IT is now more than two months that the people of IOK are under siege by the Indian security forces because of the unending curfew imposed in the valley, disruption of all types of communication as well as closure of internet services. The despicable move is meant to prevent people from coming out and protesting against the revocation of Article 370 by the Modi government, continuing with their freedom movement which is almost 30 years old and keeping the world in dark about the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the IoK.
These attempts have failed to achieve desired objective as the reports about the atrocities and blatant human rights abuses in IoK continue to filter through and reported by human rights entities as well as the international media. The rattle effect created by revelations by the human rights organizations including UNHCR reports, harrowing stories carried by the international media and the diplomatic offensive launched by Pakistan seem to have created a ripple-effect as growing number of countries, their legislators and international organizations are coming forth to express their concern on the situation in the occupied territory and demanding the lifting of curbs and release of the political detainees.
In the latest development, reportedly, the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations while considering its report on Annual Foreign Appropriations Act for 2020, in a break with the precedent, added an appeal to end the humanitarian crisis in IoK. The amendment was proposed by Senator Chris Van Hollen who visited India during the week as part of a congressional delegation which discussed Kashmir situation as well Indua-US bilateral relations, trade ties and defence purchases with key officials. The amendment proposed by the Senator urges the Indian government to fully restore telecommunications and internet services; lift its lockdown and curfew; and release individuals detained pursuant to the government’s revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. The amendment was adopted unanimously by the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the bill is likely to receive a full vote in the Senate in coming days.
According to Washington Post during his visit to India he asked for the permission of the Indian government to visit IoK to see for himself the permeating situation there but was denied the request. The Senator in an interview with The Hindu on Friday said “If the Indian government has nothing to hide, they should not worry about people visiting Kashmir and witnessing the situation with their own eyes,” According to The Hindu the move could become the first step towards legislative action by American lawmakers against India. Van Hollen is one of nearly 50 members of bipartisan group of US Senators who have urged President Donald Trump to immediately intervene and pursue Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lift curfew and end communication blockade in the occupied valley. The development is a major diplomatic blow to India and proves beyond doubt that the Indian attempts to hide the situation in IoK from the world have boomeranged. It is now not possible for Indian to get away with what it has done to the people of the Valley. The New York Times in an editorial on 2nd October terming the assertion made by Modi that revoking the constitutional clause was meant to give equal rights to the people of IoK, as absurd, observed that the UN could no longer ignore Kashmir which was essentially under martial law.
The New York Times is right to claim that the Kashmir issue could no longer be neglected. The humanitarian crisis unfolding in IoK is of such a magnitude that it cannot escape the attention of the world community and the UN. Although the world powers that really can exercise their influence to resolve the Kashmir dispute and the UN which has an obligation towards the people of Kashmir to give them their right of self-determination, are not reacting to the situation as they should have and are only restricting themselves to appeals for restraint and easing the situation in IoK, but they cannot maintain that posture for a long time. The situation is fast drifting towards a clash between the two nuclear neighbours which could have disastrous consequences for the region and beyond as warned by Prime Minister Imran Khan in his address to the UN. They will have to move beyond appeals for lifting curfew and ending communication blockade. The real issue is the grant of right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir. The current situation in IoK is a sequel to non-resolution of the Kashmir dispute and denial of the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir as enunciated in the UN resolutions.
Indian intransigence to resolve the Kashmir dispute in consonance with the UN resolutions, adoption of hostile posture towards Pakistan and her belligerence which brought the two nations to the brink of war in February in the backdrop of Pulwama incident, are fraught with great dangers. Indian behaviour of war-like state is jeopardizing the regional economic potential for shared economic prosperity as well as peace and security. It is inimical to India’s own interests also and in the long run could push the region towards perennial instability. The freedom movement in Kashmir is an irrefutable reality and it would not be possible for India to subdue it through presidential decrees or the barrel of the gun and history bears testimony to this fact. The Indian leadership is better advised to recognize the ground realities to save the region from any catastrophic happening.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.