By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
Jan 7, 2014
Among contemporary global disputes, Kashmir is the longest unresolved dispute on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council. India referred the dispute to the United Nations on January 1, 1948, once the Kashmiri troops (comprised of former British Indian soldiers and irregulars – later renamed as the Azad Kashmir Regular Force) had almost reached the suburbs of the Srinagar and Jammu, simultaneously. Thereafter, this international body asked for a ceasefire and has since passed 23 resolutions for the solution of this dispute. The basic criteria recognized by the UN for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute was the ‘right of self-determination’ for the people of Kashmir via the neutral mechanism of a ‘plebiscite’, under UN supervision.
Unfortunately, despite accepting the UN’s resolutions and promises made by Lord Mountbatten, the then Governor General of India and the first Indian Prime Minister, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, India has actively obstructed the conduct of a plebiscite which would have paved the way for access to the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir. In subsequent years, in addition to denying them this right, India has declared the State of Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of its territory, in complete disregard of the UN resolutions, international norms and the promises made to the people of Kashmir.
Successive Indian governments have adopted a highly discriminatory attitude towards any who have continued demanding their rights, while favoring a select few ‘puppets’ to maintain the illusion of control. Over the last six decades, Indian authorities have unleashed a reign of terror on the unarmed innocent Kashmiri people. There have been massive human rights violations by Indian Security Forces in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. The most horrific phase of human rights violations in IOK was in the 1990s, where the Indian government deployed overof its 700,000 security forces in the area, who have killed over 93,000 Kashmiris struggling for their right of self-determination.
Amnesty International, through its annual reports on human rights violations, has highlighted the discriminatory laws imposed in IOK since 1990. These laws include Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) and the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA). Through these laws, Indian security forces were given sweeping powers of arrest and detention, and even the authority to shoot to kill, with virtual immunity. As per Amnesty International, “The AFSPA violates India’s international legal obligations and several fundamental rights, including the right to life, the right to liberty and security and the right to remedy. This law has alienated people and is an impediment to achieving peace, and an obstacle to justice.”
In the contemporary world, human rights abuses in IOK have no parallel. However, the dispute itself and the human rights violations in the state have not attracted global attention similar to other international disputes like Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, etc. This is mainly because international media has no access to the state, as India has completely sealed the movement of the media and neutral observers into the state since 1990. Even today international media is not allowed in IOK. The so-called Indian ‘secularism’, its ‘democracy’, strong diplomacy and international relations and above all, its lobbying at the global level has kept the Indian human rights violation in Kashmir shielded from the civilized international community.
Upon the denouncement of armed struggle by Kashmiri freedom fighters in 2002, it was expected that Indian security forces would stop its human rights violations in IOK. Unfortunately this did not happen and Indian security forces continue to maintain the pace of their unmatched human rights violations. According to January 2, 2014 report of China Daily (Xinhua), compared to 2012 there has been a 38% increase in the human rights violations in the Indian Occupied Kashmir during 2013. Where the death toll due to violence during 2012 was 148, in 2013, human rights violation caused over 204 deaths. This data has been complied by a civil rights group ‘Coalition of Civil Society’ (CCS) in its annual report, ‘Human Rights Review-2013.’
Today, a common Kashmiri spends his life in a state of constant fear from the Indian security forces. Indeed, there is a great threat to human security in IOK. ‘Human Security’ constitutes the principal component of the non-traditional security challenges. It is extension of the logic of ‘social contract’ from the liberal school of thought, and specifically covers the security of the ‘individual’, and generally, security of ‘communities’ and ‘societies’. The ‘right to live’ is explicitly sanctioned in international law for every individual, regardless of cast, creed, faith or geographic identity. The provision of human rights and security are categorically stated both in international law and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). But the human security situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir is ironically an ignored fact by the international community. The ICCPR clearly states that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life, and yet the over 93,000 Kashmiris who have lost their lives since 1990 appear to be an exception to this international standard.
Despite the global prohibition on torture, even during times of national emergencies, deaths through torture of Kashmiri youth have been a common phenomenon in IOK. India is a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)-1948. According to Article 5 of UDHR-1948, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The factual position however is that torture, hostage-taking, and rape has been a prominent and common form of abuse in IOK over the last two and half decades, ever since the beginning of the mass Kashmiri struggle against Indian occupation of their state in 1990.
Ever since the partition of the subcontinent, through repressive state sponsored policies and various discriminatory laws, Kashmiri masses have been exploited to an extent that they have became slaves in their own homeland. Millions of them have taken refuge in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world. The forced demographic shifts in IOK through forceful mass migrations of Kashmiris and settlement of other communities are bound to have long term effects on political landscape of Kashmir.
The main argument of this research is to vindicate the right of Kashmiris in IOK to all provisions of International conventions on human security and reiterate that human rights violations in IOK are a serious violation of international law and need to be addressed at all international forums on an urgent basis.
Sequel to the nuclearization of South Asia (India and Pakistan) in 1998, the former US President Mr. Bill Clinton declared the Kashmir dispute as, “the most dangerous place on earth.” In later years, President Barrack Obama has also declared this issue as the ban for peace between India and Pakistan, and indeed a cause of instability in South Asia. Owing to the disputed nature of Kashmir, India and Pakistan have remained at loggerheads and thus unable to exploit their true potential for mutual cooperation and growth, which could have ensured the regional integration of South Asia.
It is desired that as a first step for promotion of peace and stability in the region, India should stop human rights violations in its occupied part of Kashmir. For this purpose, the pre-requisites would be to repeal the discriminatory laws, especially AFSPA and PSA. Amnesty International and the civilized world community consider that today Kashmir has become a humanitarian issue, rather than a political or religious one.
The writer is a professor and Head of International Relations Department at NDU. Email; firstname.lastname@example.org