Malik Muhammad Ashraf
The history of Kashmir is replete with myriad massacres of Kashmiris at the hands of the Indian security forces, including the killing of some prominent leaders of the freedom movement after it was launched in 1989. Among them were Mirwaiz Farooq and Abdul Ghani Lone, who were martyred by the Indian security forces on May 21, 1990 and 2002 respectively. The day remains one of Indian shame since then, as the movement not only gained further momentum after their assassination, but the people of Kashmir also started observing May 21 as their martyrdom day to make an unequivocal declaration that no amount of oppression could dent their resolve to win their right to self-determination.
The persecution of the people of Kashmir and their struggle against oppression has roots in history. The first chapter of blood-letting was written on July 13, 1931 when the forces of the Maharaja martyred 22 Kashmiris when they were agitating against the injustices perpetrated and the arrest of a young man—Abdul Qadeer—who dared to speak against the oppressive regime. The state of Kashmir, with a majority Muslim population, was ruled by the Dogra Dynasty of Hindu Rajputs from 1846 to 1947. The Dogras treated the Muslim subjects badly and even interfered in their religious affairs. There was widespread discontent and resentment against the oppressive governance which kept simmering underneath.
According to the recorded evidence, the police fired 160 rounds of bullets into the crowd, killing seventeen people on the spot while another five died later in the hospital. A Hindu writer, Prem Nath Bazz in his work ‘Inside Kashmir’ published in 1941 wrote, “The driving force behind the mass agitation till July 13 was the discontent among the rank and file of the Muslims. The attack on the jail was in no way directed against the Hindus, and those who laid down their lives at the jail gate did so fighting against an unsympathetic government…It was a fight of the tyrannised against their tyrants, of the oppressed against the oppressors.” The incident marked the beginning of the modern era Kashmir freedom struggle which has traversed through different phases including civilian protests, political and armed struggle.
Unfortunately, the plight of the people of Kashmir did not end with partition of the sub-continent. The 52 princely states under the Independence Act were allowed to accede to any of the two newly created states of India and Pakistan keeping in view the geographical proximity and demographic realities or remain independent. Kashmir was a fit case for accession to Pakistan due to geographical proximity, majority Muslim population and cultural, religious and trade links with the areas that formed parts of the latter.
But the ruler of the state Maharaja Hari Singh announced the accession of the state to India. His action could be better understood in the backdrop of the Dogra rule in Kashmir before partition rather than the ground realities. The people of Kashmir revolted against this decision. Lord Mountbatten, while accepting the accession temporarily, unequivocally said that the issue would be decided through a reference to the people. The situation however became very precarious leading to the first war between Pakistan and India which took the matter to the United Nations. After thorough deliberations on the issue, the UNSC passed a number of resolutions calling for holding the plebiscite under the auspices of the UN to settle the question of accession of the state to either of the two countries.
Both the countries accepted those resolutions and the then Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, in a number of communications with his Pakistani counterpart reiterated his commitment to holding of the plebiscite. He—also in his speeches—in the Indian parliament unequivocally stated that India would stick to its obligation under the UN resolutions. But India reneged on its commitment and tried to have the question of accession resolved through the constituent assembly of Kashmir in 1957. That move was repudiated by the UN through its resolutions 91 and 122, maintaining the issue could not be settled through any arrangement other than a UN sponsored plebiscite. As is evident, the Indian position on Kashmir has no legal and moral basis.
The plebiscite unfortunately remains an elusive dream so far due to Indian intransigence to grant the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir. The partition of the sub-continent pushed the people of Kashmir into an un-ending ordeal. India’s denial to give them the right to self-determination forced them to pick up arms in 1989 to win their freedom. India on her part has used ruthless military might to quell the uprising. Its security forces have since then killed more than one hundred thousand Kashmiris besides raping thousands of women. Kashmir remains a venue of oppression and persecution.
The Modi government has further aggravated the situation by ending special status of IIOJK, its annexation to the Indian Union in sheer violation of the UNSC resolutions, followed by the promulgation of a new domicile law to change the demographic features of the state which constitutes wilful breach of international law and the fourth Geneva Convention. Kashmir was put under a complete lockdown. Since August 5, 2019 the people of Indian Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir are leading a miserable life and Indian forces continue the killing spree during the cordon and search operations. Hardly a day passes without the murder of the Kashmiris by the Indian security forces.
The world media has continuously been reporting about the blatant violation of human rights in the state. Pakistan has been raising this issue at all international forums and warning the world about the possible consequences. India has also adopted a belligerent posture towards Pakistan and the latter rightly feels that Indian disposition towards her and what it has done in IIOJK—inebriated by RSS the philosophy of Hindutva—constitutes a grave threat to the security of the region.
Regrettably, the world and the UN remain oblivious to the sufferings of the people of Kashmir. One really wonders for how long will the people of Kashmir have to suffer and endure the ongoing ordeal? Indian oppression in IIOJK and its defiance of the UNSC resolutions is indeed an affront to the conscience of the global community. How long can it afford to be indifferent remains to be seen. However it is clear that the people of Kashmir are determined to win their right to self-determination no matter how many more sacrifices they might have to render. History is a witness to the fact that freedom movements cannot be suppressed with the barrel of the gun.
The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.
— Courtesy The Nation