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Jammu and Kashmir dispute: A history of bullet, blood and bravery

By Dr. Mazhar Javed:

Like every year, 27 October this year was also commemorated as “Kashmir Black Day” all over the world to mark the landing of Indian Forces in Jammu and Kashmir on this date 71 years ago. History of forceful occupation of this former princely state is as old as the history of unfilled promises of plebiscite and the unimplemented resolutions of the UN Security Council. These resolutions require the fate of Jammu and Kashmir to be decided according to the wishes of its people, determined through a free and fair plebiscite.  Unfortunately, these resolutions remain unimplemented.

All these seventy years, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been waiting and struggling for their right of self-determination that had been promised to them. Their just struggle for freedom was responded to by the Indian forces with brutalities and gross human rights violations. Since 1989, when the people in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) were forced to step-up their struggle for freedom, well over 100,000 innocent people have been martyred, thousands of women raped and well over 100,000 houses / shops burnt. Now for several decades, IOK remains the most heavily militarized zone in the world.

Situation in IOK once again escalated in 2008, when the valley was inflicted by a blockade leading to a grave humanitarian situation with shortages of essential supplies like food and medicines. The pains and miseries of blockade need no elaboration. To add to them were the long curfews. The rallies that the Kashmiris took out against the occupation forces then were of historic scales.

The 2010 unrest saw for the first time the use of infamous pallet guns against unarmed protestors. In July 2016, martyrdom of Burhan Wani, a young freedom fighter at the hands of Indian forces led to widespread protests. Once again unarmed protestors met an iron hand with excesses reaching record levels. Since then pallet guns are being used frequently and with impunity. Use of this weapon has left hundreds of Kashmiris blind, most of them young people.

Contrary to the hopes and expectations of the Occupation forces, Kashmiris freedom struggle gained strength in the face of increasing India brutalities. Every time that a trigger was pulled to shoot at an innocent man, woman or child, Kashmiris were reminded of the cost of occupation ; it nourished their love for freedom and faith in the success of their just struggle. Every time, world community failed to fulfill its promise of Kashmiris right of self-determination, it was a lesson for the Kashmiris to beef up their own struggle.

That the Kashmiri freedom struggle has gained strength in the face of high handedness of the 700,000 uniformed forces is a documented fact. UN Office High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report of June 2018 minces no words when it says “While Indian-Administered Kashmir has experienced waves of protests in the past—in the late 1980s to early 1990s, 2008 and 2010—this current round of protests appears to involve more people than the past, and the profile of protesters has also shifted to include more young, middle-class Kashmiris, including females who do not appear to have been participating in the past”.

Despite the utmost efforts of the occupation forces, their atrocities have not remained hidden from the international community; nor have they escaped the condemnation and fury of the peace and freedom loving people of the world. Reason is simple ; you can hide a mouse, you can’t hide an elephant. Time has proven that any expectation to camouflage horrendous brutalities through restrictions on freedom of speech, refusal to allow independent investigation teams or hide behind a deceptive facade of democracy were all ill found.

The report of the UN OHCHR which was released in June this year brings these atrocities under a renewed focus. This report covers the period from June 2016-April 2018. This period saw increased number of reports of human rights violations in an attempt to crush the struggle that gained momentum after the martyrdom of Burhan Wani in July 2016.

The document recalls that in January 2018, the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in Srinagar was told that “6,221 people had been injured by pellet guns in Kashmir between 8 July 2016 and 27 February 2017; among the victims, 728 had eye injuries. Civil society organizations claim that the number of people partially or completely blinded due to pellet injuries is higher.

Importantly the UN report, in most unambiguous and emphatic terms asks, not only  to put an end to these brutalities and the draconian laws that provide impunity to the occupation forces but also to prosecute those responsible for them. It calls upon India to establish “independent, impartial and credible investigations to probe all civilian killings since July 2016 as well as other incidents of excessive use of force including serious injuries caused by the use of pellet-firing shotguns.”  It also calls upon the Government of India to ensure independent, impartial and credible investigations into all unmarked graves, which painfully hold key to thousands of mysterious disappearances.

It asks to urgently repeal the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990; and to prosecute security forces personnel accused of human rights violations in civilian courts. This Act, the report says, obstructs the normal course of law, impedes accountability and jeopardizes the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations”.

The report notes that use of pellet shotguns in IOK continues. On the first day of the last month covered by the report (April 2018), it documents, that around 40 people were reportedly injured, including 35 hit in the eyes, by pellet shotguns used against people protesting against the killing of civilians in Shopian and Anantnag districts.

The period covered under the UN OHCHR ended in April 2018; brutalities continue. In the evening of 27 October, when I am writing this article, even if I try to, I can’t take my mind off the news of shootings, especially with pallet guns that I read every now and then.

The increasing brutal suppression of the people in IOK does not offer any luxury or space for inaction; it requires urgent measures. The UN OHCHR recommendation to set up an impartial Commission of Inquiry to investigate the human rights violations must be implemented; the right of self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir must be given. The sooner, the saner.

(The writer is the ambassador of Pakistan in Nepal.)

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