Imtiaz Rafi Butt
THE first Kashmir Solidarity Day was observed in 1990, this day marks the commemoration of the sacrifices that the people of Kashmir have made for freedom and the suffering they have endured since the 1950s. In the light of recent events, Kashmir Day is more relevant, significant and forceful than ever before. Times are changing and the world is waking up to the cause of Kashmir. Without prejudice to the pain inflicted upon Kashmiri people by the Government of India, the diplomatic stance of Pakistan since the early days, stands verified and proved before international law and statutes of liberty, freedom and human rights. 05 February 2020 represents, perhaps, the most resolute and potent show of solidarity of Pakistanis and people in Azad Kashmir with their brethren trapped in India-occupied Kashmir.
On 05 August 2019, by a Presidential Decree, the Government of Narendra Modi unveiled its violent agenda against people of Kashmir through state terrorism. The autonomy and special status of Jammu and Kashmir was abolished. Fearing the worst backlash from inside and outside India, the Government decided to lockdown and black out the whole region. Media representatives were removed, access to Internet and telephone lines were cut off and basic rights were suspended in the name of re-organization of Jammu and Kashmir. Srinagar became a jail itself. Even the former Chief Ministers have been put under house arrest. In other words, Jammu and Kashmir have been turned into the largest prison in the world and sadly, the same atrocious ordeal continues to this day. International media is still making inroads into the region and reporting extra judicial killings, rape and disappearances of men and young boys. Over nine hundred thousand additional troops have been deployed to completely ransack a population of over 8 million. In such chaos, the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan are now the voice of the silenced people of Kashmir. It is a time of nobility and resolve to continue to tell the world what India is doing to the defenceless civilian population of Kashmir. But only when Pakistan was gearing up to the atrocities in Kashmir, the Indian Government exposed itself with the naked agenda of Hinduvta and hatred for Islam.
After the events of August, the Supreme Court of India gave no clear verdict on over 140 petitions submitted to review the status of Jammu and Kashmir. Later on, in November, the Supreme Court gave a verdict allowing the construction of a Temple on the ruins of BabriMasjid. It seems that the Secularism and Rule of Law in India have utterly lost their meaning. In December 2019, the Modi Government unleashed the most aggressive legislation aimed at Muslims of not just Kashmir but India as whole with the Citizenship Act, which specifically targets Muslims to be non-citizens if they have moved into India even in the last 50 years. This is and was the motive of RSS, the Hindu extremist party whose founder members (Sarvarkar) use to idolize Adolf Hitler, and now that party is in control of BJP and the Government of India. Under Jawaharlaal Nehru, India was always envisioned to be a secular state which was home to people of varied castes, creeds and religions. With these steps, India has obliterated its very foundation on which it achieved stability and progress. According to 2018 census, India has over 201 million Muslims.
The Citizenship Act has shaken the nationalism of these 201 million and it is set to play out in the near future. Muslims across India, who never raised their voices against the oppression of Kashmiris, are now out on the streets fighting for their rights and those of their brethren in Kashmir. As the voices and the protests in Delhi, Bombay, UP and Calcutta are heard and seen by the international media, and the protest (mainly by Muslims) is being met with fierce force of the Indian BJP Government and goons, the stance of Pakistan and its foundation seem to be more and more logical as time goes by. BJP and Narendra Modi have made a gross miscalculation by marginalizing the largest minority population of Muslims in the world, for the sake of a few votes from extremist Hindu majority areas. The whole fabric of society and their modern progress has been stripped in the face of Kashmir lockdown and Citizenship Act.
The international community and the United Nations are able to observe the stark differences between Pakistani Azad Kashmir and Indian Occupied Kashmir. This will be even more pronounced on the Kashmir Solidarity Day. Imran Khan, as the Ambassador of Kashmir, has made his mark on the world forums. His speech in the United Nations General Assembly was heard and applauded by nations across continents. It is because of efforts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that UN Security Council called a meeting on Kashmir. In a similar fashion, international media is providing historical coverage to the lockdown in Kashmir and highlighting the human rights abuses. The European Union in January, came close to passing a resolution condemning the actions taken by the police and Indian Army in Kashmir. The US Senate openly condemned the actions of Indian Army and Ms Omar, a US Senator, termed Kashmir “on verge of genocide”. Even Xi Jinping of China, who is due to visit India on Friday has made remarks for freedom of Kashmiris and their fair treatment.
Pakistan has risen amid the chaos as a voice of reason, tolerance, humanity and liberty. Time and again, Imran Khan made peace offerings to the Indian Government but these were reciprocated with negativity and violent outbursts. Muslims in India, not only in Kashmir but across India are being targeted via State terror, in the words of Shashi Tharoor, the Congress MP from Kerala, “As of today, Muhammad Ali Jinnah has won”. As a Pakistani, it should make us proud and commemorate our great Father of the Nation, whose vision and determination saved us and our generations from violence of extremist Hindu ideology. And we, as a nation, on this Kashmir Day, must vow to stand by the ideals of the Quaid as he stood his ground against the propaganda and cunning tricks of the extremist Hindu mindset 70 years ago. As India fractures itself on religious lines, Pakistan is committed to rallying under the flag of Muslim brotherhood and ideals of democracy, mutual respect and peace.
Finally, Kashmir Day, is set to unite Government and non-Government bodies in Pakistan to join hands in making the case for freedom of India-occupied Kashmir. More than ever, Pakistanis and Kashmiris living abroad are also keen to present the bloodlust of Hindu extremism in India. War is not the solution to the Kashmir, and so, what appears to be a stalemate, we are left with a few options of non-violence to support the Kashmiri cause. And although, the international community and the United Nations have failed to act against Indian aggression as it is required under International law, it is up to people of Pakistan to continue supporting the oppressed people of Kashmir in this hour of extreme pain and anguish, become their voice throughout the world for we must remember that the night is darkest just before dawn.
—The writer is Chairman, Jinnah Rafi Foundation, based in Lahore.