Op-ED by Ayesha Ali, Consul General of Pakistan, New York
05 August 2020 is a grim milestone for the people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and peace loving people all over the world. On this day last year, the Government of India,revoked article 370 of the Indian constitution,which had accorded a special status to IIOJK.
India’s illegal action of 5 August 2019 sought to unilaterally alter the internationally recognized status of IIOJK and to change its demographic structure. It was also a blatant violation of several United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, which embodied the principle that “the final disposition of the State of Jammu & Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations”.
One full year on, the Kashmiri people continue to suffer unimaginable horrors under Indian military siege and state brutality of unparalleled proportions. The unprecedented security restrictions accompanying Indian actions of 5 August including an indefensible communications blackout have imposed enormous human suffering and constitute a blatant violation of Kashmiri people’s fundamental rights.
Resultantly, Kashmir has turned into the largest open-air prison in the world. A large number of Kashmiri civilians including women children, elderly and political leaders remain incarcerated. Internet access remains tenuous and unreliable and innocent civilians are routinely killed in fake encounters by security forces.
While the world is grappling with Covid-19 pandemic, India has taken advantage of the unfortunate situation to impose a double lockdown in Kashmir. It has used the Covid-19 crisis to spike the arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings of the Kashmiris with utter impunity. It has also accelerated its efforts to change the demographic structure of Kashmir by changing the domicile rules for the occupied territory in clear violation of the 4th Geneva Convention and other international laws.
Almost 180,000 additional troops have been inducted into IIOJK, supplementing the over 700,000 stationed there for more than three decades. Such massive build-up of Indian troops makes the occupied territory the most militarized zone in the world.
Apart from inducting additional troops, India’s violations of the 2003 ceasefire understanding (with Pakistan) escalated across the Line of Control, (LoC). India has used prohibited “cluster ammunitions” along the LoC, deliberately targeting civilians.
India’s controlled media frequently ratchet up the bogey of “terrorists” ready to enter occupied Kashmir across the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan indicative of Indian government’s intention to provoke another crisis with Pakistan. This Indian aggression could lead to a wider and more intense conflict. It goes without saying that there are grave dangers to regional peace and security arising from India’s unilateral and illegal actions as well as its belligerent rhetoric and ill-conceived aggressive moves.
The Jammu & Kashmir dispute has been left festering for decades, periodically serving as a flashpoint for conflict between India and Pakistan. Its non-resolution has previously led to war and near-war situations between India and Pakistan. India’s continued repression of the Kashmiri people and its recent pre-meditated steps are certain to intensify popular resistance by the people in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
The gravity of the situation demands immediate action to stop India’s blatant violation of the rights and freedoms of the Kashmiri people including removal of the restrictions on movement and peaceful assembly of people and release of political prisoners. The Indian government must also be refrained from using live fire and pellet guns against civilians, including women and children. It must be stopped from its military buildup on LoC.
In order to help alleviate sufferings of the Kashmiri people on an urgent basis, it is essential that all the governments of the world and credible voices in international and human rights organizations, media and civil society are amplified in support of Kashmiri rights.International media and independent observers should also be allowed entry into the occupied territory to independently verify reports of abuse, violations and use of excessive force.
It is incumbent upon the international community to ensure that India is made toimmediately stop the genocide of Kashmiri people; halt unjustified land grab in IIOJK; stop India from unilaterally altering the geographic and demographic status of IIOJK; scale down the number of its armed forces and paramilitary forces both inside IIOJK and along the LoC and let the Kashmiris exercise their legitimate right to self-determination in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions.
The United States has supported the Kashmiris and recognizes the principles underlying their just cause. Many US leaders including Congressmen and Senators have raised their voice in support of the Kashmiris. President Trump in his meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan offered mediation on Kashmir which was welcomed by Pakistan.
In the backdrop of the continued genocide of the Kashmiris at the hands of the extremist Indian government, we urge and appeal to the US to continue to play its role and to use its influence to make India immediately cease its illegal actions in IIOJK.