EXPERTS in international law agree that the UN and the global community at large do appear to have woken up to the long drawn out plight of Kashmiris in India-occupied Kashmir (IoK).Pakistan has once again endorsed the recommendations of two Kashmir reports issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Pakistan submitted at the UN Human Rights Council a statement on September 11 on behalf of 50 countries, expressing concern over the illegal annexation of occupied Kashmir by India. Pakistan is likely to present a resolution to the Council by the end of the ongoing session on September 27.In several earlier reports, the UN rights chiefs have requested the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry (COI), which is one of the UN’s highest-level probes, generally reserved for major crises like the Syrian conflict. If India has nothing to hide, it should allow unhindered access to the COI, as recommended by the UN High Commissioner.
Prime Minster Imran rightly expressed his frustration over futility of such talks. In his interview to The New York Times on August 21, captioned: “Pakistan Leader Vents Frustration at India: ‘No Point in Talking to Them’”. Imran Khan said he had rightly “intensified his criticism of India” “over its Kashmir crackdown, saying he would no longer seek dialogue with Indian officials and raising the threat of a military escalation between the nuclear-armed neighbours”. In his interview Khan “complained bitterly about what he described as repeated rebuffs” from Modi at former’s “entreaties for communication, both before and after the Aug. 5 crackdown on the disputed territory of Kashmir”. He added, “There is no point in talking to them. I mean, I have done all the talking. Unfortunately, now when I look back, all the overtures that I was making for peace and dialogue, I think they took it for appeasement,” and “There is nothing more that we can do”.
On 23 August, the Indian occupation forces tightened curfew and other restrictions to prevent people from holding a protest demonstration outside the UN Office in Srinagar after Friday prayers against India’s provocative 5 August move and its illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir. Security forces were deployed in strength at many places to maintain law and order amid unrest. However, sporadic demonstrations rocked some parts of Srinagar, with clashes between stone-throwing protesters and heavily armed Indian security forces leaving more than 100 injured. A call for this protest march was given by the resistance leaders through posters appearing in Srinagar and other parts of the occupied valley. “Preachers in all mosques [in their Friday prayers sermons] should make the people aware of India’s plans to change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir,” handbills written in Urdu said. People were urged to join the march to convey to India and the world that the Kashmiris would not accept Indian occupation over their territory. The protest was also aimed at resisting the Indian attempt to change the demography of IoK by settling outsiders in the occupied territory. Residents of the IoK have complained of their inability to get in touch with family and friends, machining them worried about their wellbeing.
IoK residents have waged over seven decade-long armed rebellion against Indian rule with tens of thousands of lives, mostly civilians, lost in the conflict. Ahead of its illegal annexation, India rushed tens of thousands of extra troops to the restive region to join at least 700,000 already in the valley, and imposed a strict communications clampdown. The near-total communications blackout has triggered global concern, with a group of UN human rights experts warning it amounted to “collective punishment” and risked exacerbating regional tension. Since August 5, Indian authorities have imposed a communications blackout and heavy restrictions on movement in IoK, arresting at least 4,000 people and raising growing alarm about rights violations. The UN is persistently urging an end to IoK lockdown amid genocide fears. On August 22, UN rights experts said they were concerned about “massive numbers” of troops brought in to enforce restrictions and about the apparent rise in arrests of political figures, journalists, human rights activists and protesters. They called on India to lift the lockdown and communication blockade it had imposed on Occupied Kashmir.
In a strongly-worded statement released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the rights experts urged India to end what it termed a form of ‘collective punishment’ on Kashmiris. “The shutdown of the internet and telecommunication networks, without justification from the government [of India], are inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality,” the statement quoted the experts as saying. “The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence.” “We remind the Indian authorities that the restrictions imposed by the Indian Government are intrinsically disproportionate, because they preclude considerations of the specific circumstances of each proposed assembly,” the experts added.
Meanwhile, global advocacy group Genocide Watch issued an alert for Occupied Kashmir, calling on the UN to “warn India not to commit genocide in Kashmir”. It mentioned BJP’s Hindutva ideology and the “authoritarian military rule by a minority military force (Hindus and Sikhs) over a majority Muslim population” as alarming factors that could act as triggers for a genocide in Occupied Kashmir. A great tragedy is in the making in India-occupied Kashmir in the aftermath of annexation of occupied territories on 5 August. Post blackout/crackdown events are moving too fast. There is a dire need of a UNSC chapter VII resolution to arrest and reverse the situation, before it’s too late.
—The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.