Yearning for Freedom in Kashmir

Today, Kashmiri-Canadians from coast to coast and Kashmiris all over the world are observing the 58th anniversary of a brutal and illegal occupation by the Indian military as a “Black-Day.” It was exactly fifty-eight years ago, on October 27th, 1947, when the Indian troops invaded and occupied a Sovereign State of Jammu and Kashmir by deception and fraud. New Delhi proclaimed that the Indian forces would help restore normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir and allow the people to exercise the right of self-determination in accordance with their freely expressed will, unhindered by any threat of internal disorder or external aggression.

Deceitfully, India has done the exact opposite. It has tried to gradually strengthen its grip over an independent nation 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 of Kashmir in a UN sponsored plebiscite.

Since October 1989’s massive revolt against the Indian occupation, New Delhi has adopted a liquidation approach to silence each and every individual demanding implementation of the UN resolutions. It has resulted in crackdown, house-to-house search; rape; disappearance; arbitrary detention; custodial killing; extra-judicial execution; politically motivated carnage; looting and plunder, and extended curb on political activity. During the past 16 years, the 700,000 strong Indian forces have killed more than 93,000 Kashmiris; property worth hundreds of millions dollars has been destroyed and the suffering and devastation continues unabated.

The transition from “passive resistance,” which was a characteristic of the people of Kashmir, to “militancy” was germinated by India’s blatant refusal to implement the UN Security Council resolutions promising the people of Kashmir their right of self-determination.

No self-respecting people can be expected to remain unmoved while their families and friends are being killed, tortured and gang raped, their houses burnt down, their businesses destroyed and humiliation of the worst kind heaped upon them through the instrument of state terrorism.

For more than a year now, rhetoric of the peace process between New Delhi and Islamabad has been making headlines in the world press, however the tragic situation is that there has been no let-up in gross and systematic abuses of human rights against the civilians in Indian-administered Kashmir. Approximately, ten innocent civilians are killed everyday by the occupying Indian troops to tyrannise the people demanding freedom, justice and respect for human rights. Furthermore, to date there has been no indication of any serious discussion on the question of Kashmir, but repetition of old slogans and rigidity: “Kashmir is an integral part of India.”

Kashmir is not, never was, and never will be an “integral part” of India –” until after the outcome of an impartial and UN sponsored plebiscite; it is time for New Delhi to stop the 58-year old deception.

Now is the time for action, as the people of Kashmir have gone through unprecedented suffering in quest of a plebiscite to decide the future of their disputed homeland. But the question remains will this friendly atmosphere between the two nuclear archrivals last long enough to resolve all the issues, more importantly, the Kashmir issue?

Kashmir is not a territorial or bilateral issue, it is about the future of 15 million people, and it does not constitute an un-demarcated frontier between India and Pakistan which could be marked through bilateral negotiations between New Delhi and Islamabad. Disputed 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.

The Charter of the United Nations, signed sixty years ago, speaks of a wider freedom as the sustainable foundation for a more peaceful and prosperous world. The very Charter firmly acknowledges the right of self-determination as an inherent right; it cannot be extinguished until it is exercised. The people of Jammu and Kashmir will never compromise on that right of self-determination. Their struggle to achieve that right of self-determination will not be extinguished until India and Pakistan accept its exercise by the people of Jammu and Kashmir, through what the UN Security Council has called “a UN supervised plebiscite.” Therefore, India and Pakistan cannot separately or jointly decide to discard the UN resolutions on the future of Kashmir –” it is the “collective will” of the Kashmiri people that has been empowered by the said resolutions to make that determination.

The very scale and substance of the Kashmiris’ ongoing struggle is by itself evidence (of the fact) that the question of self-determination of the Kashmiri people cannot be shelved either by shifting focus to bilateralism or the so-called global war on terrorism.

First, full cognisance of the existing realities will be needed to resolve the Kashmir issue. The most important thing to realise is that the current struggle is sustainable and irreversible, and has become a reminder of the unimplemented UN resolutions and of many broken promises. The people of Kashmir have now reasserted and re-established their primacy in the dispute. New Delhi’s attempts to impose political solutions under the umbrella of its constitution were repeatedly rejected by a vast majority of the people. Second, the current situation in Kashmir and its future direction will depend on how the nuclear-armed India and Pakistan decide to handle the delicate question of self-determination.

The conflict in Kashmir is a “political” and “human” tragedy, but the world community, including India and Pakistan, have overlooked this critically important human dimension of the issue. The Kashmiris’ demand is simple and in accordance with the international law: the implementation of the United Nations resolutions for a plebiscite to determine the future status of the disputed region in a peaceful and democratic way. Whatever the outcome, it will be impartial and binding for all three parties –” India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir.

The people of Kashmir are yearning for peace. However, they do not want peace that does not guarantee total freedom from foreign occupation. A peaceful settlement based on justice and recognition of the rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir can guarantee a lasting peace in South Asia and transform the Kashmir issue from being a bone of contention to a bridge of understanding between India and Pakistan.

The Kashmiri-Canadian Council believes that unless the issue is resolved to the satisfaction of the Kashmiri people, peace and stability in the region is a pipedream.

Informed and conscientious Canadians can play a vital role in the education process by interacting with parliamentarians and the media. In addition, concerned Canadians can write to the NGOs, and call or write to the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to voice their concern about New Delhi’s ongoing human rights abuses in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The cause for which the people of Kashmir are struggling is a just one, and deserves support from all those who cherish justice and peace.

Thank you.