Sultan M Hali
HUMAN Rights (HR) abuses in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) are an ongoing issue and a cause for serious concern. The abuses range from mass killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual abuse to political repression and suppression of freedom of speech. The Indian Army, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Border Security Personnel (BSF) have been accused and held accountable for committing severe human rights abuses against Kashmiri civilians. Some HR groups say close to 100,000 people have been slaughtered since 1989 while the official figures from Indian sources state the estimates of number of civilians killed due to the freedom movement in the range of 16,725 to 47,000 civilians killed by security forces. The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society organization states that there have been over 70,000 killings, 8000 plus forced disappearances, mass torture and sexual violence, the majority committed by Indian armed forces, and that these cases have had zero prosecution in civilian courts.
Indian media and state agencies accuse the Pakistan Army for violating the ceasefire and continuing to kill Kashmiri civilians, a claim which is totally rejected by Pakistan which blames Indian army for the violation of LoC. Diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks revealed that the ICRC had briefed US officials in Delhi in 2005 about the use of torture from 2002–2004 by security forces against hundreds of detainees suspected of being connected to or having information about freedom fighters. Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and Human Rights groups in the IoK has been claiming that over 8000 youth are missing since 1989. However, in reality, more than 10,000 people are missing from Kashmir. On 17 August 2015, the then government declined to set up a Commission of Inquiry to find out whereabouts of missing persons. International Peoples Tribunal on Kashmir (IPTK) report had made investigation of 2,700 mass graves in 55 villages and three districts in the IoK and found staggering 2,373 graves unmarked, 151 graves contained more than one body; while 23 graves held between 3 to 17 bodies.
India refuses to allow either journalists or HR groups to enter the occupied territory, lest the truth about its massive abuse of HR is exposed. To hide its intransigence and excesses, Indian media conjures stories and accounts of alleged HR abuses in Balochistan and Azad Jammu Kashmir to denigrate Pakistan. On its part, some senior former Pakistani diplomats opine that Pakistan has not done enough to internationalize the issue. On 19 September 2018, Ambassador Yusuf Buch, former senior Advisor to the United Nations Secretary General and a living encyclopedia on Kashmir, in a meeting with Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, Washington-based World Kashmir Awareness Forum admitted that Pakistan has made errors, has miscalculated and not organized its campaign with the care it should have been. The seasoned diplomat was sanguine that the mistakes can be corrected while the goals regarding freeing the Kashmiris from Indian persecution can still be achieved. Overwhelmed with emotion, Ambassador Yusuf Buch, an observer and a direct participant of Kashmir’s struggle for freedom since its inception in its modern form in 1931 stated that the objectives in the IoK have been sanctified by human suffering. The blood of the martyrs and the tears of the bereaved Kashmiris have put them beyond compromise.
Some doubting Thomas asked whether a small population of Kashmir can resist the two third of a million army of India, Ambassador Buch reiterated that the question invites reflection. Even as recently as the mid-1980’s, the idea of the liberation of Estonia and Lithuania and in first part of twenty-first century, that of East Timor, Southern Sudan was regarded as a pipe-dream. So was the institution of majority rule in South Africa. The military and technological arsenal at the disposal of the (erstwhile) Soviet Union was mightier than what the Indian Union possesses. Yet military power did not bring political strength to the Soviet Union nor immunized South Africa because the rest of the world did not bend its knee to it. It is the deference shown by the West to India’s military and economic power that reinforces India’s obduracy. It also weakens the liberal section of Indian opinion that would prefer a sensible and human policy with respect to Kashmir. Unwittingly, the West contributes to the depletion of the already small but the most promising resource in India’s political society, the resource of self-criticism, and to the encouragement of that sanctimoniousness which the more thoughtful Indians regard as a bane of their country’s attitude in international affairs.
In response to a question that accession of Kashmir to India was final as India claims, Mr. Buch elucidated that the ostensible accession of Kashmir to India is a fiction entrenched in the Indian position. The fact that the act was performed by a feudal ruler who had fled his capital in the face of popular revolt is well established in the official record of the dispute. If India were as certain of the legal strength of its claim as it professes to be, would it not agree to the whole question being examined by the World Court? A process lasting a few months would vindicate its position and bring it resounding victory. But India knows that an impartial investigation would be fatal to its claim. Pakistan needs to prepare its case regarding Kashmir with meticulous care to shake the conscience of the world community.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.