Kashmiris are destined to succeed in their struggle; They have stead fastly said ‘No’ to Indian rule; Their heroic struggle for right to self-determination will continue
President Azad Jammu and Kashmir Mr. Masood Khan says Indian forces are committing crimes against humanity in the Kashmir valley they have occupied for the past almost seventy years. In an interview with Pakistan Observer (PO) he spoke of the supreme sacrifices of the Kashmiri people in their struggle for attainment of chance to exercise their right to self-determination. He pointed to liberation struggles of various nations and said that such struggles ultimately triumphed. “There is no reason that Kashmiri people will not succeed in their heroic struggle be believed. Following are questions and answers:
PO: How do you see the recent uprising in the Indian Occupied Kashmir in backdrop of struggle of the Kashmiri people, first against the Dogras and then India?
Masood Khan: Tragic, traumatic and heart-rending. Here are people who have suffered grievously for the past two hundred years. Nations around the world won independence after the Second World War, but Kashmiris remain in a state of constant subjugation and persecution. No year passes by without India coming up with new ways to kill, maim, torture and dishonor Kashmiris. This year came the new, condemnable practice of blindings through the use of pellet guns. Despite India’s drive to crush them, the Kashmiris have stood their ground and proved their resilience.
PO: How would you interpret the struggle of the Kashmiri people in the context of serious violations of human rights by Indian forces in Occupied Kashmir?
Masood Khan: Violations of human rights sound a mild, civilized expression compared to what is happening on the ground – crimes against humanity and genocide. Since 1947-48, when Hindu extremists killed near 250,000 Muslims in Jammu, the successive Indian occupation authorities in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) have been targeting and killing Muslims systematically and mercilessly.
PO: Do you think so called Srinagar government is puppet in the hands of New Delhi and it has no free will and is rather an accomplice in the brutal campaign that has been launched by the Indian forces in Occupied Kashmir?
Masood Khan: The Occupation regime in IOK is a facilitator and ‘legitimizer’ of India’s writ. Of course, it has no free will because it is Delhi’s progeny. What is galling for Delhi is that despite its political and electoral maneuvering, Kashmiris have steadfastly said NO to Indian rule. The Occupation regimes always side with Delhi, not with Kashmiris. A case in point is the IOK regime’s keenness to assist India in changing demographic composition of the state by giving nativity/identity status to the so-called West Pakistan Refugees.
PO: Do you agree that the recent uprising in Occupied Kashmir was a climax and the Kashmiri people touched a point of no return, marking total alienation from India?
Masood Khan: The alienation of the Kashmiris with India is total, since 1947. An uprising is not required to demonstrate that. What one fails to understand is why India never lets Kashmiris live in peace. Burhan Wani was a freedom activist and a martyr. Even under its draconian laws, India could have taken Wani into custody and tried. But no, they would hunt him down and kill him publicly in a fake encounter to make a dramatic statement. They wanted to demonstrate that the punishment for asking azaadi was a public, chilling and violent death. People under foreign occupation do not vote for their killers. Alienation is complete. The uprising was the only course for Kashmiris. All channels of expression have been choked; and free speech is smothered. Unarmed protesters are called terrorists; the victim is painted as the victimizer. Yes, point of no return. If India could not bludgeon Kashmiris in IOK through the use of brute force; there is no chance that it would win them over by economic blandishments or political maneuvers.
PO: What role has been played and is being played by Pakistan and Azad Kashmir in highlighting the uprising in Occupied Kashmir?
Masood Khan: Pakistan and Azad Kashmir extend moral, diplomatic support to the just struggle of the people of IOK. After the uprising, we intensified our efforts. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif highlighted the suffering of the Kashmiris at the United Nations General Assembly and demanded that the UN fulfill its responsibility to implement its own resolutions on Kashmir. The leadership in Azad Kashmir also reached out to the the international community and Pakistani/Kashmiri diaspora. We succeeded to some extent but the response of the international community to the plight of the Kashmiris has been very guarded and cautious to the point of being apathetic. Our struggle continues.
PO: How far has Pakistan been able to move world powers especially US and European Union for their role in putting human right violation to an end in Occupied Kashmir? What can be done more in the scenario of power politics?
