There is rarely a good word about the United Nations in Jammu and Kashmir. Talk to any citizen; a toiling labourer in the street, an activist of civil resistance, an academic on the campus, a caged leader, or an armchair administrator, there is a stock complaint against the organization that it has failed to live up to its charter- that unequivocally talks of principle of equal rights and self-determination. Even some in the tribe of a comfort-zone- politician also share similar views about the august body.
It is not to say that people of the state have lost faith in the organization that pledges to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, reaffirms faith in fundamental human rights and promises for establishing conditions under which justice is done to aggrieved nation denied their fundamental right but they are skeptical about its role in ensuring the execution of the resolutions and agreements adopted on its floor.
A fortnight back when I wrote in this column about the debate on ‘Mediation and Settlement’ held on 29 August 2018, in the UN Security Council under the Agenda item Maintenance of International Peace and Security, the loss of faith and resentment of people of the state about the organization in settling the disputes on its agenda was loudly manifest on the social media. On social network the Facebook there was largely a consensus that UNSC has so far behaved as an extension of Washington and activation of Kashmir ‘is contingent upon strategic interests of major powers in the area beside diplomatic skills of the contestants.’
The skepticism, manifest on the social media, in fact in the overwhelming majority of the state has not been without cause. For the past seventy years, the people of the state have been suffering horrific political uncertainty. In a thousand year history of the state, there is no parallel to the bloodbaths and atrocities that the state suffered after the end of the feudal rule. For ending this uncertainty people of the state started looking towards the United Nations after New Delhi turned down M.A. Jinnah’s November 1, 1947 proposal of holding a referendum in the state under the auspices of the two Governor Generals at meeting between Lord Mountbatten and him in Lahore. On November 2, 1947, Nehru in a radio broadcast announced that it wanted a referendum to be held in Jammu and Kashmir for deciding its future under aegis of the United Nations. On December 1, 1948, it formally approached the UN Security Council, in its plaintiff against Pakistan it reiterated its commitment of holding a plebiscite in the State. Thereafter, one after another resolution passed by the Security Council guaranteeing right to self-determination to people of the state made people to pin their hopes with the august body. The appointment of various commissions including one under Owen Dixon had generated a lot of enthusiasm in the people. On 6 June 1998, after India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests, the United Nations adopted resolution no 1172 besides other issues asking India and Pakistan to address the root cause of the tension. In fact, after this resolution minus UN Secretary Generals issuing statements asking the two countries to resolve the Kashmir Dispute, it substantially did nothing for changing the statuesque of the state. The 1957, resolution delegitimizing the actions of the State Constituent Assembly regarding ratification of the accession is the last significant resolution of consequences adopted by the august body. True, Kashmir continues to echo on the floor of General Assembly and other forums, but it is largely confined to war of words between India and Pakistan. Substantially, the august body suffers an inertia on Kashmir that was describe by none but President Clinton as most dangerous place in the world and during his speech in Indian Parliament had urged parliamentarians to reach a peaceful solution to the Kashmir problem. It is this inaction by the guardian of peace in the world that has disgusted people of the state with the United Nations.
In the given scenario when power equations in the world are changing, it will be difficult to say how much attention Kashmir will attract at the international level. But, in this bizarre scenario, a glimmer of hope has appeared across the dark tunnel the UN Human Rights in the seventy years history of the Dispute issued first-ever report on the human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir. The 49-page report that documents human rights violations during a specific period calls a spade a spade. And without mincing words states, there was an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and abuses and deliver justice for all people in Kashmir, who for seven decades have suffered a conflict that has claimed or ruined numerous lives. The key lines that makes one to believe that the UN had not completely blindfolded its self about the realities of Kashmir were articulated by the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:
“The political dimensions of the dispute between India and Pakistan have long been on center-stage, but this is not a conflict frozen in time. It is a conflict that has robbed millions of their basic human rights and continues to this day to inflict untold suffering. This is why any resolution of the political situation in Kashmir must entail a commitment to end the cycles of violence and ensure accountability for past and current violations and abuses by all parties and provide redress for victims.”
The belief that the UN is not blind to Kashmir realties got further strengthened after new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in her opening remarks at the 39th Session of the Human Rights Council urged India and Pakistan to take meaningful action on Kashmir issue and said the people of Kashmir had the same rights to justice and dignity as people all over the world and called upon authorities to respect them. The UN chief Antonio Guterres report on level of harsh reprisals and intimidation against those who cooperate with the United Nations on human rights issues that also mentions two Kashmir based human rights activists Kartik Murukutla, and Khurram Parvez is also significant in as much United Nations interest in human rights situations in Kashmir is concerned.
Instead, of dismissing the report of the UNHR as ‘biased and motivated’ there is need to honor the international concerns. In issues like Kashmir procrastination leads nowhere the best course is to take the bull by the horns.