Webinar Feb. 5th @ 11:00 AM EST

World Human Rights Day: The agony of Kashmiris

1 month ago

8 min

 Altaf Hu

Altaf Hussain Wani

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, goes down in the history as a universal covenant whereby the Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The landmark document drafted soon after the end of the Second World War was designed to cover the entire spectrum of human rights. It provides a strong foundation to ensure the dignity of all human beings as equal citizens of the global community regardless of the region, religion, color and creed they belong to. The covenant stresses the protection of the rights and fundamental freedoms of all human beings and affirms their universal character as inherent, inalienable, and applicable to all human beings. The rights have subsequently been reflected in other human rights instruments and treaties that have been ratified by Member States of the UN. Pertinently, there is a growing realization and recognition of the fact that these rights enshrined in the declaration (UDHR) contain minimum standards that are applicable to all states.

Since the inception of the UDHR, considerable institutional progress has been noticed in the western world in this regard, however, implementation of the core international human rights remains still a distant dream in the 3rd world countries. Unfortunately, there are countries around us who are still suffering from a colonial hangover. Despite signing this landmark document these states have miserably failed to uphold the solemn commitments they had made vis-à-vis the protection of human rights and granting essential fundamental freedoms to people. Silencing dissenting voices, muzzling media, criminalizing of independent journalism and journalists, a clampdown of human rights and political activists, persecution of civil society, undue restrictions on people’s right to movement, the right to freedom of speech and expression are the colonial tactics being practiced by the governments as a matter of official policy to advance their colonial agenda. And India is certainly one that tops the list of the countries having an appalling human rights track record of killing, maiming, murdering people in the occupied territory of Jammu and Kashmir, where inhuman state repression against the majority community remain largely unnoticed.

These reports pouring in from the restive region speak volumes as to how systematically the Indian government and its forces have been violating the human rights of the people enshrined in the UDHR and other international treaties. The reports by the office of the high commissioner on human rights (OHCHR) and other global human rights watchdogs while highlighting the abysmal state of human rights in the region had time and again stressed independent and impartial investigations into the human rights violations.  These reports, which have taken the lid off the cauldron of crimes in the Indian-occupied Kashmir serve as an indictment against the Indian state.

Virtually, every article of the UDHR is being flagrantly and brutally disregarded by the government of India and its forces that operate in Kashmir under the cover of black laws such as PSA, AFSPA, UPAP and National security act. In addition to thousands of enforced disappearances, the absence of an independent accountability framework in the region has led to unaccounted deaths of Kashmiris particularly the youth in police custody.

These violations of serious nature go largely unchecked and vastly unnoticed at the international level because the restrictions on expression and movement of independent journalists and human rights activists prevent the voices of Kashmiris from reaching the international community.

While the World is celebrating Human Rights Day under the theme “Recover Better and Stand Up for Human Rights” this year, it is time that the world should realize their moral obligations vis-à-vis the situation in Kashmir and stand up for the rights of the people of who are caught in the crosshairs of a conflict and coronavirus.

Despite the growing calls for the elimination of all forms of violence, life in Kashmir is getting tougher and tougher for the native population who are battling for survival under the prolonged military occupation. Atrocities, bloodshed, killings, encounters, cordon and search operations (CASO), nocturnal raids and violence are all that define today’s Kashmir. Literally, there is a lockdown within a lockdown, which has led to a difficult and dangerous situation.

After the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Kashmir has sunk deeper into a quagmire of reckless violence and lawlessness, which has given birth to yet another epidemic of epic proportions that keeps haunting people in the Kashmir valley. While the coronavirus crisis is looming large, the Indian troops who are the potential carriers of coronavirus keep moving in herds from one village to another, from one district to harass, humiliate and persecute Kashmiris.

Booking political activists and human rights activists in malicious cases, detaining them and forcing them to appear in courts during the global corona pandemic is an attack on constitutional human rights and a deliberate act to put innocent people’s lives at risk.

Rather than focusing on how to avoid this catastrophe, New Delhi found yet another opportunity to foster its colonial agenda, the basis of which was laid on 5th August 2019.

Since these actions are in serious contravention of the international human rights treaties there is an urgent need that the world community should take effective cognizance and initiate an action against the states not adhering to international commitments. More importantly, the government of India should be pressurized to rescind its actions and pave a way for holding a referendum in the region to allow Kashmiris to exercise their inalienable right, the right to self-determination, which happens to be a cardinal principle of the UN Charter and other international human rights covenants.

Tailpiece: “In theory, Kashmir is governed by law but in practice, the people are governed by unknown methods, unknown to any civilized society”.

 The writer is Chairman Kashmir Institute of International Relations and Vice-chairman JKNF can be reached at:  chairman@kiir.org.pk5SHARES

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