example: “On 4th October 1995, at Khandeya village, the Indian army swept in attacking residents and sexually harassing women. The whole population, 105 families in all, fled. ‘We can never return there’, said Safina, 30, her six year-old child slung in her hip. She wept as she related the ordeal of rape including six other women. A ten year-old showed how his teeth had been smashed. Khandeya is now a ghost village. Transmigration of population is a striking feature. An estimated one million people are on the run, as fugitives.”[50]There are other examples. The Washington Post reported at the end of June 1999 the impact of a crackdown by Indian forces on Khargam:

Until Tuesday, this was a prosperous village of brick and cement houses. Women and girls worked looms in shady yards, weaving carpets for export. Men tended apple orchards, rice paddies and plump milk cows. Today Khargam is a heap of charred rubble, silent except for the sound of women wailing. Outside, families squat among their ruined possessions: scraps of flowered carpeting, piles of blackened cooking pots. Inside their sheds lie the corpses of incinerated cows.”

The Post observes that “According to authorities, the annihilation of Khargam was the consequence of ‘cross-fire’ between Muslim separatist guerrillas and Indian security forces.”

But Kashmiri villagers tell a slightly different story to that of the Indian authorities:

“According to villagers, it was an act of vengeance by army and police who sealed off the village, found and shot two guerrillas, torched the community with kerosene and kept watch while it burned for hours. The incident was not the first of its kind in Kashmir, a scenic but heavily militarized region that is the subject of a decades-old dispute between India and Pakistan and the site of a long-smoldering guerrilla conflict that has caused some 700,000 Indian troops to be stationed here… This week, witnesses said both Khargam and a village called Nathpora were set afire by Indian forces after armed clashes with several guerrillas. Journalists who visited Nathpora said 50 houses, cowsheds and other structures were destroyed. At least eight people were killed in the two villages.

Two journalists who attempted to visit Nathpora were stopped by police, but they spent several hours Thursday in Khargam, where villagers described how troops had come looking for ‘militants’ and killed two in a shootout. Then, they said, the soldiers poured kerosene on the village and set it afire without allowing anyone to rescue animals or belongings. Residents insisted they had not helped any guerrillas, but a number of them said the attack had increased their sympathy for the rebels and their anger toward the Indian forces.”[51]

Thus, while grave human rights abuses have been committed by certain Kashmiri rebel groups, it is fact reported by Surinder Singh Oberoi – a former Fellow for the respected current affairs journal the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and now a reporter for the Agence France Press specializing in Kashmir – that “government troops and their agents have been cited in the majority of the atrocities committed in Kashmir”.[52]Thus, it is “government troops and their agents” who bear prime responsibility for the systematic “cleansing” of Kashmiris from their own homes. Amnesty International – the world’s leading human rights authority – concurs that “torture by security forces is a daily routine and so brutal that hundreds have died as a result.” Furthermore, “the entire civilian population is at risk. Torture includes beatings and electric shocks, hanging people upside down for many hours, crushing their legs with heavy rollers, and burning parts of their bodies.”[53]

Oberoi elaborates with a particular example, which once more will be familiar to those who are aware of the practices of the Israeli army in the Occupied Territories.

One common way of rounding up suspected ‘sympathizers’ is a dangerous game of ‘cat and mouse.’ The ‘cats’, as they are known in local jargon, are informers-captured militants whom the Indian security troops use against their former comrades in arms. The mice are any Kashmiris suspected of taking part in the insurgency. I have been forced to play this game on three occasions. A ‘crackdown’ or cordon-and-search operation starts before sunrise. A neighborhood is sealed off and the residents awakened by the sound of a loudspeaker: ‘This neighborhood is under a cordon-and-search operation. All adult males must come out of their houses and assemble in the square.’ The neighborhood is sealed by heavily armed Indian soldiers wearing flak jackets who search house-to-house for weapons and hidden militants. These crackdowns, in which nearly every Kashmiri male between the ages of 15 and 35 has been paraded at least once in front of the dreaded cats, have on occasion turned into gun battles. At least four to six cordon-and-search operations take place every day.[54]

Thus, there is a conspicuous parallel between Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their homeland and the scorched earth operations conducted by Indian forces resulting in the mass displacement of Kashmiri civilians, as well as the mass destruction of their homes.

