– By Shenali Waduge –
With the UN Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva currently taking place it is a perfect time to explore India’s end of the bargain vis a vis the plebiscite promised for Kashmir to decide its right to self-determination. Kashmir’s fate has been lying in the hands of India for over 6 decades and with UN Resolutions passed we would like to know how satisfied the UN is with the “pace” India is showing in making room for that promised plebiscite under UN auspices whilst also questioning what the international community is doing about the gross human rights violations being committed by India in India-controlled Kashmir? If Indian Premier Jawahalal Nehru declared on 3 Nov 1947 “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by its people. That pledge we give not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it” – what is delaying the inevitable?
Kashmir – area
Kashmir comprises three natural divisions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. The territory of Kashmir is said to be larger than 121 independent countries and bigger than 117 nations of the world. The total area of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is about 2,22,236 sq. km. India controls 45% of the original kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir, 35% is controlled by Pakistan and since 1962 China has been occupying the remaining 20%. In addition to this, 5,180 sq. km. of J&K were ceded to China by Pakistan under the March 1963 Sino-Pak Boundary agreement. It also shares a 221- km. international boundary with Pakistan in the Jammu region and 365 km. with China in its Ladakh sector. Dividing Indian and Pakistan controlled areas is the “line of control (LOC)” which is 1001km long.
Kashmir has a population of 12million. Spoken Kashmiri combines Persian and Arabic languages while written Kashmiri uses Urdu script. There are 9million people in the Indian side of Kashmir of which 6million are Muslims while the rest are Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs. Kashmir valley is virtually all Muslims though in Ladakh Buddhists are in the majority and Muslims are in the minority in Jammu.
The problem of Kashmir dates back to 1947 when India was partitioned. At the time of Indian independence the Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir had not decided whether to join the Indian republic and so did not solicit help from India when J&K came under attack from tribal Pathans on 20th October 1947. By the time the Maharajah sought assistance from India Pakistan had occupied almost half of Kashmir. In April 1948 the UN Security Council Resolution suggested a plebiscite for the Kashmiri people after Pakistan vacated Kashmir. Since UN has a habit of confusing situations in giving India the right to maintain law and order by keeping a military presence, Pakistan opted not to leave Kashmir and thus ended any signs of a referendum. Thereafter, it has been nothing but accusations between the two nations. The usual UN/US jargon continues accusing “both sides” of violations. Discussions have dragged for decades leading India and Pakistan to wage 6 wars (3 major and 3 minor).
As for the Kashmiris they continue to suffer. Do they secede from a country (India) which they have never acceded to? This then means Kashmiri’s cannot be called secessionists. Moreover, India claims the “instrument of accession” signed by the maharajah is missing from the Indian state archives when the US and some Arab states requested to see the authenticity of the text.
The situation of the Kashmiri’s has arisen due to failure to exchange populations at the time of partition of India and Pakistan as in the case of Greece-Turkey, Germany-Czechoslavakia, Bulgaria-Turkey, Poland-Germany, Bosnia-Serbia, Croatia-Serbia. This raises a question of why partition of countries should take place if populations are not exchanged.
Currently in the background to the US Resolution against Sri Lanka backed by India we question the double standards of totally ignoring India’s refusal to carry give self-determination to Kashmir whilst committing human rights violations both of which the UN/US and the West have conveniently ignored for decades. Why is India not given ultimatums? If the solution has been arrived at and all it takes is for India to be reminded that it is now time to hold the plebiscite what is stopping UN and Navi Pillay taking action against India?
India’s Human Rights Violations
India is complaining about “militarization” of Sri Lanka’s north completely forgetting that Sri Lanka’s troops are not on foreign land, they are not forcibly occupying areas whilst Indian troops are occupying the world’s highest militarized zone with over 750,000 Indian military personnel, that is 1 Indian soldier for every 4 Kashmiris!
From the moment the British-supported maharajah sought India’s support to crush the “Quit Kashmir” movement; India has been occupying part of Kashmir and committing human rights violations with impunity. With unprecedented human rights violations India’s media dishing out all sorts of lies on Sri Lanka.
