I could not help sympathize and feel sorry for one Priyanka Mattoo and her family after reading a letter to the editor recently published in New York Times in which she explains the circumstances under which her family had to leave Srinagar in 1989 and they never moved back to Kashmir because they could not. The pain and hurt she continues to feel for having to leave her ancestral home in Kashmir is quite understandable. Any person with the heart of a real human being can feel the pain and agony which the people who are rendered homeless during conflicts, have to endure throughout their life. As a human being, I share the grief and hurt that Priyanka Mattoo is suffering from as well as of thousands of those Kashmiris who have not only been rendered homeless but also killed by the Indian security forces since 1989 uprising against the Indian occupation.
My heart also goes out to 1.9 million Bengali Muslims in Assam who have been stripped of their Indian citizenship and are planned to be shifted to the detention camps being set up for the purpose. Human beings around the world are also appalled by the atrocities being committed against the Palestinians, Kashmiris and millions who have been rendered homeless and stateless due to the conflicts around the world. The global community will have to make a collective effort purely on humanitarian considerations to prevent conflicts that render people like Priyanka and thousands of others homeless to live with undying grief throughout their lives. But it is really painful to note that these humanitarian issues continue to remain hostage to the global politics and the strategic and commercial interests of the big nations that prefer to announce their humanitarian credentials from every convenient roof-top when it suits their self-defined national interests. Even the UN, a body created to prevent wars and promote peace is hamstrung to play its designated role by the veto power enjoyed by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Palestine and Kashmir issues in spite of the UN resolutions for their settlement remain unresolved while the occupying forces spill the blood of the natives with impunity. Even the massacres and pogrom of unprecedented proportions go unheeded showing the down side of the so-called civilized world.
The solution to stop the heart-rending killing sprees and rendering people homeless lies in removing the causes of the conflicts around the world and their settlement in accordance with the wishes of the affected people and the relevant UN resolutions. The situation in the India-occupied Kashmir, which is under curfew since 5 August and completely cut off from rest of the world due to complete lockdown and disruption in communication and internet services, needs urgent attention of the world community before a humanitarian crisis bigger than the ‘holocaust’ unfolds and the two nuclear powers that are face to face as a result of the Indian action get involved in an armed confrontation with horrible consequences for the region and the world at large.
Prime Minister Imran Khan was right when addressing a mammoth public rally in Muzaffarabad he sounded this warning to the international community and the UN and sought their immediate intervention. He spoke with a burning passion of a statesman yearning to seek peace for the region and the entire world and as well as a human being appalled by the brewing humanitarian crisis in the IoK. Now is the time for the world to move beyond mild expressions of concern and inconsequential endorsement of the UN resolutions on the issue so that millions like Priyanka who are faced with the prospect of becoming homeless and even losing their life can be saved from the unfolding oppression in the India-occupied Kashmir.
Why Priyanka lost her home in Srinagar in 1989 was because the Indian government showed little respect for the UN resolutions calling for a plebiscite under its auspices to settle the question of accession of Kashmir to either India or Pakistan. The people of Kashmir were forced to pick up arms to win their right to self-determination. The consequent strife not only rendered Priyanka homeless but also brought sufferings for the Muslim population of Kashmir. According to figures compiled by different Human Rights Organizations including Amnesty International, since January 1989 till 31 August 2019, the Indian security forces have killed 95,438 people including 7128 custodial killings, gang-raped 11,140 women and destroyed 109,409 homes. Imagine how many people might have been displaced and become homeless after the destruction of more than one million homes?
The anti-Muslim and communal policies pursued by the BJP government headed by Narendra Modi inspired by ‘Hindutva’ philosophy of RSS which takes inspiration from the creeds preferred by Hitler and Mussolini, are a grave threat to the regional and world peace. Reports of inhuman treatment meted out to the minority communities including Christians, Muslims and low-caste Hindus (Dalits) in India have been extensively reported by the international media which of late has also unraveled horrendous atrocities against the people of Kashmir and the looming humanitarian crisis due to the continued curfew and complete lock-down of the valley. The people of Kashmir are fighting for their right of self- determination and their armed struggle is fully justified in terms of the UN Resolution number 3314 which recognizes the right of the subjugated people to win their independence. These are irrefutable realities. But do those who matter really care about them? The honest answer is No. Nations around the world will have to assert their humane credentials to make the world a living place and save the people from the eternal pain and distress that they endure throughout their lives for losing their homes. They need to overcome their spiritual poverty which has become a casualty of their material considerations.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.