It is a matter of record that the Indian forces stationed in Kashmir have been given a free hand to kill any person they choose. Human Rights Watch concludes in a Chapter titled ‘Violations By Indian Government Forces’ in its 1996 report on Kashmir, that Indian: “state-sponsored groups operate with impunity.”[55] Michael Kolodner, having reviewed the extensive human rights literature on the Kashmir dispute, concludes that: “The behavior of Indian soldiers and paramilitary troops in Kashmir has been systematically brutal. Armed with the power to detain suspects for 6 months without trial, to ban ‘subversive’ groups, and to hold secret trials in which there is a presumption of guilt, the Indian Army has a free hand and they use it.”[56]

VIII. Roots Of The Kashmiri Resistance Movement

A common view supported by the mainstream media is that the vast majority of the militant groups currently operating in Jammu and Kashmir are based in Pakistan and funded by Musharraf and his Generals. Independent observers, however, disagree with this assessment. It is an established fact that the Kashmiri resistance movement is an indigenous uprising which has broad-based popular support from the vast majority of Kashmiris. That this indigenous uprising obtains funds and arms from external sources, particularly Pakistan, is well known and uncontroversial. But as is also recognized, this fact does not prove that the uprising is not indigenous. The respected U.S.-based human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) outlined the history of the resistance movement as follows: “India argued that Kashmiris had effectively ratified accession by voting in Indian elections. The Indian government ignored constitutional provisions protecting Kashmir’s separate status and enacted legislation bringing the state increasingly under the authority of the center. Kashmiris who insisted on real autonomy and protested New Delhi’s interference in local issues were jailed on charges of sedition. Frustrated over the inability to achieve gains politically, the first militant organization, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), was founded in 1964, and began a campaign for Kashmiri independence. The turning point came with the 1987 state elections, widely believed to have been rigged by the ruling Congress party to prevent a victory by a popular opposition party, the Muslim United Front (MUF). Widespread irregularities in the vote count and mass arrests of MUF candidates fueled popular disillusionment with the ruling party. Amid protests, the National Conference party, in coalition with the Congress Party, again took power. Popular resentment against the state government continued. Support for the militants, who had not been seen as posing much of a threat before 1987, also grew.”[57]

In 1996, HRW further observed that: “since the early 1950s, India’s attempts to control the state through rigged elections and other political machinations fueled resentment among the state’s Muslim political leaders, and ultimately led to the emergence of Muslim militant groups committed to fighting for independence. Such groups found ready support and arms in Pakistan. By 1990, popular resentment toward India’s policies in the state had grown into a mass movement for azadi -independence… Although Pakistan has taken advantage of the situation by providing arms and other support to the militants, in fact, the roots of the Kashmir crisis are indigenous and originate in India’s central government’s attempts to exert political control over the state.”[58] In other words, in HRW’s assessment “the roots of the Kashmir crisis are indigenous” and the resentment towards India’s policies is “popular” – having “grown into a mass movement for [independence]”. It is thus a matter of fact that “Kashmiri opinion is strongly in favor of the struggle for independence.”[59]

