Today (October 27, 2002), Kashmiri-Canadians from coast-to-coast and Kashmiris all over the world are observing 55th anniversary of Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir as a “Black Day.” It was exactly fifty-five years ago, on October 27th, 1947, when Indian troops annexed an independent nation by deceit and fraud. India proclaimed that her forces would help restore normalcy in the State of Jammu and Kashmir and allow the people to exercise their right of self-determination in accordance with their freely expressed will, unhindered by any threat of internal disorder or external aggression.
Deceitfully, India did the exact opposite. It has tried to gradually strengthen its grip over the disputed territory by means – fair and foul – unmindful of its constitutional commitment that the future of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be determined by the people in a-UN supervised plebiscite.
Since August 1947 up until October 27th 1947, Jammu and Kashmir was an independent nation. That’s why it is not a territorial or bilateral dispute, it is about the future of the people, it does not constitute an un-demarcated frontier between India and Pakistan which could be marked through bilateral negotiations between New Delhi and Islamabad. The disputed State of Jammu and Kashmir is inhabited by a people with their own history of independence, their own language and culture, their own individuality, it is not real estate, which can be parcelled out between the two rivals é India and Pakistan. It is about the implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions; it is about respect for the fundamental rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially their right of self-determination.
The oppressed people of Kashmir are struggling for their freedom from foreign occupation and alien domination. The people of Jammu and Kashmir continue to be deprived of their inalienable right of self-determination which is enshrined in the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, and which have remained unimplemented for fifty-five years. They have been victims of state terrorism and repression of the most brutal type. While a just cause cannot be ennobled by the killing of innocent civilians, neither can the civilised community of nations condone the use of brutal force for the repression of the legitimate cause of a people.
Today, many respectable nations and international human rights groups openly acknowledge and maintain that India has not just unleashed state terrorism against the innocent Kashmiris but has also killed more than 80, 000 civilians. It is often asserted that there exists not a single family in Kashmir that has not experienced the cruel acts of Indian security forces, which has sadly drawn no significant attention from the international community.
During the past thirteen years of the Kashmiri uprising against Indian-occupation, dreadful and heinous crimes have been committed against innocent civilians by the faceless culprits many times. But, India has never allowed impartial investigations into these horrendous crimes to ascertain the agenda behind terrorist attacks and to bring the perpetrators to justice. Such repeated attacks are keeping the pot of political tension boiling in South Asia, more particularly since 9/11, and this further helps to turn away focus from the real issue.
The Indian government also declined offers by some respectable nations to monitor the ceasefire line on both sides of Kashmir by their troops to verify accusations of the “cross-border infiltration.” If, according to India, infiltration is the cause behind everything in Kashmir, then why to prevent verification through a neutral source?
New Delhi is probably betting that it can use the new international environment created by the American campaign against terror in the aftermath of 9/11 as a window of opportunity to not only suppress the Kashmiri uprising against its occupation, but to also punish Pakistan for supporting the people of Kashmir.
India should understand that it is not time for a smear campaign against Kashmiri freedom struggle, it is instead the time to implement the UN Security Council resolutions and give the people of Kashmir the right of self-determination, above all, it is time to respect the human rights of the Kashmiri people.
Historical records demonstrate that elections in Jammu and Kashmir have never been free and fair. During the past fifty-five years, the people of Kashmir have helplessly watched as the so-called public representatives, puppet legislatures and puppet governments were formed and then thrown out while the dissenters have been kept at bay through the abuse and misuse of law and law-enforcing agencies.
During the recent four-phased elections, the puppet National Conference that propagated India’s estimation on the Kashmir dispute, for decades, was given humiliating defeat by some who voted or the most who were coerced by the security forces to vote in India’s sham elections in occupied Kashmir. Moreover, the engineered elections failed to give legitimacy to India’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir.
The hostility between India and Pakistan over the disputed State of Jammu and Kashmir has dominated the geopolitics of the region for the past fifty-five years. Nonetheless, the longstanding political conflict now has the potential of nuclear weapons on both sides.
Nevertheless, the international community has welcomed the latest decision by India and Pakistan to end the military stand-off, and they expect the two rivals to follow this up with meaningful negotiations to resolve all issues, more importantly, the Kashmir dispute é a major stumbling block in South Asia.
The time is ripe for the world community to facilitate result-oriented dialogue for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
New Delhi must immediately release all the detained Kashmiri leaders to allow their participation in finding a peaceful political solution of the Kashmir imbroglio.
There must be a complete cessation of military actions against civilians in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
There must be an immediate end to cross-border shelling across the ceasefire line that divides the disputed State of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Kashmiri-Canadian Council appreciates constructive role of the international community towards restraint and a lowering of tension between India and Pakistan. Nevertheless, without some kind of a road map aimed at achieving a peaceful solution, Kashmir is absolutely certain to produce more crises, more bloodshed and more military and nuclear brinkmanship.
The world community can help India and Pakistan to transform the Kashmir dispute from being a bone of contention to a bridge of understanding for a lasting peace in South Asia.
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 to voice their concern about the escalation of human rights abuses in the region and the dire need to resolve the dispute.
The cause for which the people of Kashmir are struggling is a just one, and deserves support from all those who cherish justice and peace.
Mr. Mushtaq A. Jeelani is Executive Director of the Kashmiri-Canada Council, a non-profit, Toronto-based, non-governmental organization.