Trouble in Kashmir’s paradise

SRINAGAR — “A Burning Paradise,” “Kashmir on the Edge” — these single liners with images of hundreds of thousands of children and youth holding placards reading, “We want freedom,” “Go back…” children and teenagers engaged in ding-dong battles with troops, blood-soaked bodies on biers with thousands of wailers chanting pro-freedom slogans carrying them to the martyrs’ graveyards for burial have been beaming television screens for the past few months.

These images are more than enough to tell the real Kashmir story to people in India in particular and world in general. At this point of time it will be difficult for me to say if the Indian intelligentsia would raise banners of revolt against New Delhi as the French intellectuals did in Paris forcing the government to sign the Evian Accords that ended the Algerian war. With religion and caste continuing to dominate Indian political discourse and major political parties surviving on religious bigotry it may take many more years for the people of India to know the truth about Kashmir and look at the problem dispassionately. But what torments me is the indifference of the global community, particularity the Muslim world, toward the human tragedy in Kashmir.

The ministerial meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir as well as the annual coordination committee meeting of the OIC foreign ministers took place during the 65th annual session of UN General Assembly held in New York from Sept. 22 to 24. The Contact Group on Kashmir includes Pakistan, Iran, Niger, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The meeting was held at a time when, in the words of a columnist in The Times of India, Kashmir was once again staring New Delhi in the face. It was held at a time when hundreds of thousands of demonstrators were filling the streets of Kashmir’s cities in the words of Indian author Pankaj Mishra.

The demonstrators are overwhelmingly young, many in their teens, and armed with nothing more lethal than stones. Yet the Indian state seems determined to strangle their voices as it did of the old one. Or as very rightly put by top Indian journalist Vinod Mehta, “One would need a heart of stone not to be moved by the plight of the stone-pelters of Srinagar taking on the might of the Indian security forces — a David vs. Goliath fight.” So far 103 youths, most of them children and teenagers, have been killed.

Since the birth of the dispute, Jammu and Kashmir has seen many turmoil, deaths and destruction but it is difficult to find anything like the situation obtaining since June 11, 2010. There is no precedent of the entire Kashmir Valley being converted into “a cage”, as reported by The Washington Post, for such a long period. “The youth uprising” in Kashmir has been getting unparalleled coverage in the Western media. Rarely in the past has the Kashmiri movement received such a sustained media attention. According to the New York Times (Aug. 13), the Kashmiri protests for a third consecutive year “signal the failure of Indian efforts to win the assent of Kashmiris using just about any tool available: Money, elections and overwhelming force.” It is for the first time in the history of Kashmir that even a state chief minister has gone on record to say publicly that the youth fighting on the streets were not demanding employment or economic package but a political settlement that reflects the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

Despite the public opinion in the West (even in India the public opinion for the first time seems to be concerned about Kashmir to an extent) why the world at large and Muslim countries in particular is maintaining criminal silence on the bloodbath taking place in the valley? Excepting one or two ritualistic statements by the secretary-general, the OIC has been witnessing the gory happenings in Kashmir as a mute spectator.

The birth of the OIC was seen by many Muslim scholars as a manifestation of the Islamic renaissance as dreamt by people like Jamaluddin Afghani and Muhammad Abdu in Arabia. The organization undoubtedly provides the leaders of the Muslim nations around the world a common platform for “intergovernmental dialogue and action.” With all its inherent difficulties it does project a Muslim worldview. The organization has been articulating its views on Kashmir and these views are those of the Muslim world. The OIC for the past 20 years has been meeting on Kashmir. Like the United Nations this organization of 56 Muslim countries does not “recognize the finality of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India.” It also believes that “India’s noncooperation and the passage of time do not erode UN obligations.

Time and again, the OIC has been reiterating that “the Kashmiri right of self-determination is an inalienable right which has been acknowledged by UN Security Council resolutions. As such, it constitutes an obligation for all members of the United Nations, and in particular, the designated parties to the dispute, India and Pakistan.

The OIC has not only constituted a Contact Group on Kashmir but also accorded an observer status to the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. It has also appointed a special envoy for Jammu and Kashmir. The perusal of the proceedings of this organization for the past two decades, more particularly after the APHC was accorded an observers status, are full of statements and resolutions in support of the right to self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. In 2008, Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu on the sidelines of the 11th OIC Summit held in Dakar, Senegal on March 14 described Kashmir as one of the oldest unresolved issues on the agenda of the UN and OIC. He also called upon the member states, especially those who have good relations with India, to effectively use their influence to improve the human rights conditions in Kashmir.

India never permitted the OIC special envoy to visit Kashmir. The envoy has been only visiting the Azad Kashmir and submitting its report to the organization. It obviously cannot be a complete report. The OIC Contact Group as well as the general body has been passing resolutions in support of resolving the Kashmir problem but New Delhi has been dismissing these resolutions as of no consequence even diplomatically.

The OIC Contact Group on Kashmir is not a diplomatic lightweight as it includes major and influential Muslim countries. India has very strong economic and political relations with these countries. The question then arises why New Delhi is not attaching any importance to the OIC resolutions on Kashmir.

The situation in Kashmir makes it imperative for the OIC to moot over this point and work out a strategy that will make New Delhi come out of its denial mood and restart composite dialogue with Pakistan for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute and other allied issues.

(Source: Arab News)