When India is questioning Sri Lanka a nation that not only defeated the terrorists that India helped create whilst saving close to 300,000 Tamil civilians who would have been possibly used as human shields by the LTTE, India has conveniently forgotten the ghosts that haunt its actions.
So what does India have to respond to the accusations of torture, extrajudicial killings, fake encounters, plunder, rape, sexual harassment, custodial disappearances, arbitrary detentions, ruthless suppression of peaceful political dissent, arbitrary firing on civilians?
It is not that the UN or the West is unaware of India’s crimes they even have documentation – we want to know why India’s genocides are being shielded?
· A US Congress Resolution in 2006 labeled the violence in Kashmir as “ethnic cleansing”.
· UN Commission on Human Rights reports 1.5million refugees from Indian-administered Kashmir now in Pakistan-administered Kashmir?
· Innumerable statements on killings by Indian security forces – some human rights groups have accused India’s security forces of even using child soldiers.
· Amnesty International accuses Indian security forces of custodial torture
· Wikileaks quotes ICRC that Indian security forces were physically abusing detainees by beatings, electrocutions and sexual interference.
· The Indian Army is accused of massacres examples of which include Bomai killing 2009, Gawakadal massacre, Kulgam massacre 2006, Zakoora and Tengpora massacre 1990, Sopore massacre.
· The number of men missing has resulted in a new term “half-widows”.
· Human right activists estimate the number of disappeared over eight thousand, last seen in government detention.
· There are supposedly thousands of mass graves across Kashmir. 2730 bodies uncovered in 4 of the 14 districts, 574 bodies were identified as missing locals.
· Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), which in March 2008 released a report, titled, “Facts Underground”, had indicated the presence of unidentified graves. The APDP, which estimated around 10,000 people disappeared during the last two decades, claims, “many missing people may have ended up in these unmarked graves.”
· A recent report on human rights violations by Indian Army and its paramilitary forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir disclosed that since 1989, there have been deaths of 93,274 innocent Kashmiris, 6,969 custodial killings, 117,345 arrests and 105,861 destructions of houses. Indian brutal security forces have orphaned over 107, 351 children, widowed 22,728 women and gang raped 9,920 women.
· Christof Heyns, a special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, has warned India that “all of these draconian laws had no place in a functioning democracy and should be scrapped.”
· The 1994 Human Rights Watch on summary executions of detainees by Indian security forces in Kashmir says that extrajudicial killings took place within hours of arrest and were carried out as a “matter of policy”.
· In 2010 US State Dept report cited extrajudicial killings by security forces in areas of conflict including Kashmir as a major human rights problem in India.
· Medecins Sans Frontieres report says 17,000 people (mostly women) have committed suicide during the last 20 years in Kashmir. 11.6% Kashmiri’s claim they have been sexually abused or raped. Kashmir had only 1 mental hospital with just 1200 patients – now there are over 100,000 patients.
What is India preaching to Sri Lanka about “accountability” – India needs to be first charged for its crimes.
India’s response to the allegations has been to pass the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) in 1990 that protects Indian armed forces personnel from being prosecuted. The Act shields all acts of human rights violations committed by Indian troops.
The Act has been condemned by UNHRC Navi Pillay who has requested the AFSPA to be repealed. With this request ignored why is Navi Pillay silent?
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act allows Indian armed forces all the powers to :
· Fire upon or use other kids of force even if it causes death, against the person who is acting against the law or order in a “disturbed” area
· Destroy any arms dump, prepared or fortified position or shelter or training camp from which armed attacks are made by armed volunteers or armed gangs
· To arrest without a warrant anyone committing cognizable offences and may use force if needed for the arrest.
· To enter and search any premise to make arrests, to recover any person wrongfully restrained, to recover any arms, ammunition or explosives and seize it.
· Stop and search any vehicle or vessel suspected to be carrying such persons or weapons
· Army officers have legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under that law. Nor is the government’s judgment on why an area is found to be disturbed subject to judicial review.
· The Act also protects persons acting in good faith from prosecution, suit or other legal proceedings, except with the sanction of the Central Government, in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.
