Jammu and Kash­mir dis­pute: A his­tory of bul­let, blood and brav­ery

People's Review - - FRONT PAGE - BY DR. MAZHAR JAVED

Like ev­ery year, 27 Oc­to­ber this year was also com­mem­o­rated as “Kash­mir Black Day” all over the world to mark the land­ing of In­dian Forces in Jammu and Kash­mir on this date 71 years ago. His­tory of force­ful oc­cu­pa­tion of this for­mer princely state is as old as the his­tory of un­filled promises of plebiscite and the unim­ple­mented res­o­lu­tions of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. These res­o­lu­tions re­quire the fate of Jammu and Kash­mir to be de­cided ac­cord­ing to the wishes of its peo­ple, de­ter­mined through a free and fair plebiscite. Un­for­tu­nately, these res­o­lu­tions re­main unim­ple­mented. All these sev­enty years, the peo­ple of Jammu and Kash­mir have been wait­ing and strug­gling for their right of self­de­ter­mi­na­tion that had been promised to them. Their just strug­gle for free­dom was re­sponded to by the In­dian forces with bru­tal­i­ties and gross hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions. Since 1989, when the peo­ple in In­dian Oc­cu­pied Kash­mir (IOK) were forced to step-up their strug­gle for free­dom, well over 100,000 in­no­cent peo­ple have been mar­tyred, thou­sands of women raped and well over 100,000 houses / shops burnt. Now for sev­eral decades, IOK re­mains the most heav­ily mil­i­ta­rized zone in the world.

Sit­u­a­tion in IOK once again es­ca­lated in 2008, when the val­ley was in­flicted by a block­ade lead­ing to a grave hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion with short­ages of es­sen­tial sup­plies like food and medicines. The pains and mis­eries of block­ade need no elab­o­ra­tion. To add to them were the long cur­fews. The ral­lies that the Kash­miris took out against the oc­cu­pa­tion forces then were of his­toric scales.

The 2010 un­rest saw for the first time the use of in­fa­mous pal­let guns against un­armed pro­tes­tors. In July 2016, mar­tyr­dom of Burhan Wani, a young free­dom fighter at the hands of In­dian forces led to wide­spread protests. Once again un­armed pro­tes­tors met an iron hand with ex­cesses reach­ing record lev­els. Since then pal­let guns are be­ing used fre­quently and with im­punity. Use of this weapon has left hun­dreds of Kash­miris blind, most of them young peo­ple.

Con­trary to the hopes and ex­pec­ta­tions of the Oc­cu­pa­tion forces, Kash­miris free­dom strug­gle gained strength in the face of in­creas­ing In­dia bru­tal­i­ties. Ev­ery time that a trig­ger was pulled to shoot at an in­no­cent man, woman or child, Kash­miris were re­minded of the cost of oc­cu­pa­tion ; it nour­ished their love for free­dom and faith in the suc­cess of their just strug­gle. Ev­ery time, world com­mu­nity failed to ful­fill its prom­ise of Kash­miris right of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion, it was a les­son for the Kash­miris to beef up their own strug­gle.

That the Kash­miri free­dom strug­gle has gained strength in the face of high hand­ed­ness of the 700,000 uni­formed forces is a doc­u­mented fact. UN Of­fice High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights (OHCHR) re­port of June 2018 minces no words when it says “While In­dian-Ad­min­is­tered Kash­mir has ex­pe­ri­enced waves of protests in the past—in the late 1980s to early 1990s, 2008 and 2010—this cur­rent round of protests ap­pears to in­volve more peo­ple than the past, and the pro­file of pro­test­ers has also shifted to in­clude more young, mid­dle-class Kash­miris, in­clud­ing fe­males who do not ap­pear to have been par­tic­i­pat­ing in the past”.

De­spite the ut­most ef­forts of the oc­cu­pa­tion forces, their atroc­i­ties have not re­mained hid­den from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity; nor have they es­caped the con­dem­na­tion and fury of the peace and free­dom lov­ing peo­ple of the world. Rea­son is sim­ple ; you can hide a mouse, you can't hide an ele­phant. Time has proven that any ex­pec­ta­tion to cam­ou­flage hor­ren­dous bru­tal­i­ties through re­stric­tions on free­dom of speech, re­fusal to al­low in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion teams or hide be­hind a de­cep­tive fa­cade of democ­racy were all ill found.

The re­port of the UN OHCHR which was re­leased in June this year brings these atroc­i­ties un­der a re­newed fo­cus. This re­port cov­ers the pe­riod from June 2016April 2018. This pe­riod saw in­creased num­ber of re­ports of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in an at­tempt to crush the strug­gle that gained mo­men­tum af­ter the mar­tyr­dom of Burhan Wani in July 2016. The doc­u­ment re­calls that in Jan­uary 2018, the Jammu and Kash­mir Assem­bly in Sri­na­gar was told that “6,221 peo­ple had been in­jured by pel­let guns in Kash­mir be­tween 8 July 2016 and 27 Feb­ru­ary 2017; among the vic­tims, 728 had eye in­juries. Civil so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions claim that the num­ber of peo­ple par­tially or com­pletely blinded due to pel­let in­juries is higher.

Im­por­tantly the UN re­port, in most un­am­bigu­ous and em­phatic terms asks, not only to put an end to these bru­tal­i­ties and the dra­co­nian laws that pro­vide im­punity to the oc­cu­pa­tion forces but also to pros­e­cute those re­spon­si­ble for them. It calls upon In­dia to es­tab­lish “in­de­pen­dent, im­par­tial and cred­i­ble in­ves­ti­ga­tions to probe all civil­ian killings since July 2016 as well as other in­ci­dents of ex­ces­sive use of force in­clud­ing se­ri­ous in­juries caused by the use of pel­let-fir­ing shot­guns.” It also calls upon the Govern­ment of In­dia to en­sure in­de­pen­dent, im­par­tial and cred­i­ble in­ves­ti­ga­tions into all un­marked graves, which painfully hold key to thou­sands of mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ances.

It asks to ur­gently re­peal the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kash­mir) Spe­cial Pow­ers Act, 1990; and to pros­e­cute se­cu­rity forces per­son­nel ac­cused of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in civil­ian courts. This Act,

the re­port says, ob­structs the nor­mal course of law, im­pedes ac­count­abil­ity and jeop­ar­dizes the right to rem­edy for vic­tims of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions”. The re­port notes that use of pel­let shot­guns in IOK con­tin­ues. On the first day of the last month cov­ered by the re­port (April 2018), it doc­u­ments, that around 40 peo­ple were re­port­edly in­jured, in­clud­ing 35 hit in the eyes, by pel­let shot­guns used against peo­ple protest­ing against the killing of civil­ians in Shopian and Anant­nag dis­tricts. The pe­riod cov­ered un­der the UN OHCHR ended in April 2018; bru­tal­i­ties con­tinue. In the evening of 27 Oc­to­ber, when I am writ­ing this ar­ti­cle, even if I try to, I can't take my mind off the news of shoot­ings, es­pe­cially with pal­let guns that I read ev­ery now and then. The in­creas­ing bru­tal sup­pres­sion of the peo­ple in IOK does not of­fer any lux­ury or space for in­ac­tion; it re­quires ur­gent mea­sures. The UN OHCHR rec­om­men­da­tion to set up an im­par­tial Com­mis­sion of In­quiry to in­ves­ti­gate the hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions must be im­ple­mented; the right of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion of the peo­ple of Jammu and Kash­mir must be given. The sooner, the saner.

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