Recently in the Kashmir region, the increased and ongoing conflict between border guards of Pakistan and India and the casualties has resulted in world public opinion refocusing on the region. More than 20 people lost their lives as a result of the reciprocal fire from border villages on both sides. Dozens were injured. Recently a mutually agreed to cease-fire for the conflict in question was announced. It was stated that a decision to end the conflict was decided upon under the provisions of the agreement reached in 2003 following the negotiations’ between the two countries’ border guard commanders in India’s capital, New Delhi.
However, temporary measures such as this, do not constitute a concrete solution to end human rights violations, massacres and violence against civilians in the Jammu Kashmir region, which has been under Indian military occupation for decades.
The origin of the problem is that India has occupied the region with over 500,000 troops, which constitutes a disproportionate use of force.
Moreover, the specific immunity granted to this armed force by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which has been in force for 25 years, enables thousands of human rights violation such as extrajudicial killings, torture and missing person’s cases. As is known, in the last 25 years, over 70,000 Kashmiri Muslims in Jammu Kashmir were martyred by the occupation forces. An additional 1.5 million Kashmiris were turned into refugees.
An 800-page report prepared by Kashmiri activists in recent months relating to the violation of rights in the region documents the extrajudicial execution of 1,080 persons and the enforced disappearance of 172 persons. The report, bearing the signature of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society Program Coordinator KhurramParvez, cites the names of alleged perpetrators from the army, police, and government personnel. Lawyer Gautam Navlakha stated that the report was forwarded to the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Security Council and it was asked that the said abuses be investigated.
In July, Amnesty International published a report criticizing the Jammu Kashmir Special Forces Act, which grants unfair immunity to the security forces in relation to human rights violations. In the report, it was emphasized that not a single member of the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir has ever been tried for human rights violations in a civilian court and that this would lead to further exploitation in the region.
The practices of the Indian government towards individuals who speak up against this injustice are also considered worrisome. For example, Amnesty International’s former employee, Christine Mehta, who was deported from India last year, claims the cause her deportation was due to her investigation of human rights violations in Jammu Kashmir by the Indian army.
Mehta, in an article published in The Hindu, indicated that when she was about to publish a report on the abuses committed within the framework of controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act, she was suddenly asked to leave the country.[i]
The occupied 95.300 square kilometers of Jammu Kashmir has a population of over 13 million; Muslims constitute 90 percent of this population. After the independence of Pakistan and India from Britain in 1947, the people of Kashmir used their choice to join Pakistan. The Kashmir Assembly on July 19 1947, representing the “All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference”, decided to join Pakistan because of Kashmir’s history and cultural and social features. However, because at the time the The Maharaja of Kashmir Hari Singh had sold the country to India then fled to the UK, India maintains their policy on Kashmir being a part of their territory, despite the preference of the people of Kashmir. Due to this policy, which has no legal basis and is in complete opposition to the choices of the Kashmiri people, Pakistan and India were dragged into war three times; 1948, 1965 and 1971, respectively. Since the beginning of the Kashmir conflict in 1947 then Indian Prime Minister Nehru had positive and promising statements on various dates such as the ‘Kashmiri people should determine the future of Kashmir’.
Even in a statement of June 26 1952 “In a plebiscite, if the people of Kashmir say ‘We do not want to be with India’, we will accept the situation even knowing it will be painful” and he used the expression “we will change the constitution if necessary“. However, despite this positive approach and good faith, concrete steps were never taken to solve the problem and the bleeding wound in Kashmir has continued to present day.
In an example of more recent history, in 2003, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s proposal to the two countries to withdraw their troops from Kashmir was again refused by India.
Similarly, last September in New York, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while attending the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, proposed a four-stage peace plan to end the conflict and to enter into dialogue. The requirements of the UN Security Council about the implementation of the decisions taken in earlier stages were recalled and he repeated his call for a referendum to reach a permanent solution. However, a positive response to these proposals was not received. As a result, it can be said that the reason behind the Kashmir issue reaching the level it has is India’s attitude of opposing the right of self-determination for the Jammu Kashmiri people over the course of the last 60 years.
In fact, while the Kashmir problem is not difficult to overcome from a legal and diplomatic point of view, due to this particular problem, it has not been resolved for more than half a century. Indeed, the draft resolutions of the United Nations dated August 13 1948, January 5 1949 and January 24 1957 (Security Council decision No. 122 on the final resolution of the dispute in Kashmir) state that a referendum under UN auspices will bring a final settlement to the problem.
First and foremost, the military and armed forces of both sides must withdraw from the region, the region must be purged of weapons completely and conflicts, the violation of people’s human rights and injustices and abuses must stop immediately. Then, through a free and democratic plebiscite, the people of Jammu and Kashmir should determine their form of government. The Kashmiri people must decide on their own whether they will join Pakistan or India or indeed, whether they wish to remain independent. This course of action would be the most appropriate and fair solution in accordance with universal human rights, democracy and the international law.
The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily