Today, Kashmiri-Canadians from coast to coast and Kashmiris all over the world are observing 63rd anniversary of Indian occupation of Kashmir as a “Black Day.” It was exactly 63 years ago, on October 27th, 1947, when the Indian troops invaded and occupied a sovereign nation of Jammu and Kashmir. The government of India proclaimed that her forces would help to restore normalcy in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and allow the people to exercise the right to self-determination in accordance with their freely expressed will, unhindered by any threat of internal disorder or external aggression.
Deceitfully, India did the exact opposite. Those who have followed developments in Kashmir know that the ongoing struggle for freedom began in 1931 when people came out in open revolt against then autocratic and tyrannical regime; they had nearly succeeded in over-throwing the regime when India stepped in 1947 to take over the tyrant disposed regime, faced with stiff resistance from the locals against its invasion – India transformed Kashmir into a purely military zone, killing hundreds of defenceless Kashmiris.
The first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir broke out in 1947. In 1948 India took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations Security Council, which constituted a special commission – the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan – with the mandate to independently investigate the matter and help the contending parties reach a negotiated settlement. The most important outcome of the deliberations of the commission were two resolutions passed by the Security Council on August 13th, 1948 and January 15th, 1949 respectively, calling upon the governments of India and Pakistan to hold a free, fair and impartial plebiscite under UN auspices in order to enable the people of Kashmir to decide whether they wanted to join India or Pakistan.
This was followed by commitments on part of the Indian leadership to allow the people of Kashmir to determine their future. In a statement to the Indian parliament on February 12th, 1951, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said: “We had given our pledge to the people of Kashmir and subsequently to the United Nations. We stood by it and we stand by it today. Let the people of Kashmir decide.”
Disappointed by the failure to legitimise its occupation, on August 9th, 1953, India arrested then prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir and popular leader Sheikh Abdullah in a coup d’état – the occupying forces killed more than 1,500 innocent civilians to silence the massive revolt against its occupation. Since then, India has tried to gradually strengthen its grip over the occupied region by means fair and foul unmindful of its constitutional commitment about the future status of the occupied state.
1987’s rigged elections and India’s refusal to honour her commitment about Kashmiris’ right to self-determination pushed the people of Kashmir from “passive resistance” to “active resistance” in 1989, combined with an unrelenting response from the Indian occupation forces that has transformed Kashmir into one of the most militarised places on the planet, has led to the deaths of more than 100,000 Kashmiris.
Since October 1989, the people of Kashmir continue to live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world. The 700,000 strong Indian forces have been mercilessly killing Kashmiris to silence the people’s demand for freedom, justice, and respect for human rights. They continue to carry out arbitrary detention, summary executions, custodial killings, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, rape, sexual exploitation, torture and fake encounters. Generations of Kashmiris have grown up under the shadow of the gun; not a single family is unaffected; property worth hundreds of millions of dollars has been destroyed and the suffering and devastation continues unabated, sadly drawing no significant attention from the international community.
Impunity has become a licence for the Indian occupation forces to wreak havoc with the lives of Kashmiris. The deliberate and unprovoked attacks and other patterns of abuse have all become too frequent to report. No perpetrator has ever been prosecuted in a real manner, despite the fact that such crimes have been extensively documented by many international human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
In 2008, when India attempted to change the demography of the state of Jammu and Kashmir followed by economic blockade against the people of Kashmir it backfired; triggering tsunami of protests across Kashmir, chanting: “we want freedom,” a classic people’s movement. The Indian occupation forces fired indiscriminately on the protesters, killing hundreds of civilians, including a senior freedom movement leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz and injuring thousands more.
In 2009, when the occupying Indian troops kidnapped and killed 17-year-old Aasiya Jan and her sister-in-law, Nilofar Shakeel, 22; their corpses were found floating in a shallow stream on May 30th, 2009 after disappearing from their family’s apple orchards in the city of Shopian in Indian-administered Kashmir. Subsequently, the occupation forces’ attempt to cover it up set off months of massive demonstrations, several protesters were killed and hundreds injured in pitched street battles between anti-India demonstrators chanting: “we want freedom,” and the Indian occupation troops using brute force to get the situation under control.
