Nearly 75 years ago, right to self-determination, was incorporated in the UN Charter as an essential component to rid the world of the menace of insidious colonization. Since then the realization of this right paved the way for successful culmination of freedom struggles in many parts of the world, including Asia. By virtue of this principle people reeling under foreign occupations were accorded the right to determine, without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
Presented as one of the core purposes of the United Nations, the principle of right to self-determination still continues to guide the decolonization efforts of the UN to put an end to the ignominious practice of colonization and freeing people from the clutches of foreign occupations. It has also been made as part of modern international law and other world treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Geneva Convention and the Declaration on Colonialism in particular carries a strong reference for the right of self-determination. The principle of self-determination outlines not just the duty of states to respect and promote the right, but also the obligation to refrain from any forcible action which deprives peoples of the enjoyment of such a right. The same principle was applied to tackle the issue of Kashmir when it was brought into the notice of the highest body (UN) in 1948 by India after occupying a major portion of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
As a result, the United Nations Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) was established through a Security Council resolution on 20 January 1948 with a sole purpose to facilitate plebiscite in the region as per the UNSC resolution dated 21 April 1948. The UNCIP, however, sent its final plebiscite recommendations on 11 December 1948, to India and Pakistan. Both the Governments accepted the proposals and the recommendations the Commission (UNCIP) had adopted through a unanimous resolution, on 5th January 1949. Subsequently, the commission proposed a comprehensive roadmap to seek an amicable solution to the Kashmir imbroglio.
It was a momentous occasion in Kashmir’s turbulent history as the United Nations formally recognised and acknowledged the Kashmiris’ birth right. The adoption of the historic resolution came as a great beacon-light of hope to millions of Kashmiris as they began to believe that the moment for their freedom was at hand and they too will finally receive justice so long denied to them by aggressors and occupiers. But their cherished dream of freedom from foreign occupation was soon turned into a nightmarish ordeal by none but the crafty Indian rulers who brazenly violated the norms of international law and the commitments they made vis-à-vis holding plebiscite in the region.
Interestingly, India defined the problem of the future of Junagarh as subject to the “wishes of its peoples” during the 264th meeting of the UN Security Council on 8 March 1947. India had formally accepted the choice of the peoples of the princely states under the colonial administration to join either Pakistan or India as a procedure of decolonization subject to Article 73 of the UN Charter that recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well- being of the inhabitants of these territories.
Regarding Kashmir, the UN Security Council defined India as an administrative state by defining Kashmir as a disputed territory.
On 12 February 1951, Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of Indian in his statement in the Indian Parliament said, “We have taken the issue to the United Nations and given our word of honour for a peaceful solution. As a great nation, we cannot go back on it. We have left the question for a final solution to the people of Kashmir and we are determined to abide by their decision.”
Instead of honouring these commitments and paving a way for the implementation of the UN proposed road-map on Kashmir the Indian rulers resorted to Machiavellian Machinations of deceit and deception to obviously avoid the referendum in the state. The successive Indian rulers ridiculously ignored and undermined the role of the UN and UNCIP and threw to the winds the solemn pledges they had made with the international community and the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Virtually blocked all attempts and efforts of peaceful resolution of the dispute, the Indian rulers, instead, preferred to tread on the path of colonialism to grab Kashmir completely. They choose a violent path to suppress by the dint of force the Kashmiris’ legitimate demand for the right of self-determination. The use of excessive force by the Indian state over the years had resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and violation of human rights at an unprecedented scale.
Every form of violence that is known to the human world has been unleashed upon the people. Internal displacements, forced migrations, systematic civilian killings, state sponsored violence, and ethnic cleansing, genocide, torture, harassment and humiliation of indigenous people and so on have been rampant and a regular feature of life in Kashmir.
Beyond deaths, the state sponsored violence has left Kashmiris completely devastated. No facet of life in Kashmir had left untouched by the long unresolved conflict, which over the times has meandered dangerously from illegal occupation to forced annexation of the territory.
By the time this conflict had turned into a wicked monster hell bent on annihilating the entire population. The annexation of the disputed territory by the Indian government on August 5, 2019 is one such instance that is sufficient enough to comprehend the perils of this dangerous conflict.
A year-long siege and clampdown coupled with information blockade, caging entire population, altering the state’s entire nomenclature, bifurcating and reducing it to a union territory laid bare the New Delhi’s settler colonialism agenda and its imperialistic designs of conquering the hapless and defenseless people of the region. This crooked and mediaeval mindset that goes in contravention of the UN’s decolonization agenda has been solely responsible for the miseries Kashmiris have been going through the years of belligerent occupation.
The forced annexation of Kashmir by revoking Article 370 by the Indian government was an atrocious assault on the rights of Kashmiris. The attempt was tantamount to re-colonization of the territory the way it was common in the pre-colonization era in the 19th century. This constitutes the crime of racial discrimination. The UN Security Council under their erga omnes responsibility must open an independent international investigation for the violation of the right to self-determination of the Kashmiris under Article 73 of the UN Charter
[Writer is Chairman of Kashmir Institute of International Relations and Vice Chairman JK National Front.]