Indeed, according to the conclusions of the U.S. Congressional Sub-committee on Asia and The Pacific in 1993, under a sub-section titled “Insurgency in Kashmir is Indigenous”, “India faces a full-blown, largely indigenous insurgency in J&K and a few signs suggest that either the militants in J&K or the government of India is tiring of the struggle.” The important point here is that the U.S. Congress’ assessment of the crisis is that the insurgency is not “based in Pakistan”, but rather “largely indigenous”. In another subsection titled “No Evidence of Pakistani Meddling”, the Congressional Sub-committee records: “Publicly, Delhi appears to believe that the insurgency is first and foremost a problem caused by Pakistani meddling. Although the evidence does not support this thesis, the Sub-committee is unaware of any comprehensive strategy for responding to the legitimate political grievances of the Kashmiri people”.[60] Thus, while it is indisputable that Pakistan has and does give assistance to the indigenous Kashmiri rebellion, this is not evidence to prove that the rebellion does not represent the general sentiments of the Kashmiri people at large. On the contrary, it is possible to say with some degree of certainty that: “the people are still very resolute and determined in one conviction: that Indian rule over them is illegitimate and unacceptable.”[61] Indeed, “Most Kashmiri [Muslims], however, want a sovereign state; they do not want to join Pakistan.”[62] We find similar sentiments among the population of occupied Palestine.

  1. The Militant Kashmiri Rebels

While Muslim militants have been responsible for grave human rights abuses, the scale of these abuses is incomparable to the extent of the massive systematic atrocities unleashed against the indigenous population by Indian forces. Unfortunately, in discussing the abuses committed by Kashmiri rebels, the media grossly oversimplifies the reality – it ignores the fact that such abuses cannot be generalized as being perpetrated by all Kashmiri rebel groups.

It is hence worth pointing out that even the British Government has effectively admitted that terrorist acts cannot be attributed to all Kashmiri rebel groups. In Home Secretary Jack Straw’s official list of international groups allegedly responsible for terrorist activities, which was presented to the House of Commons on Wednesday 14th March 2001 – a list which detailed all the organizations to be covered under the Anti-Terrorism Act 2000 (that came into force on 28th February) – only 3 Kashmiri rebel groups were cited for alleged terrorism.[63] Yet there are literally dozens of rebel groups in Kashmir. It is therefore clear that out of these only a minority commit terrorism even according to the British Government – which is hardly sympathetic to Muslim concerns.

In fact, while some groups do commit grave atrocities, many rebel groups also show immense restraint in the face of the unrelenting intensity of Indian atrocities, and have vowed to bring rebels responsible for attacks on civilians to task for their atrocities, condemning such acts as unIslamic. It is this restraint that led India’s main intelligence outfit RAW to execute a fake hijacking of an Indian Airliner to Lahore in 1971, purportedly on behalf of the Kashmiris. The aim was to demonstrate a terrorist dimension to the nature of the popular Kashmiri resistance.[64]

  1. Solutions?

Thus, just like the Palestinians who are today struggling against Israel’s brutal occupation, Kashmiris today still want self-determination – which includes the opportunity not only to choose between India and Pakistan, but to opt for independence, which neither of Kashmir’s dueling masters finds acceptable. Merely because neither India nor Pakistan would ever allow this, does not mean that self-determination and freedom from repressive occupation is not an inherent right of the Kashmiri people.

It is for this reason that both the Palestinian and Kashmiri military struggles for independence are legitimate, as international law under the UN also clarifies. UN General Assembly resolution 2649 (30 November 1970), for instance, affirms “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples under colonial and alien domination recognized as being entitled to the right of self-determination to restore to themselves that right by any means at their disposal.” It further recognises “the right of peoples under colonial and alien domination in the legitimate exercise of their right to self-determination to seek and receive all kinds of moral and material assistance, in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations and the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations” and calls upon “all Governments that deny the right to self-determination of peoples under colonial and alien domination to recognize and observe that right”. Notably, it also “condemns those Governments that deny the right to self-determination of peoples recognized as being entitled to it”. It is unfortunate that the media consistently fails to acknowledge this fact in its reporting, by largely describing the conflict in terms of so-called ‘attacks’ by Palestinian gunmen which elicit a supposedly ‘defencive’ response from Israeli forces. The fact that the Palestinians are toiling under an increasingly destructive and illegal occupation, which they possess every legitimate right to repel by “any means at their disposal” including force, is conveniently forgotten. The fact that, in this context, the Palestinians are waging a defencive armed struggle against the escalating military and economic aggression of Israel’s illegal occupation, colonisation and expansion of settlements in their land, is reversed into a deceptive parody of the truth.