2010 has been a year of Intifada: thousands of people, young and old, men and women, boys and girls, have been defying curfews and out on the streets protesting against India’s rule and the occupation forces’ reign of terror to silence the people’s movement demanding an end to India’s occupation. More than 100 protesters, mainly young boys, have been killed and hundreds have been wounded, in less than four months, in pitched street battles between protesters attacking the troops with stones and chanting: “Go India, go back. We want freedom,” and the Indian occupation troops are using brute force against defenceless Kashmiris, e.g., live ammunition, crackdowns, surprised night raids, random arrests, severe beatings, humiliation of women, and other tactics to terrorise the population.
Jim Yardley of The New York Times reports from Srinagar on Tuesday September 21: “For more than 100 days, in which Indian security officers have killed more than 100 Kashmiri civilians, the Indian government has seemed paralyzed, or even indifferent, as this disputed Himalayan region has plunged into one of the gravest crises of its tortured history… Indian officials concede that this latest unrest is different, a domestic Kashmiri revolt against Indian rule… a rising Kashmiri demand for political independence and seething anger within the younger generation toward the heavy security presence on the ground… Kashmiris calling for a bold initiative addressing their aspirations to self-determination…”
The voice that India has tried so forcefully to silence in Kashmir has massed into a loud thunder. Kashmir’s young generation that has helplessly watched the Indian forces’ brutality against innocent civilians for more than 20 years has suddenly discovered the power of mass protest, which has shocked the entire Indian establishment. The current uprising or Intifada in Kashmir only serves as a reminder of the centrality of the Kashmiri people on the issue of the future of Kashmir.
It is high time India realised the fact that control over a region alone does not mean sovereignty over a chunk of land. It is the people who make up a nation and if they are perpetually alienated, any territorial supremacy achieved through brute force alone can never guarantee long-term peace.
The perception that the Kashmir issue is a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan is unfounded. Kashmir is not a territorial or bilateral issue. It is about the future of 15 million people with their own history of independence; their own language and culture. This has been an explicit explanation for the failure to resolve the Kashmir issue through on-again and off-again bilateral dialogue for the past 63 years. The people of Kashmir have lost complete faith in the bilateral process of India and Pakistan and their ability to resolve the issue.
The international community must realise the dangers of the policy of appeasement that has brought Kashmir on the boil again. The prospect of peace and progress in the South Asian region is inseparably linked with the recognition of the Kashmiri peoples’ right to decide their future and thus rests upon the world community’s willingness to make positive contribution towards resolving the Kashmir conflict in this direction.
The 15 million people of Kashmir are longing for peace, justice and freedom. They want a just and dignified peace that guarantees total freedom from foreign occupation and alien domination. Their struggle to achieve that right to self-determination will not extinguish until India and Pakistan accept its exercise by the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The unprecedented sacrifices and suffering experienced by the people against this volte-face in terms of death and destruction, life and property, torture and persecution, rape and repression over the years, particularly during the past 21 years, is much too great to go unrewarded. The Kashmiri freedom movement is now entering its twenty-second year with firm and unwavering courage and determination in the face of unspeakable suffering and injustices to achieve the right to self-determination. The ground reality is very encouraging as the people are determined to achieve freedom, therefore, the struggle is in full momentum and the demand for a UN supervised plebiscite is at an all-time high.
The conflict in Kashmir is a “political” and “human” tragedy and the world community, including India and Pakistan, have overlooked this critically important human dimension of the issue. The Kashmiris’ demand is simple and in accordance with the international law: implementation of the United Nations resolutions for a plebiscite to determine the future status of the disputed region in a peaceful and democratic way. Whatever the outcome, it will be impartial and binding for all the three parties – India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir.
Informed and conscientious Canadians can play a vital role in the education process by interacting with parliamentarians and the media. In addition, concerned Canadians can write to the UN Secretary General, NGOs, and call or write to the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to voice their concern about systematic human rights abuses in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The cause for which the people of Kashmir are struggling is a just one, and deserves support from all those who cherish peace and justice.
(The members and affiliates of the Kashmiri-Canadian Council (KCC) will observe 63rdYear of occupation of a sovereign nation of Jammu and Kashmir as a “Black Day” today, October 27th, 2010)