Merits of the Indian ban on civilian traffic in Kashmir

The Daily Times

OP-ED

Merits of the Indian ban on civilian traffic in Kashmir

Dr Syed Nazir Gilani

APRIL 10, 2019

It was Hitler’s German government that forbade Jews from using pathways and streets in Poland from 9pm to 5am in 1939. After a long lapse we see that Modi’s Government of India started a Sunday and Wednesday two day per week ban from Sunday 7 April 2019 on civilian traffic in the Indian administered part of Jammu and Kashmir and secure the passage for its military traffic. The ban will run until 31 May on the 270 km National High Way stretch from Udhampur in Jammu to Baramulla in North Kashmir.

We do not live in 1939 and Kashmir is not Poland. Indian army has been admitted under an agreement as a sub-ordinate and as a supplement to the Kashmir administration of Maharaja on 27 October 1947. Maharaja had pleaded ’emergency’ on 26 October 1947 to justify Indian military incursion into Kashmir. People of Kashmir and the Government of Pakistan challenged the decision of Maharaja. Today the State remains splintered into three administrations.

Government of India has surrendered its provisional and conditional accession at the UN Security Council for a UN supervised vote on the future status of the State. At this point there is no accession and the relationship between Delhi and a part of the State administered by India, constitutes an ‘occupation’ against the will of the people.

The ban on civilian traffic from 4am to 5pm until 31 May is to facilitate the military traffic. It is a declaration of war against the people of the disputed State of Jammu and Kashmir. It seems that Indian Government is using the Presidential Rule to induct more military personnel into Kashmir.

The recently constituted Kashmir Committee in the Parliament, credible NGOs, APPKG in the British House of Commons and APKG in the European Parliament should be asked to play their respective roles, before it is too late for the wronged people and habitat of Kashmir

OHCHR 14 June 2018 report on Human Rights situation in Kashmir has estimated the number of Indian army between 500,000 to 700,000, making the Valley as one of the most militarised places in the world. Ever since India has added 10,000 more soldiers and is in the process of inducting 70,000 under the excuse of election duty. It would bring the total number to around 7, 80000 a frightening number never seen in the State during the past 173 years since 1846.

Indian excuse of sending the military into Kashmir has been to defend the territory of the State and protect life, honour and property of the people of Kashmir. The State is fractured into three administrations and the case of a UN supervised vote is pending. Indian army is subject to seven restraints and one of these is a restraint on their number.

If Indian Government continues to refuse to demilitarise as required under the UN package on Kashmir, Indian army and other forces continue to disregard the four conditions set out at the time of their admission into Kashmir and continue to disregard the UN restraints placed on their number, behaviour and location, the presence of these forces degenerates into an ‘occupation’. UN Security Council is responsible to seek a demilitarization as early as possible. The people of Jammu and Kashmir living in all the three administrations, living as refugees in various provinces of Pakistan and the diaspora have a right to use all possible means to annul Indian occupation of a part of Jammu and Kashmir.

Due to this high level of military presence people have lost the quality and purpose of life in Kashmir. The fresh two day ban is to further demoralise the people. It will impact the free movement of patients to hospitals, students going to schools, employees who would not be able to reach offices and the daily life would be further degraded to an ever low.

Indian Government wants to suffocate the people out of their patience. The ban will hit the tourist inflow and imports in the Valley as well. It will add to the miseries being inflicted on the people of Valley. The Government of the State and the Kashmiris serving the administration placed under Presidential Rule, should not act as a conduit in enforcing these miseries on the people.

The two day weekly traffic ban on civilian traffic ending on 31 May would be the longest curfew imposed after the Maharaja’s curfew of September 1931, which lasted only for eleven days. It is high time that we make a reference to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Council to proceed on the establishment of an Independent Commission to visit the Indian Occupied Kashmir and Azad Kashmir to assess the Human Rights situations in the two respective parts as recommended in the June 2018 OHCHR report.

However, a visit to Indian occupied Kashmir remains a priority and should be conducted without any further delay. If India continues to refuse access to UN Commission into its administered part of Kashmir, UN Security Council should be approached to take appropriate steps as required in case of a non-compliance by a member State. A continued military presence in Kashmir is an occupation and military actions constitute war crimes.

There is no merit and scope in banning civilian traffic for the movement of Indian Army on Sundays and Wednesdays on National High Way until 31 May 2019. Government of Azad Kashmir and Government of Pakistan have accepted shared obligations under UNCIP Resolutions in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Constitution Act 1974. They should step in and start a serious interaction with the UN Security Council on the issue of demilitarization.

Optics and the issuance of routine statement of a political, diplomatic and moral support, need to be replaced by taking practical measures. The recently constituted Kashmir Committee in the Parliament, credible NGOs, APPKG in the British House of Commons and APKG in the European Parliament should be asked to play their respective roles, before it is too late for the wronged people and habitat of Kashmir. The platform of Kashmir should not be used for any party politics. It should retain the consensus, that is, a pending case of a UN supervised vote.

The author is President of London based Jammu and Kashmir Council for Human Rights – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.