December 18, 2018
India has just added another dark chapter to its long history of tyranny and oppression in the occupied Himalayan state of Kashmir. In a naked display of military power, the brutal Indian security forces shot seven unarmed Kashmiri civilians dead who were protesting over the martyrdom of three Kashmiri freedom fighters in the Pulwama district of Kashmir last week. This cold-blooded incriminate shooting has also left more than 30 Kashmiris wounded. These casualties include youngsters and school boys. Noticeably, the hard-hearted Indian occupying forces have constantly been ‘modifying’ their tools to suppress and oppress hapless Kashmiris in the disputed valley. Following the martyrdom of young Kashmiri freedom activist Burhan Wani in July 2016, we saw Indian security forces resorting to the use of pellet guns to disperse protesters. It has rendered a large number of Kashmiris blind. Now they feel no hesitation at all in opening indiscriminate fire on protesters at point-blank range. Indeed, no civilized country in the contemporary world can even think of allowing its state agencies to employ these kinds of horrible tactics to disperse unarmed protesters. However, this is only one aspect of the multifaceted plight of long suffering Kashmiris living in the “most militarised zone of the world”. Sadly, this “paradise on earth” has just become a living hell for most of the Kashmiris.
Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has termed the recent Pulwama massacre a “bullets and pellets rain” in a Twitter massage. He also announced that Kashmiris, under the banner of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), would march towards Badami Bagh Army cantonment to ask Goverment of India to “kill all of us at one time rather than killing us daily”. Similarly, condemning this “bloodbath”, former Chief Minister of J&K Mehbooba Mufti has also said that “no country can win a war by killing its own people”. “How long are we going to shoulder the coffins of our youngsters?” she asked. No doubt, Indian security forces have committed massive human right violations in IOK. In June this year, calling for an international inquiry into alleged violations in the disputed territory, UN Human Rights Chief had accused Indian security forces of killing and wounding numerous civilians by using excessive force in Kashmir since 2016. This UN report says that some 145 civilians were killed by Indian security forces during this period. Similarly, the use of pellet guns also caused eye injuries in more than 6000 people. According to some estimates, more than 70 thousand Kashmiris have been killed in IOK since 1989.
India has extensively been employing a number of military, legal and political tools to consolidate its illegal occupation on Kashmir since fraudulently securing a controversial Instrument of Accession (IOA) in 1947. It has enacted and enforced various ‘black laws’, namely the Public Safety Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in IOK over a period of time. At present, besides more than half a million regular Indian Army troops, India has deployed a large number of personnel of the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and Special Operation Group in Kashmir to suppress the ongoing Kashmir freedom movement. It has also been trying to scrape Articles 370 and 35-A of Indian Constitution which confer special autonomous status to state of J&K. The Modi-led BJP government has also tried to “resettle” a large number of “displaced” Kashmiri Hindu Pandit families in three new townships in Kashmir. However, this cunning Indian policy of changing the demography of Muslim-dominated Kashmir has been strongly opposed and resisted by the Kashmiri people.
Giving rise to a series of mass protests and anti-India public demonstrations in IOK, the martyrdom of young Kashmiri ‘poster boy’ Burhan Wani in mid-2016 infused a new spirit into the Kashmir freedom movement. It also sparked what is being dubbed as the latest ‘Kashmiri Intifada’. A massive wave of unrest and agitation instantly gripped the entire valley. Anti-India protests erupted across the valley in which more than one hundred Kashmiris died while more than 1500 were injured. The use of pellet guns by the Indian security forces also rendered dozens of Kashmiris blind. The troubled valley experienced a media blackout. Moreover, the valley also remained under the 53-day curfew, which was also the longest ever period of curfew in IOK. Similarly, the martyrdom of his “successor”, the Hizbul Mujahedeen commander Sabzar Bhat has once again sparked fierce protests and agitation against the occupying Indian forces across IOK last year. To overcome this situation, Indian government ordered the suspension of mobile internet services in addition to imposing a curfew throughout the troubled valley. The prominent Hurriyat leaders, including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Geelani were placed under the house arrest. The JKLF chief Yasin Malik was also arrested and shifted to the central jail. Dukhtaran-e-Millat leader Asiya Andrabi was already in jail. However, thousands of Kashmiris defied curfew to attend the funeral of Sabzar Bhat in a village near Srinagar.
The current ‘Kashmiri Intifada’ should be distinguished from the past separatist or freedom movements in IHK. First of all, it is an indigenous Kashmiri movement which was initiated, and now being run by the Kashmiris people without any conventional external support. So, now the Kashmiris are struggling for their fundamental political rights themselves to determine their political future. Secondly, the Kashmiri youth are the forerunners of the current freedom movement. The Kashmiri youth, irrespective of their gender, class or orientation, are actively resisting against illegal Indian rule in IHK. It is really frustrating for the young Kashmiris that they are being denied their basic political rights, especially the right to self-determination, in this era of advanced communication and human rights.
Pakistan has abandoned altogether its earlier policy of logistically supporting the Kashmiri freedom fighters owing to its internal counter-terror challenges and international public sentiments in the post 9/11 period. However, Pakistan can certainly not be a silent spectator over mass killing in IOK. Therefore, following the recent unfortunate Pulwama massacre, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has announced an international diplomatic campaign to highlight grave human rights violations and atrocities being committed by Indian security forces in Kashmir on some international forums, including the UN and OIC.
The issue of Kashmir is not merely a question of fundamental political and human rights of millions of Kashmiris, but it also involves, directly or indirectly, the fate and future of more than one-and-half billion people living in the South Asian region. So in terms of its humanitarian impact, undeniably this is the gravest unresolved issue in the contemporary world. The world community should make some serious endeavours for the just and pacific resolution of this longstanding dispute in accordance with the aspirations of Kashmiris.
The writer is a lawyer and columnist based in Lahore.