In both Palestine and India, political leaders responsible for the crises consistently utilise a rhetoric of peace to justify their policies, and to pretend that those policies are geared toward a higher aim of resolving conflict. However, in both cases, the peace talks and overall peace process have meant nothing for the indigenous people under occupation. In both cases, the irrelevance of the peace process, the indifference and indeed open hostility of the international community to justice, has meant that the indigenous population realizes that the only solution is an armed struggle in accordance with the stipulations of international law. Both the struggles in Palestine and Kashmir constitute just such legitimate uprisings to secure self-determination and repel an occupying invader. The former South African President and fighter of apartheid Nelson Mandela has “touted the political message that Israel needs to give up all occupied Arab land” as a precondition for peace. He further outlined the direction of the struggle for such a just peace: “Our men and women with vision choose peace rather than confrontation, except in cases where we cannot get, where we cannot proceed, where we cannot move forward. Then, if the only alternative is violence, we will use violence.”[65]

APPENDIX

UN Security Council Resolution on Kashmir, 1948

The Security Council’s Plebiscite Plan

Text of Resolution on the India-Pakistan Question submitted jointly by the Representatives of Belgium, Canada, China, Colombia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and adopted by the Security Council at its 26th meeting held on 21st April 1948.

The Security Council;

Having considered the complaint of the Government of India concerning the dispute over the State of Jammu and Kashmir, having heard the representative of Pakistan;

Being strongly of the opinion that the early restoration of peace and order in Jammu and Kashmir is essential and that India and Pakistan should do their utmost to bring about a cessation of all fighting;

Noting with satisfaction that both India and Pakistan desire that the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite;

Considering that the continuation of the dispute is likely to endanger international peace and security;

Reaffirms the Council’s Resolution of 17th January;

Resolves that the members of the Commission established by the resolution of the Council of 20 January 1948, shall be increased to five and shall include, in addition to the membership mentioned in that resolution, representatives of – and -, and that if the membership of the Commission has not been completed within ten days from the date of the adoption of this resolution the President of the Council may designate such other Member or Members of the United Nations as are required to complete the membership of five;

Instructs the Commission to proceed at once to the Indian Subcontinent and there place its good offices and mediation at the disposal of the Governments of India and Pakistan, with a view to facilitating the taking of the necessary measures, both with respect to the restoration of peace and order, and to the holding of a plebiscite by the two Governments, acting in co- operation with one another and with the Commission, and further instructs the Commission to keep the Council informed of the action taken under the resolution, and to end –

Recommends to the Governments of India and Pakistan, the following measures as those which in the opinion of the Council are appropriate to bring about a cessation of the fighting and to create proper conditions for a free and impartial plebisicite to decide whether the State of Jammu and Kashmir is to accede to India or Pakistan.

A – Restoration of Peace and Order

  1. The Government of Pakistan should undertake to use its best endeavours:

(a) To secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani Nationals not normally resident therein, who have entered the State for the purposes of fighting and to prevent any intrusion into the State of such elements and any furnishing of material aid to those fighting in the State.

(b) To make known to all concerned that the measures indicated in this and the following paragraphs provide full freedom to all subjects of the State, and that therefore they should co-operate in the maintenance of peace and order.

  1. The Government of India should:

(a) When it is established to the satisfaction of the Commission set up in accordance with the Council’s resolution of 20 January that the tribesmen are withdrawing and that arrangements for the cessation of the fighting have become effective, put into operation in consultation with the Commission, a plan for withdrawing their own forces from Jammu and Kashmir and reducing them progressively to the minimum strength required for the support of civil power in the maintenance of law and order;

(b) Make known that the withdrawal is taking place in stages and announce the completion of each stage;

(c) When the Indian forces shall have been reduced to the minimum strength mentioned in (a) above, arrange for consultation with the Commission for the stationing of the remaining forces to he carried out in accordance with the following principles:

(i) That the presence of troops should not afford any intimidation or appearance of intimidation to the inhabitants of the State.

