South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

The argument between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan concerning Kashmir during the UN General Assembly debate exposes the lack of respect both these governments entertain for their people, particularly to those living in Kashmir and for international human rights norms. Pakistan, as a member state of the UN has every right to publically point fingers at its neighbour, India, concerning human rights abuses committed by India in Kashmir. So has India a right to highlight the accuser’s appalling human rights standards in reply.

Accusation and counter accusation will not help to ameliorate the current situation of Kashmiris living on both sides of the border. To say the least, the debate only resulted in the folly of the pot calling the kettle black. Unfortunately it is at the expense of the taxpayers’ money. It is anybody’s guess what these ministers could achieve by holding a bilateral discussion in New York, though it is certain that the meeting will do nothing to end the ongoing violence in Kashmir, irrespective of which side of the international border it is committed.

India on its part is engaged in violence with impunity in Kashmir not a bit less than its neighbour, Pakistan, in the Kashmir Pakistan occupies. Both countries are engaged in sabotage and counter sabotage, infiltrating each other’s borders. For India, these sabotages have largely remained within the limited realm of a military and political requirement for a ‘tit for tat’ reply and to stir up trouble to keep the perceived enemy busy.

Pakistan on its part in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir recruit, fund and train militants who are later assisted to infiltrate into the Indian occupied Kashmir. Most of this is done for the sheer survival of Pakistan’s military dictatorships and its military sponsored/controlled civilian regimes. Inside the Pakistan occupied Kashmir, its military runs torture chambers and mans execution squads to silence all forms of dissent and the cry for freedom from oppression by those Kashmiris destined to be under Pakistan’s rule. The global war against terror has served a convenient excuse for both India and Pakistan to continue their brutalities against Kashmiris, unabated, with the blessings of the western states like the United States and the United Kingdom.

On the Indian side, Kashmir today has become the fishing ground for scapegoats, those unfortunate souls the government would want to be paraded before a racially and religiously prejudiced Hindu majority, on issues what the government portray as those affecting national security. Some of the Islamic fundamentalist groups operating in India with the support of sectarian political parties like the Communist Party of India (Marxist) holding power in Kerala state, with whom they have found comfortable allegiances, have only contributed to infuriate the situation. Thousands have lost their life, tortured, raped or disappeared over the past six decades of Indian occupation of Kashmir.

Even the mildest expression of public anger and protest against the brutalities committed by the occupying forces is suicidal in Kashmir till today and is not expected to change in any near future. There is yet no credible and complete data available concerning the extent of violence committed by the Indian armed forces and other paramilitary units in Kashmir.

In ‘mainland’ India however, criminals like Mr. Narendra Modi, the present Chief Minister of Gujarat and Mr. L. K. Advani, the current leader of the opposition in Indian parliament, who together masterminded the genocide of Muslims in Gujarat are considered and revered as persons under whose leadership India’s future is secure. Mr. Jagdish Tytler, Mr. Sajjan Kumar and Mr. H. K. L Bagath who together masterminded the genocide of Sikhs in New Delhi played considerable role in formulating the country’s policies. While Bagath died, no one in India expects the other criminals to be punished for the crimes they have committed since today India’s justice institutions are ridden with corruption, nepotism and delay and thus have become unfit to discharge the job they are entrusted with. There can be no better proof of discrimination meted out against Kashmiris in India.

The overwhelming response to what is going on in the Indian occupied Kashmir is referring to it as ‘violence’. The so-called national media has observed their characteristic self-censorship of failing to report the truth from Kashmir and called the protesting Kashmiris as ‘sporadically formed violent mobs of stone-pelters’ as if they are the only hindrance in achieving peace in the region. Unacceptable, stale and sterile calls for ‘abstention from violence’ have been made, in India and from abroad. The Prime Minister of India has urged Kashmiris to come forward for a dialogue. Justifying his need to continue his ‘operations’ with impunity, the chief of Indian army has claimed that the draconian law, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 is an enabling legislation for the continued operation of the armed forces in Kashmir.

The country’s media reported all these calls. But for one or two, none cared to report from Kashmir about what the ordinary Kashmiri has to say about what has gone wrong, terribly, in their life. A news report about the banality of human rights abuses committed by the Indian armed forces in Kashmir is yet to find space or time in the so-called mainstream Indian media. The publicity is for the calls to ‘abstain from violence’, a convenient expression used repeatedly over the past several months, instead of saying, bluntly, that do not protest against the continued onslaught of your dignity and life.

Those who call for a dialogue appear to deny that a meaningful dialogue is only possible between entities that trust each other. What act of trust building has the government of India carried out in Kashmir so far? Has the government taken any action to investigate the human rights abuses committed by the Indian security forces in Kashmir? Will the government allow independent reporting of events by the media and the members of the civil society from Kashmir? Will the government be willing to constitute an impartial tribunal, armed with the power and resources to accept complaints, investigate them, protect witnesses and prosecute human rights abusers? Is it remaining silent when raped, tortured, murdered and disappeared and forgetting one’s dignity that is meant by remaining calm?

Indeed India would not want anything concerning Kashmir to be discussed outside its borders. So would Pakistan argue that Kashmir is an issue for them to settle with India. Their interest in Kashmir is allegedly for the greater benefit of Kashmiris, for which Pakistan has only found religion as an excuse, forgetting that India is home for the second largest Muslim population in the world. For India, Kashmir is its internal affair upon which none has a right to comment. It is an internal affair for India like caste-based discrimination, like the genocide in Gujarat, like the murder of Sikhs in Punjab and later in New Delhi, like the ongoing violence and human rights abuses committed by the security agencies in states like Manipur and Chhattisgarh.

Based on this logic, the extermination of Jews, gypsies and Russians were the internal affair of Germany. The apartheid should have remained the internal affair of South Africa. Pol Pot in Cambodia dealt with Cambodians, so did Mao in his ‘great leap forward’, both according to the Indian logic an internal affair limited for the exclusive discussion of China and Cambodia. Tutsis dealt with Hutus ‘internally’ in Rwanda. If India’s logic of decrying international debates and involvement on Kashmir is to be the new norm of international human rights, the Khmer Rogue and Rwandan international tribunals must be dismissed and the staff, including the judges send home.

The demonstrated lack of honesty to end violence in Kashmir, domestically in India and Pakistan and internationally in the UN has only resulted in the continuing misery of ordinary Kashmiris living in both sides of the international border dividing Kashmir. Today, Kashmir has become one of the most densely militarised regions of the world. Generations have born and perished behind the shadows of military barracks and in the darkness of the evil both India and Pakistan has committed in Kashmir. The world has so far look the other way, leaving the squabble to be decided between India and Pakistan. While some countries require Pakistan to remain in their side to continue their war against terror and further to maintain their ‘friendly state status’ to have a check on China, they also need India to be on their side, as it is their potent and growing destination for corporate dumping and exploitation.

In this war of opportunities between two states, and the continuing apathy of the international community concerning Kashmir, it is the Kashmiris who are at loss. They have suffered, evil, and will continue to be in the same state of misery for years to come, for what they have heard so far are senseless calls to remain silent.