India continues to mistreat the Kashmiri people as if they were not human beings and have no rights. It refuses to acknowledge the uprising as a home grown insurgency. Instead, it finds it easy to blame Pakistan for sponsoring it.
By Shahid R. Siddiqi
A FTER Musharraf’s departure, the Kashmir issue has moved to the back burner. His aggressive approach had forced the Indians to come to the table for a serious dialogue with Pakistani and Kashmiri leadership. But the PPP government that succee- ded him did not take up the issue as vigorously and urgently, partly on account of its incompetence and partly due to its inability to deviate from the dotted line laid down by its benefac- tors in Washington in matters of for- eign policy.
Relations with India are icy at best. Playing a blame game on terrorism, India has forced Pakistan to play on the back foot through its offensive on the Mumbai issue.
For the US, which has a vested interest in South Asia and now enjoys greater leverage over India through which to pressure it to negotiate a set- tlement, Kashmir would be a distrac- tion at this point. It fears alienating India if it pressurises it or chastises it over human rights issue. And it has other woes to worry about. Indian atrocities in Kashmir and tensions between India and Pakistan do not bother it much, as long as the two do not go to war.
The United Nations is now impotent having increasingly turned into an American mouthpiece after the demise of the Soviet Union and continued low profile of both Russia and China on the international scene. It has failed to provide any specific, actionable proposals for a permanent solution, which has allowed the conflict to de- velop into one of the most intractable problems of international politics.
All it has done so far is to extend diplomatic courtesies and suggest vague formulas and generalities that are open to multiple interpretations and lead nowhere.
The West, the US included, which shouts from the housetops in support of human rights in other countries, shies away from applying same stand- ards to India. One sees alarm being raised over minor incidents of human rights violation in China, a high pro- file campaign of condemnation against the Iranian government in the aftermath of presidential elections, President Mugabe being run down over his policies, but one sees the same West turning a blind eye to much more serious violations of hu- man rights that have kept Kashmir and the region in a state of turmoil.
The plight of the Kashmiris has therefore been consigned to cold stor- age at the international level, at least for the time being. And because the issue has gone cold, with successive Pakistani political governments show- ing only sporadic interest in it, it no more makes it to the list of disputes that need most urgent attention.
A cartoon published in an American newspaper in 2002 showed former president George Bush sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office, ut- terly confused by a news report he was reading about India and Pakistan going to war over Kashmir. “But why are the two countries fighting over a sweater,” he asks Dick Cheney who stood by with his trademark sly smile on his face.
Apart from reflecting the intellectu- al capacity of the American president of the time, the cartoon was a realistic portrayal of the understanding that the new crop of international political leadership has generally shown of this dispute.
This has encouraged India to come down heavily on the Kashmiris who agitate for freedom. The murky cycle of violence is picking up speed. The killing of innocent civilians at the hands of the army, para-military forces and police draws protests in all nooks and corners of the state by enraged people which in turn provoke the security forces into letting lose a reign of terror. Men and women — young and old, and even children are indiscriminately killed, injured and maimed and women raped with impunity.
A recent report on Human Rights violations states that between 1989 and June 30, 2010 the number of Kashmiris killed at the hands of Indian security forces stands at 93,274. Additionally, there have been 6,969 custodial killings, over 107,351 children have been orphaned, 22,728 women widowed and 9,920 women gang raped. In June 2010 alone, 33 people were killed including four children, 572 people were tortured and injured and eight women were molested, 117,345 people were arrested and 105,861 houses or structures in the use of the communities were razed or destroyed.
This happens because the state or the central governments neither explain their actions nor carry out investigations to punish those who use excessive force. Human rights groups blame the culture of impunity among security forces in Kashmir on a controversial 1990 national law granting soldiers the right to detain or eliminate all suspected terrorists and destroy their property without fear of prosecution. Critics call this provision a licence to kill as it does not clearly define "terrorists".
India continues to treat the Kashmiri people as if they were not human beings and as if they have no rights. It refuses to acknowledge the uprising to be a home grown insurgency. Instead, it finds it easy to blame it all on groups that it says Pakistan sponsors.
After six decades of bloodshed and armed confrontation, Indian leaders should realise the impossibility of sweeping the issue under the carpet or keeping the Kashmiris subjugated indefinitely through force, an option which has acquired an entirely new dimension due to India and Pakistan having become nuclear powers. It is now time that India should move with sincerity towards resolving the dis pute with the following in mind:
(a) A solution must be found on the basis of tripartite approach that takes into account the wishes of the people of Kashmir, besides India and Pakistan.
(b) India should consider with an open mind Pakistan’s proposals to move away from old paradigms in search of a mutually acceptable solu tion. Proposals such as an ‘independ ent state of Kashmir’ deserve consid eration.
(c) Kashmir must be treated as an issue of basic human rights, which forms part of the jus cogens of general international law. Kashmir is also an issue of religious rights and identity where the majority Muslim communi ty has been adversely affected by the partition along the “Line of Control”.
(d) Kashmir is not only a regional is sue in terms of territorial claims by three states, including China, it also has serious implications for global peace and security. The fact that all three countries actually controlling parts of the disputed territory are nuclear powers cannot be ignored.
(e) The struggle of the people of Kashmir must not be confused with the so-called “global war on terror”, which happens to be a superpower agenda that is alien to this conflict. Instead of making this issue further intractable, India needs to understand the dictum: “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” The fact is that India promotes terrorism, like Israel, by denying the people their rights and subjugating them against their will.
(f) India will have to move away from the police and military approach and stop treating the insurgency as “a battle against terrorists”. Instead of dealing with symptoms, it must address the root cause of the conflict — the question of self-determination.
(g) Brutalities, rape and other human rights violations by security forces must come to an end and these must be prosecuted with full determination and without bias.
(h) The legacy of the Security Council resolutions 38 and 47 (1948) as well as the resolutions adopted by the UNCIP in 1948 and 1949 cannot be discarded, in spite of the time that has elapsed since their adoption, as these have neither become obsolete, nor invalid nor have they been recalled by the Council at any stage. On the other hand, ten years after the initial resolutions, Security Council resolution 122 (1957) reaffirmed the same democratic principle as basis of a just solution.
India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru fully endorsed this principle when on November 2, 1947 he said: “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given […] not only to the people of Kashmir but the world. We will not, and cannot back out of it. We are prepared when peace and law and order have been established to have a referendum held under international auspices like the United Nations.” It is time for the present Indian leadership to listen to its founding fathers, if it does not wish to listen to the rest of the world. ¦
(Shahid is a writer on political and geopolitical issues and his articles are carried by the daily newspapers Dawn and The Nation in Pakistan, German magazine Globalia and online publications such as Axis of Logic, Foreign Policy Journal and Middle East Times)
NOTE: This is a cross post.