(ii) That as small a number as possible should he retained in forward areas.

(iii) That any reserve of troops which may he included in the total strength should he located within their present base area.

  1. The Government of India should agree that, until such time as the Plebiscite Administration referred to below finds it necessary to exercise the powers of direction and supervision over the state forces and policy provided for in paragragh 8, they will be held in areas to be agreed upon with the Plebiscite Administrator.
  2. After the plan referred to in paragraph 2 (a) above has been put into operation, personnel recruited locally in each district should, so far as possible be utilized for the re-establishment and maintenance of law and order with due regard to protection of minorities, subject to such additional requirements as may he specified by the Plebiscite Administration referred to in paragraph 7.
  3. If these local forces should he found to be inadequate, the Commission, subject to the agreement of both the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan, should arrange for use of such forces of either Dominion as it deems effective for the purpose of pacification.

B – Plebiscite

  1. The Government of India should undertake to ensure that the Government of the State invite the major political groups to designate responsible representatives to share equitably and fully in the conduct of the administration at the Ministerial level, while the plebiscite is being prepared and carried out.
  2. The Government of India should undertake that there will be established in Jammu and Kashmir, a Plebiscite Administration to hold a plebiscite as soon as possible on the question of the accession of the State to India or Pakistan.
  3. The Government of India should undertake that there will he delegated by the State to the Plebiscite Administration such powers as the latter considers necessary for holding a fair and impartial plebiscite, including, for that purpose only, the direction and supervision of the state forces and police.
  4. The Government of India should, at the request of the Plebiscite Administration, make available from the Indian Forces such assistance as the Plebiscite Administration may require for the performance of its functions.

10.

(a) The Government of India should agree that a nominee of the Secretary-General of the United Nations will he appointed to be the Plebiscite Administrator.

(b) The Plebiscite Administrator, acting as an officer of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, should have authority to nominate his assistants and other subordinates and to draft regulations governing the plebiscite. Such nominees should he formally appointed and such draft regulations should be formally promulgated by the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

(c) The Government of India should undertake that the Government of Jammu and Kashmir will appoint fully qualified persons nominated by the Plebiscite Administrator to act as special magistrates within the State Judicial System to hear cases which in the opinion of the Plebiscite Administrator have a serious bearing on the preparation for and the conduct of a free and impartial plebiscite.

(d) The terms of service of the Administrator should form the subject of a separate negotiation between the Secretary- General of the United Nations and the Government of India. The Administrator should fix the terms of service for his assistants and subordinates.

(e) The Administrator should have the right to communicate direct with the Government of the State and with the Commission of the Security Council and, through the Commission, with the Security Council, with the Governments of India and Pakistan and with their representatives with the Commission. It would be his duty to bring to the notice of any or all of the foregoing (as he in his discretion may decide) any circumstances arising which may tend, in his opinion, to interfere with the freedom of the plebiscite.

  1. The Government of India should undertake to prevent and to give full support to the Administrator and his Staff in preventing any threat, coercion or intimidation, bribery or other undue influence on the voters in the plebiscite, and the Government of India should publicly announce and should cause the Government of the State to announce this undertaking as an international obligation binding on all public authorities and officials in Jammu and Kashmir.
  2. The Government of India should themselves; and through the Government of the State, declare and make known that all subjects of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, regardless of creed, caste or party, will he safe and free in expressing their views and in voting on the question of the accession of the State and that there will he freedom of the press, speech and assembly and freedom of travel in the State, including freedom of lawful entry and exit.
  3. The Government of India should use and should ensure that the Government of the State also use their best endeavours to effect the withdrawal from the State of all Indian nationals other than those who are normally resident therein or who, on or since 15 August 1947, have entered it for a lawful purpose.
  4. The Government of India should ensure that the Government of the State release all political prisoners and take all possible steps so that:

(a) All citizens of the State who have left it on account of disturbances are invited, and are free, to return to their homes and to exercise their rights as such citizens;

(b) There is no victimization;

(c) Minorities in all parts of the State are accorded adequate protection.