Masood Khan: The UN Secretary General has issued statements offering his good offices, of course, laced with the condition that both India and Pakistan concur (India would obviously not). The High Commissioner for Human Rights has offered to send a fact-finding mission to India and Pakistan and to both parts of Kashmir, which India declines to receive. Brussels did monitor the situation closely. There was a slight uptick in the media reporting and analysis but that’s about it. International human rights organizations – including the Physicians for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders – have highlighted the killings and blindings in Kashmir. They have, for instance, helped expose more than 8,000 permanent disappearances and several mass graves. That said, influential states despite all this data are tight lipped on Kashmir.
PO: Do you think there is space for Pakistan to pursue the Kashmir issue in the framework of UN system in its specialized forums relating to human rights, crimes against humanity and rights of the colonized people?
Masood Khan: There is space. There is plenty of space. International community’s lack of response should not deter Pakistan or Kashmiris from persevering in their efforts. The most relevant forums are UN Security Council, General Assembly, Human Rights Council, European Union, European Parliament, the US Congress and Administration. There are international judicial organs too. But we have to weigh pros and cons before making a move. In any case, we should most importantly try to mobilize international civil society and our diaspora community.
PO: Do you think there has been need for documentation of human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir? Don’t you feel enough has not been done, enough needs now to be done in legal manner?
Masood Khan: Documentation is available. Kashmir Media Service meticulously documents human rights violations; and other entities also collect and collate information. International human rights organizations on their own are collecting facts about human rights violations in Kashmir. There is a need to disseminate this data widely and effectively. There is no dearth of information despite restrictions in IOK.
PO: Why has not the case of use of pellet guns in Occupied Kashmir been raised in the relevant forums at the international level?
Masood Khan: The use of pellet guns has been raised in all the relevant fora by leaders, functionaries and representatives of civil society. Physicians for Human Rights’ substantive report – Blind to Justice: Excessive Use of Force and Attacks on Health Care in Jammu and Kashmir – has been read widely. Again, there is no dearth of damning evidence. All one needs is credible inducement at the international level.
PO: Do you think there is need to motivate world organizations of doctors to provide treatment to the victims of pellet guns in occupied Kashmir?
Masood Khan: World doctors would be ready; and so would be the Pakistani and Kashmiri doctors. Pakistan has already made an offer along the lines. But would India allow them access to the victims; or would it allow the victims to travel abroad?
PO: Do you think there is need to engage world media in highlighting the situation in Occupied Kashmir and what about our own media?
Masood Khan: World media responds to global markets and emerging strategic trends as well as to the dictates of their paymasters. That’s an absolute. Despite that, human values and rights of peoples find their way into the print and electronic media and cyber space. The die is cast against Muslims and Kashmir somehow disappears in the maze of realpolitik. Despite that some independent media portals did focus on the plight of Kashmiris. Yes, we should engage and leverage world media but in a manner that we make an impact. Moralizing and complaining won’t work.
PO: Do you agree there was need to expose all Indian claims regarding Kashmir at world level?
Masood Khan: This is already being done. The world knows that the versions of India and Pakistan on Kashmir are diametrically opposed; because India has already resiled from its promises and has fabricated a narrative nobody believes. Other states acquiesce or look the other way because of their narrow national interests.
PO: Can Azad Kashmir play more effective role in promoting cause of the people of Occupied Kashmir?
Masood Khan: Azad Kashmir should. This is precisely what we are trying to do. Azad Kashmir is ‘azad’ and thus free to do more. It has the capability to do so by using its own strengths, those of Pakistan and of the Pakistanis and Kashmiris living abroad. Most importantly, Azad Kashmir should become a model state in terms of economic progress and good governance.
PO: How can Kashmiri people move steadily to achieving their right to self determination?
Masood Khan: They (and I very much mean ‘we’) should stay the course, work closely with Pakistan, and create a discernible impact in the international sphere. They should also reach out to Indian civil society to convince them not to become party to the crimes against humanity being committed by their ruling elites. The UN should be the first and last arbiter of any dispensation that is given to Kashmir.