Spearhead Opinion – 13.11.2018
By Syed Murtaza Zaidi
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research
It has been over seventy years since Hari Singh, the last Maharaja of Kashmir, took the fateful decision to approach the newly formed State of India and ask them to help him retain his hold over the region, as well as to keep a check on the rising protests against his rule by the Muslim majority population. The Indian State was happy to comply and even though in the beginning their forces entered the Kashmir Valley on the pretense of maintaining the peace, it did not take long for them to assume the role of an occupying force; a role they have refused to relinquish ever since.
While this unwarranted occupation has been a source of great strife between Pakistan and India, leading to three major wars over the years, the effect on the people of this region has been absolutely atrocious. While it is hard to estimate the great number of innocent people that have lost their lives to the abuses and barbarity of the Indian occupying forces, estimates vary between a few hundred thousand to over a million since partition, and at least over a hundred thousand since the escalation in violence observed after 1989.
Over the course of their history, the Indian government has ceded immense powers to their armed forces, particularly through their Armed Forces Special Powers Acts (AFSPA). These acts provide the Indian Army almost complete impunity to treat alleged ‘enemies of the state’ as they please, and protects them from any related legal ramifications that may arise in light of any perceived human right’s abuses perpetrated by them. These acts have been applied in over seven different states in India, with one being implemented in Jammu and Kashmir in 1990. Since its implementation, the AFSPA has been subject to controversy and criticism, as it has been used by the Indian forces to dole out random beatings on common Kashmiri citizens, and has allowed them to submit Kashmiris to enforced disappearances, kidnappings, house raids, tear gas attacks and even extra judicial killings.
Multiple attempts for reconciliation, dialogue and peace have been initiated by Pakistan and the people of Kashmir over the years, yet all these efforts have been rebuffed by India, who claim that talks cannot proceed unless all dissenting forces in the region either withdraw, or give up to the proper authorities. However, this is easier said than done, especially considering the problem from the perspective of the Kashmiri people. What the Indian government fails to understand is that the ‘dissenting forces’ they talk of, are considered freedom fighters by the people of Kashmir, and were born out of the atrocities committed by the Indians themselves, as an answer to their continued subjugation and exploitation of the Kashmiri people.
In light of AFSPA, and the historic trail of abuse inflicted on the people of Kashmir, it was no wonder that an increasing number of residents decided to take the law in to their own hands, and rise up against the Indian State and their oppressive practices. When tyrants seem to overstep their boundaries, it becomes inevitable that certain individuals and groups will refuse to acquiesce to their every demand, and instead risk their lives to break their chains of servitude. They will adopt any and every means necessary to accomplish their goal, and as the situation develops, so do their strategies to deal with the threat that they face. In the case of the Kashmiris, the threat is posed by the occupying Indian force, and as such, the people of the valley are willing to go to any lengths to rid their region of India’s parasitic military presence.
On the other hand, the Indian government has retaliated by intensifying their terrorist campaign in Kashmir, by improving their efforts to curtail the media and news outlets in the region, and by refusing entry in to the country to any foreign Human Rights commission that might want to examine the ongoing conditions in Kashmir in greater detail.
Just last year, a delegation of the US Commission on International Religious Freedoms (USCIRF) was denied visas by the Indian State, despite the involvement of the US state department and the US embassy in New Delhi. USCIRF chairman Robert George expressed his disappointment in the actions of the Indian government, and stated that “as a pluralistic, non-sectarian, and democratic state, and a close partner of the United States, India should have the confidence to allow our visit”. He also added that countries that are amongst the worst offenders of curtailing religious freedoms were open to a visit from the USCIRF and that “one would expect that the Indian government would allow for more transparency than these nations, and would welcome the opportunity to convey its views directly to USCIRF”.
Even with its questionable record over the religious freedoms granted to its minority citizens, Pakistan was more than willing to let the USCIRF enter the country, and conduct their report. The purpose was to be completely transparent when assessing the problem, to accept that a problem existed in the first place, and to be open to the commission’s recommendations for improving conditions for religious minorities. Is it too much to ask for the Indian state to do the same? To let the world see for themselves the deplorable conditions the Kashmiris live in daily, and the various atrocities they have to endure, all in the name of Indian sovereignty. Perhaps then the international community can take notice of the plight of the Kashmiri people, and bring their suffering to an end, once and for all. India does not recognize the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan—UNMOGIP. India also rejected a UN Body’s report on Kashmir and refuses to honor the UN resolution on Kashmir.