  1. The Commission of the Security Council should, at the end of the plebiscite, certify to the Council whether the plebiscite has or has not been really free and impartial.

C – General Provisions

  1. The Government of India and Pakistan should each be invited to nominate a representative to he attached to the Commission for such assistance as it may require in the performance of its task.
  2. The Commission should establish in Jammu and Kashmir, such observers as it may require for any of the proceedings in pursuance of the measures indicated in the foregoing paragraphs.
  3. The Security Council Commission should carry out the task assigned to it herein.

Notes:

[1] Keen, Shirin, ‘The Partition of India’, Postcolonial Studies Project, Emory University, Spring 1998

[2] Gupta, Anjali, ‘Partition of India’, Bojoli Magazine, 5 October 2000.

[3] Robinson, Francis, ‘Muslims and partition’, History Today, September 1997.

[4] Parker, Karen and Heindel, Anne, Armed Conflict in the World Today: A Country By Country Review, International Educational Development and Parliamentary Human Rights Group (UK), Los Angeles, Spring 1997. Humanitarian Law Project/International Educational Development, Inc. (HLP/IED) is a non-sectarian, non-governmental organization granted consultative status at the United Nations. The Parliamentary Human Rights Group was founded in 1976 as an independent forum in the British Parliament concerned with the defence of international human rights. It now has over 100 members from all parties in both Houses of Parliament. The group undertakes human rights missions, publishes discussion papers, receives visitors and engages in dialogue with the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, and with international bodies to which the UK belongs.

[5] Robinson, op. cit.

[6] Kolodner, Michael (Senior Honors Thesis), Violence as Policy in the Occupations of Palestine, Kashmir and Northern Ireland, Department of Middle Eastern Studies (Interdisciplinary) of Amherst College, 18 April 1996.

[7] Lamb, Alastair, Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy 1846-1990, Roxford Books, Hertfordshire, 1991, Chapter 6.

[8] Lamb, op. cit. p. 125. Also see Kolodner, op. cit.

[9] Lamb, op. cit., p. 125.

[10] Kolodner, op. cit.

[11] Lamb, op. cit., p. 131

[12] Lamb, op. cit. p. 133

[13] Kolodner, op. cit.

[14] Ibid. See Akbar, M. J., India, The Siege Within: Challenges to a Nation’s Unity, Viking Penguin, New York, 1985

[15] Oberoi, Surinder Singh, ‘Kashmir: caught in the crossfire’, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, September/October 1998, Vol. 55, No. 4.

[16] Lamb, op. cit., p. 207.

[17] Lamb, op. cit., p. 136-137.

[18] Text of Lord Mountbatten’s letter to Maharajah Sahib, New Delhi, 27 October 1947.

[19] Human Rights Watch, New York, 1996, Chapter III: Background, Note 14.

[20] Kolodner, op. cit.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Kolodner, op. cit.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Lamb, op. cit., p. 315-316.

[27] Kolodner, op. cit.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Baweja, Harinder, ‘Normalcy is a Pipedream’, India Today, 31 August 1992.

[30] Lamb, op. cit., p. 192

[31] Koldoner, op. cit.

[32] Lamb., op. cit., p. 209.

[33] Cited in Kashmiri-Canadian Council, White Paper on Elections in Kashmir, http://www.kashmiri-cc.ca/

[34] Oberoi, ‘Kashmir: caught in the crossfire’, op. cit.

[35] CNN, ‘Soldiers herd Kashmiris to polls’, 23 May 1996.

