General elections in India have entered their final phase. The polls are being held in seven phases from 11 April to 19 May 2019 to constitute the 17th Lok Sabha or lower House of Parliament. The counting of votes will be conducted on 23 May, and on the same day the results will be declared. About 900 million Indian citizens are eligible to vote, but a lacklustre performance, marred with bloody interludes, is affecting the assured victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi.
The people that has suffered the most under the BJP regime (2014-19) are the Kashmiris. They have been brutally targeted, and a promise has been made by the BJP to rescind Article 370 of the Indian Constitution providing special status to Kashmir, so that the region may be permanently annexed to India. Simultaneously, the residents of Indian Held Kashmir have been subjected to a reign of terror to subdue them into submission. Various heinous schemes were launched to ensure that Held Kashmir becomes a permanent part of India. Article 35A of the Indian Constitution allows the Jammu and Kashmir state’s legislature to define “permanent resident” of the state. According to this, Indians from outside Kashmir are not permitted to settle in the disputed territory. In defiance of Article 35A, the Modi government has been resettling Hindus from outside Kashmir to change the demography of Held Kashmir. They want to turn the Muslims into a minority so that whenever or if a UN-sponsored plebiscite does take place, the “majority” Hindu population of Held Kashmir will vote for accession to India. A virtual bloodbath has been carried out following the brutal assassination of popular Kashmiri youth leader Burhan Wani on 8 July 29016. Kashmiri youth came out to the streets to protest the slaying of Wani. The unarmed protesters were fired upon by pellet guns which has martyred more than 300 Kashmiris, but permanently blinded over 3600 of them.
The world powers must not be swayed by the diplomatic row coming from New Delhi, or the allure of a quick fix to Pakistan. The problem between India and Pakistan remains the dispute over Kashmir
As a mark of protest, residents of Held Kashmir boycotted the 2019 elections. Polling stations bear a deserted look and despite threats, Kashmiris have refused to come out to participate in sham elections.
Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, the Executive Director of the Washington-based Kashmiri American Council, who is an activist for the Kashmir cause, believes in the peaceful settlement of the Kashmir conflict through tripartite negotiations among the Governments of India and Pakistan and the accredited leadership of the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. He has been canvassing for the rights of the Kashmiris for decades, despite facing persecution and even incarceration.
Dr Fai says that Kashmir has been internationally recognised as a disputed territory since the adoption of the United Nations resolutions in 1948 & 1949. The most tragic aspect of the present situation is the inflexible position taken by the Government of India– its refusal to recognise the internationally mandated status of Kashmir and its stubbornness of parroting that Kashmir is its integral part. India’s obduracy has become an impediment in creating an atmosphere of peace and stability in the region of South Asia. He is sanguine that peace will come to Kashmir only when the Government of India abandons its brutal activities and harsh rhetoric and realises that the people of Kashmir are not the problem, but rather part of the solution.
Recently, speaking at the 44th Annual Convention of the Islamic Circle of North America, addressing the subject of “Kashmir: its International dimension’, Dr Fai shared his views on the subject. He opined that it is the people of Kashmir who suffer. Their calls for self-determination have been brutally suppressed by the Indian armed forces. India has deployed over 700,000 of its military and paramilitary forces to Kashmir to quash the people’s call for freedom and justice. These troops have unleashed a reign of terror on the civilian population. Amnesty International and other international NGOs, and the report issued by the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, have graphically documented gross human rights violations by Indian military and paramilitary forces in Kashmir. Dr Fai warned that in developing economic relations with India, the world powers must not ignore these human rights abuses committed by Indian armed forces under the acquiescence of India government.
The erudite scholar asserts that the people of Kashmir urge the world powers to help resolve the Kashmir conflict through dialogue. They must seek neither to support India nor Pakistan, but to support the principle of democracy and freedom. They demand to be allowed to exercise the right to self-determination in an atmosphere, free from coercion, intimidation and external compulsion.
The Secretary General of the World Kashmir Awareness Forum, based in Washington DC, states that the people of Kashmir firmly believe that if the tripartite negotiations takes place between Governments of India & Pakistan and the genuine leadership of the people of Kashmir– political uncertainty and mutual hostilities raging in the subcontinent since 1947 would be removed and replaced by sincere and lasting friendship, cooperation, peace and progress in the region.
It is proclaimed that once peace is established in Kashmir, the Governments of India and Pakistan will have eliminated the source of their bitter resentment and will establish a sense of confidence in each other. Once confidence is established, the two sides can more easily be approached on the issue of nuclear non-proliferation. Absent that confidence, however, neither side will have the incentive nor the inclination to stop their nuclear weapons build-up. The result of that build-up, in a region with rising tensions and no end to the conflict in sight, could be disastrous.
In addition to the potential threat of nuclear devastation, many people outside of Kashmir currently suffer the real consequences of the continuing conflict. The Governments of India and Pakistan are spending billions of dollars annually on armaments, troops, security personnel, and other military equipment, to contain the conflict, while tens of millions of their citizens are deprived of food, water, electricity, sanitary conditions and other basic necessities. Both of these conditions– real and potential– can easily be improved by ending the conflict in Kashmir.
Dr Fai is convinced that it is vital for the world powers not to lose sight of the true objective in determining peace in South Asia. Settlement of the Kashmir conflict is central to the purpose of stability and security in the region. The world powers must not be swayed by the diplomatic row coming from New Delhi, or the allure of a quick fix to Pakistan. The problem between India and Pakistan, as clearly defined and understood by the experts, remains the dispute over Kashmir. The final settlement to this conflict to the satisfaction of all parties concerned will guarantee peace and stability not only in Kashmir but also in the whole region of South Asia and beyond.
Unless the regional leadership is willing to seek out-of-the-box solutions to the Kashmir imbroglio, and engage all three, Pakistan, India and Kashmiris; no Indian elections will change the fate of the oppressed Kashmiris.
Updated On: 10.05.2019