Kashmir dispute: Regional peace in jeopardy | By Saima Afzal


Kashmir dispute: Regional peace in jeopardy

KASHMIR is called a paradise on earth and Switzerland of South Asia due to its eternal beauty.

This beautiful and scenic land is deprived of peace for more than seven decades. The tale of Kashmiris’ miseries is full of pain and suffering and shattered promises.

Three years before, on 5 Aug 2019, India revoked Article 370, a constitutional clause dating back to 1949 that gives Jammu and Kashmir its special sovereign status.

Scrapping of Article 370 of the Indian constitution represents a major tipping point for an already fraught dispute.

Dispute on Kashmir territory is the part of unfinished agenda of sub-continent’s partition and the main source of animosity between India and Pakistan, the two South Asian neighbouring states and nuclear powers.

However, the signing of the so-called ‘Instrument of Accession’ in 1947 by the Maharaja with India was under deceit.

Although, Indian Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru took Jammu & Kashmir Dispute to UNSC and after listening to both countries’ points of view UNSC adopted Resolution-47 on 21 Apr 1948 and demanded to hold a ‘Plebiscite’ to determine the future of Kashmir.

Besides UNSC Resolution-47, the statements of early leadership of India including Mahatma Gandhi had also ‘solemnly promised’ a plebiscite to determine people’s wishes in the disputed valley.

However, with the passage of time and leadership transition, India brought a change in its policy statements by preposterously terming Kashmir as an integral part of India.

One of the main points of India’s argument is that UNSC resolutions are 70 years old/obsolete.

If UNSC’s resolutions are old/obsolete, then UNO itself is older than its resolutions.  Seven decades have passed, and still, Kashmiris are waiting for the implementation of the UN resolution.

Though, the people of Kashmir enjoy little liberty under the Indian Constitutional Articles 370 and 35-A because Article 370 enabled them to devise and implement policies independently, except for key spheres such as foreign affairs and defence.

It also prevented outsiders from acquiring land in Kashmir. Article 35A, a separate constitutional clause, strengthens Kashmir’s autonomous status by providing special rights and privileges to its permanent residents.

India has unilaterally altered the territorial status of disputed territory that is the most militarized place in the world.

Kashmiris face daily restrictions on their freedom of expression and movement, along with the constant risk of rough treatment from Indian security personnel.

Still, for many Kashmiri Muslims, the dominant group in Jammu and Kashmir and the victims of Indian occupation, the revocation of Article 370 is a nightmare scenario, because it brings them closer to an Indian state that they despise.

The majority of Kashmiris want to get freedom from Indian rule and join Pakistan due to its geographical and ethno-religious bondage.

Contemporarily, uncertainty and chaos have become a part of Kashmiris due to the countless atrocities by the fascist rule of the Modi-led BJP’s discriminatory policies against Kashmiri Muslims.

Tens of thousands of people in India illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir have been deprived of their family members for spearheading the struggle for the right to self-determination.

Persistent torture, killing of innocent civilians and draconian laws in the form of AFSPA and PSA, have created discontent among Kashmiri youths that forced them to join groups fighting against the Indian rule in the valley and Kashmir has become one of the most heavily militarized zones in the world.

The Indian Army has been given immunity to commit human rights violations in Kashmir in the form of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA).

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also urged India in May 2021 in a UN report to stop the use of pellets against children, ensure children are not associated in any way with security forces, and endorsed the implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration and the Vancouver Principles.

Kashmiris have suffered incalculable social, economic and psychological distresses. Difficult economic conditions, coupled with inhumane treatment of Kashmiris by the Indian forces, impels grieved youths to take up arms against their oppressors.

The Indian government has also intensified its crackdown on journalists, civil society persons and political leaders without evidence and meaningful judicial review through the use of counterterrorism and public safety laws.

Affected residents, activists, government-appointed committees, politicians and UN human rights bodies have also criticized the law.

Three years have passed and Indian authorities are more concerned about normalcy than ensuring rights and accountability.

The recent Delimitation Commission Report has also clearly exposed the true intentions of the Indian Government to marginalize, disenfranchise and disempower Muslim majority in IIOJK.

It indicates that India is following the Israeli pattern in Palestine to turn the Muslim majority in Jammu and Kashmir into a minority.

In short, fear, pain, trauma and outcry seem to be the unfortunate destiny of Kashmiri Muslims as a result of the human rights atrocities committed by India.

India should act on the recommendations of the United Nations human rights office to protect basic rights in the contested region of Kashmir.

India should amend its Public Safety Act, an administrative detention law that allows detention without charge or trial for up to two years.

The international human rights organizations have also realized that the human rights situation in India continues to deteriorate.

Therefore, India should come to the negotiation table and peacefully resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute through the implementation of the UNSC resolutions.

—The author is an Islamabad-based analyst and holds MPhil in Peace and Conflict Studies.


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