[36] Cooper, Kenneth J., ‘Troops force Kashmiris to vote’, Washington Post, 24 May 1996.

[37] Max, Arthur, Associated Press, 23 May 1996.

[38] Associated Press, 24 May 1996.

[39] McGirk, Tim, The Independent, 24 May 1996.

[40] See Appendix at the end of this document.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Parker and Heindel, Armed Conflict in the World Today: A Country By Country Review, op. cit.

[43] Kolodner, op. cit. For further discussion of what Kolodner has noted, see Widmalm, Sten, The Rise and Fall of Democracy in Jammu and Kashmir 1975 – 1989, SSRC Conference. Amherst College, 23-24 September, 1995: 7, and also Kohli, Atul (ed.), India’s Democracy: An Analysis of Changing State-Society Relations, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1988, p. 124-128.

[44] Orient Magazine, 16 March 2001.

[45] such as Resolutions 38 (1948), 47 (1948), 51 (1948), 80 (1951), 91 (1951), 96 (1951), 98 (1952), 122 (1957),  123 (1957), 215 (1967), 207 (1971).

[46] Outlook, 18 October 1995. Notably, 90 per cent also agreed that: “Human rights violations by Indian security forces are very high.”

[47] Hindustan Times, August 1970.

[48] Margolis, Eric, Toronto Sun, 4 July 1999.

[49] AIPRF Report, Initial Report of AIPRF Fact-Finding Team after Visit to the Kashmir Valley during the Second Phase of Polls, All India People’s Resistance Forum, Delhi, 28 October 1999.

[50] Kashmir Council for Human Rights (KCHR), Human Rights Violations in Kashmir: Oppression, 9 April 1996, http://www.ummah.org.uk/kashmir/kchr

[51] Constable, Pamela, ‘Ten Years Of Conflict In Kashmir – Old Conflict Snuffs Out New Hopes’, Washington Post, 21 June 1999.

[52] Oberoi, Surinder Singh, ‘Kashmir is bleeding’, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, March/April 1997, Vol. 53, No. 3.

[53] Cited in ibid.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Human Rights Watch, New York, 1996.

[56] Kolodner, op. cit.

[57] Human Rights Watch, New York, 1994.

[58] Human Rights Watch, New York, 1996.

[59] Gargan, Edward A., ‘Where Violence Has Silenced Verse’, New York Times Magazine, 22 November 1992.

[60] U.S. Congressional Sub-committee on Asia and The Pacific, 1 June 1993.

[61] Bose, Sumantra, ‘The Struggle in Kashmir: the Latest Phase’, SSRC Conference, Amherst College, 23-24 September 1995: 6.

[62] Kohli, Atul, ‘The Bell Curve of Ethnic Politics: Rise and Decline of Self-Determination Movements in India’, SSRC Conference, Amherst College, 23-24 September, 1995: 39.

[63] Communication from BBC official to the Islamic Human Rights Commission, March 2001.

[64] Lamb, op. cit., p. 287-291. Excerpts: “When the ‘Ganga’ landed at Lahore airport on 30 January, the local Pakistan police were extremely suspicious about the two hijackers… it appeared that the passengers were either Indian service personnel in mufti or their families. Finally it transpired that the aircraft in question was the oldest of its type in the I.A.C. fleet, was in poor state of maintenance and lacked certain items of equipment usually carried on such aircraft. If any I.A.C. airliner were to be expended, this was it… In January 1971 he became involved in the scheme to hijack an Indian aircraft which was being considered by the Indian Intelligence in Srinagar where it was seen to be a ‘disinformation’ device of great promise… Final details of the hijacking scheme were worked out on 22

January 1971 at a meeting in Srinagar attended, he said, by a number of senior Indian Intelligence officials as well as representatives of I.A.C. and the management of Srinagar Airport”.

[65] CNN, ‘Nelson Mandela gets warm welcome in Gaza: Former South African leader calls on Israel to pull out of occupied lands’, 20 October 1999.

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