This Act has certainly drawn lessons from India’s own humiliation in Sri Lanka’s North where the Indian Peace Keepers lost over 1000 lives and Indian soldiers were accused of large scale rape of Sri Lankan Tamil civilians, indiscriminate shooting and plunder. The “impunity” given to Indian soldiers takes into consideration every accusation of crimes and human rights violations which India is obviously guilty of to make sure its personnel are not incriminated.
The UN decision – right to self-determination for Kashmiris
If the UN determined that the Kashmiri people had the right to self-determination and the UN set out a plan to realize this right and solve the political and military impasse between India and Pakistan over the issue of Kashmir – why is the UN not making firm decisions. Would this not help tensions between the 2 countries in the absence of this long drawn out issue?
A mandate for de-colonization has been included in the UN Charter itself (Article 1.2) providing for the principle of self-determination. While this will make foreign-based LTTE outfits prepare crackers to celebrate its own concocted homeland demand, before they celebrate they must realize that right to self-determination arises at the de-colonization phase and in Sri Lanka’s case even the 50-50 representation demanded by Tamil politicians at independence was claimed as “nonsense” by the British empire. However, by virtue of the ingredients necessary to demand right to self-determination Tamil Nadu can certainly claim that right for it has an identifiable territory, a distinct culture and it has been demanding self-governance since 1930s. As we continue to say Tamil Eelaam is nowhere else but in Tamil Nadu.
Moreover, it appears the UN is enjoying watching the confusion. In 1956 the Kashmiri Constituent Assembly chosen by Indian was not accepted claiming that it was not done through a plebiscite under the UN Security Council Resolution 122. This again stresses that the political rhetoric on Kashmir must now come to a close. While all and sundry are taking punches at Sri Lanka for unsubstantiated civilian deaths which took place during the final 6 days of the war against the LTTE the world including India has conveniently ignored the LTTE crimes committed over 30 years. The UN is on record for accounting for the deaths of approximately 7000 civilians and LTTE from January 2009 to 13 May 2009.
The accusation against India is that while it agreed with the British that the people of Kashmir would decide their own fate via a plebiscite of the Kashmiri people under the auspices of the UN and the UN Security Council went on to appoint a Plebiscite Administrator beyond 1956 no such appointee was made. Instead India went on to take large parts of Kashmir and to commit genocide and war crimes which the UN and West are ignoring.
This makes the UN and human rights lobbies all culpable for the crimes being committed with impunity in Kashmir. They know the crimes but they are not taking action against India.
The West and in particular the US that is concerned about human rights appears to ignore the HR violations taking place in the Indian-controlled Kashmir breaching Geneva Conventions and customary humanitarian laws.
Kashmir today is not the Kashmir of 1947. There are little or no Hindus, Sikhs or Buddhists in Kashmir now. For India it is more of an ego issue to forfeit Kashmir over and above the strategic importance of Kashmir.
To India, giving up Kashmir is more of a showdown and humiliation having occupied the territory with an iron-fist for decades. India cannot shy away from the fact that amongst the South Asian nations it continues to remain an intrusive neighbor with a child-like tendency to always bully other nations. It has come to such an impasse that India cannot steer policy away from including the tactic of destabilizing and bullying nations.
The importance of Kashmir is obviously nothing that needs special mention. The ladakh area itself is oil rich, natural resources are in abundance and it is close to China – the West’s arch enemy.
The Iran-Pakistan-China gas-oil pipeline is one partnership the West would feel threatened about while India is not welcomed.
The route will be from Iran to China through Pakistan’s southwestern region of Balochistan, northward across Punjab onto non-Pashtun eastern areas (to avoid jihadists) of the North-West frontier province through the federally administered Northern areas and to Chinese-held areas of Kashmir. China is offering USD500billion for the 2600km venture. Sri Lanka’s leaders need to realize these true friends of Sri Lanka as against the humiliation India continues to pile on Sri Lanka. Our partnerships must be with these friends and not India.
If Kashmir is not to be given self-determination in the least the crimes committed against the Kashmiris by India must cease and we would like to know why UN, US and allies are ignoring India’s crimes when a Resolution offering self-determination has been arrived at decades ago?