Islamabad: Kashmir is the oldest unresolved conflict on the United Nations’ agenda. Major part of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir is under the illegal occupation of India. The Indian-occupied area of Kashmir resembles an open prison, with its people enduring oppression and subjugation. On 10 December 2023, the global community will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Simultaneously, the people of the Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) will mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on Kashmir, resolutions that are yet to be implemented. The Kashmir conflict is an international armed conflict. According to Common Article 2 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, International Armed Conflict (IAC) is defined as “all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict that may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them.” Additional Protocol I, Article 1, para. 1) defines “armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination, alien occupation, or racist regimes.”
In occupied Jammu and Kashmir people are fighting against alien occupation and to achieve the right to self-determination. Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory whose future must be decided by a free, fair and impartial referendum under the supervision of the United Nations. There are many resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and the United Nations Commission in India and Pakistan. UNSC passed its first resolution on RSD (right to self-determination) on 21 April 1948 (Res. No. 47 (1948)), which states: “Noting with satisfaction that both India and Pakistan desire that the question of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite.” Not only has India consistently refused to grant the right to self-determination to Kashmiris, but in 2019, it abolished the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and divided it into two union territories. This denial of the right to self-determination is a clear violation of international law and UNSC resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir.
The Indian Government is suppressing this struggle by using lethal force and imposing draconian laws. These laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Public Safety Act and others are providing blanket impunity to perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Under Section 4(a) of the AFSPA, if the concerned officer is of the opinion that it is necessary to maintain public order, after giving such due warning as he may consider necessary, he can ‘fire upon, or use such force, even to the causing of death. From January 1989 to 30 November 2023, in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, 96,278 civilians were martyred by Indian forces moreover Indian forces’ personnel molested/disgraced 11,259 women. Since 1989, India has subjected 8,000 to 10,000 Kashmiris to enforced disappearances in occupied Kashmir. There are 8,652 unidentified mass graves in 89 villages across six districts of IIOJK.
Since 1989, Indian forces have been involved in the destruction or arson of houses and shops belonging to the people of Kashmir. According to Kashmir Media Service, in this period, 110,509 structures have been arsoned or destroyed. After August 5, 2019, India’s National Investigation Agency and the State Investigation Agency (SIA) have aggressively moved to seize the immovable properties of several Kashmiri activists, more than 500 properties, worth hundreds of crores, have been seized.
Modi-led Indian Government of BJP and RSS is systematically working to bring demographic changes in IIOJK. The basic objective of the abrogation of Article 35-A from the Indian Constitution is to settle non-Kashmiris in Kashmir. The new domicile law was introduced and many other Indian laws were made applicable in IIOJK. Delimitation of constituencies of legislative assembly seats is another step to disempower the Muslims of the valley. This delimitation is a unique example in the world that by ignoring population ratio seats are increased for political purposes. According to official sources, 61,47,482 domicile certificates have been issued up to 7 June 2023. Lands are allotted for mining and industrial purposes to Indians, in government jobs priority is Indian nationals. This is a clear violation of international law. Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention clearly says that the occupying power must not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
Active and educated youths are targeted by occupation forces – either they are killed or arrested during cordon and search operations and fake encounters. Media and even social media are under strict control and human rights activists and journalists are in jail. All political leadership of Kashmir is in Indian jails without any crime. Masarrat Aalam Butt, Shabbir Ahmed Shah, Yasin Malik, Aasiya Andrabi, Dr Muhammad Qasim Fakhtoo, Nayeem Ahmed Khan, Naheeda Nasreen, Fehmeeda Sofi, Dr Shafi Shariati, Ghulam Qadir Butt and many more are rotting in jails.
India is violating all principles and conventions on human rights and committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in IIOJK. The silence from the capitals of powerful countries encourages India to commit these crimes. Mere observance of days is not sufficient there is a need for action to stop human rights violations in Kashmir.
(The writer is Director Kashmir Policy Research Institute, Director JKLC.)