On Sunday, thousands of Kashmiris marched to Sugan in the Shopian district of the Vale of Kashmir, where they attended funeral prayers for Zeenat ul-Islam, a prominent Kashmiri who was killed by the armed forces of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) on Saturday. While the funeral for ul-Islam saw multiple Kashmiris vent their rage, IOK forces fired live rounds at the mourners, injuring eleven in the process.
Both the killing of Zeenat ul-Islam and the IOK’s reckless and violent provocation against civilians mourning a moderate rebel, come at a particularly sensitive time for Kashmir.
The Washington Post recently confirmed that 2018 was the deadliest year for Kashmiris in IOK for a decade. Kashmiri media have cited an end of year report by the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) which details the nature of the state violence against mainly young protesters demonstrating for the right to national self-determination.
According to author Sagrika Kissu:
“As per the figures released by JKCCS, a total of 160 civilians were killed in incidents of violence in 2018 in the Valley. Among those killed were18 women and 31 children – the highest in the last decade – including an eight-month-old baby, Nitin Kumar, who was killed in cross-border firing in Pallanwala. According to the report, a total of 586 people were killed in 2018 in Kashmir. Among 586 people killed in Jammu and Kashmir, 160 are civilians, 267 are militants and 159 are members of Indian armed forces and Jammu and Kashmir police, the report added.
Meanwhile, in contrast, government figures show a decline in killings. In reply to a written question in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Hansraj Ahir, said, ‘Altogether 140 terrorists were killed by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir between June and December 2018 during which 426 stone pelting incidents were also reported in the state.’ However, these figures have allegedly created more distrust among people in Kashmir who think that ‘government is hiding the human rights violations in the valley’, say human rights activists.
According to the JKCCS report, most civilian deaths were reported from South Kashmir, the region which saw sustained violence in 2018. Almost 85 civilian killings were recorded from four districts of South Kashmir – Kulgam, Anantnag, Pulwama and Shopian. North Kashmir recorded 24 civilian killings, while Central Kashmir witnessed killings of 13 civilians. Near 180 instances of internet blockade were recorded in 2018. The report also documented surging cordon and search operations in the valley.
In 2018, at least 275 Cordon and Search Operations (CASOs) were conducted across Jammu and Kashmir, which resulted in the killing of 267 militants, the report said. According to data compiled by Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons and JKCCS, at least 143 encounters took place between Indian armed forces and militants following CASOs. In 2018, at least 120 cases of damage to civilian houses were reported in Jammu and Kashmir in which 31 houses were completely burnt while 94 were partially damaged, the report said.
The report also talked about the decade-high suicides among security forces, as ’20 armed force personnel claimed their lives’ – the highest in the past 10 years. 2018 also saw an uptick in the usage of force and pellets at protestors. ‘In 2018, 191 incidents of excessive use of force were recorded. Firing on protestors, use of pellet shotguns, beatings and physical assaults by Indian armed forces have been routinely reported. According to a newspaper report, from May 1 to 9, around 115 people were admitted in Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) for pellet and bullet injuries. Out of these, 74 had received pellets, with 60 among them having injuries in their eyes. According to a surgeon treating the injured at the hospital, government forces had been firing bullets on chest, neck, head and abdomen, which showed their intention to kill,’ the JKCCS report said.
The year also saw the youngest pellet victim, 19-month old, Hiba. A pellet had hit her right eye and was later removed by doctors but yet the chances that she might lose her eyesight in the affected eye are high.
The report also underlined the less-acknowledged instance of vandalism. In 2018, at least 120 cases of damage to civilian houses were reported in Jammu and Kashmir in which 31 houses were completely burnt while 94 were partially damaged. ‘The burning and destruction of civilian properties is not just a form of collective punishment against the local population but an act which renders scores of families homeless,’ the report said”.
While for the supporters of the Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir, the issues surrounding the occupation are those involving unbridled jingoism and a battle that puts a quest for resources ahead of justice for civilians, for Kashmiris themselves, it is a matter of being denied their UN mandated right to national self-determination which they have been waiting for since 1947.
The pressing issue of Kashmir was one of the first major challenges presented to a young United Nations Security Council which in 1949 passed Resolution 47. This resolution called for a plebiscite to allow Kashmiris to decide on their own future according to the principles of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was ratified in 1948.
Crucially, India continues to deny that Pakistan has followed the following clauses in the resolution:
“1. The Government of Pakistan should undertake to use its best endeavours:
(a) To secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting, and to prevent any intrusion into the State of such elements and any furnishing of material aid to those fighting in the State;
(b) To make known to all concerned that the measures indicated in this and the following paragraphs provide full freedom to all subjects of the State, regardless of creed, caste, or party, to express their views and to vote on the question of the accession of the State, and that therefore they should co-operate in the maintenance of peace and order”.
But while Pakistan has fulfilled its duties according to a precise reading of the Resolution, India maintains that Resolution 47 calls for Pakistan to abandon the civilian administration in Azad Kashmir. India has held fast to this obstructionist position in spite of the fact that the clauses in question do not make specific mention of the civilian administration in Azad Kashmir, beyond a general and reasonable call for non-native Kashmiris to vacate the territory for the specific and limited aim of holding a free and fair plebiscite based on the indigenous population as well as indigenous Kashmiris who were displayed during the war of 1947-48.
But while arguments continue to be made regarding interpretations of Resolution 47, Kashmiris continue to pay with their lives for 72 years of sustained injustice. The only solution is for the UN to take into account a reasonable interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 47 and force the issue of the need for an immediate plebiscite throughout the entirety of Kashmir. This is absolutely necessary in order to make it so that there can be no question about the long-term status of the region.
A further matter of importance becomes clear when one realises that arguments between New Delhi and Islamabad regarding differing interpretations of the 1949 era UN Resolution do not directly take into account the feelings of Kashmiris themselves. Ultimately, the Kashmir crisis is one between the Kashmiri people and their occupier. It is only up to the Kashmiri people to define who and what is an occupier and this is why their voices must be heard by the international community without prejudice. Any nation afraid of such a plebiscite can logically be concluded to be a state afraid that its interpretation of the situation in Kashmir is one that will be exposed as incompatible with the feelings of Kashmiris.
Furthermore, as India has physically occupied much of Kashmir since 1947, there has been plenty of time for New Delhi to convince Kashmiris that they are better off in India than as an independent sovereign state or as part of Pakistan. The uptick in the intensity of the conflict within Kashmir since 1989 in particular, has demonstrated that far from using the delayed execution of the UN Resolution in order to make peace with Kashmiris, Indian forces have done everything they can to make the case for Kashmir leaving India according to the democratic will of the Kashmiri people.
Former US President John F. Kennedy famously stated:
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”.
This quote could have been authored to describe the lingering deterioration of human rights and social cohesion in Kashmir as Kashmiris are pushing back only as much as they have been pushed. Contented populations are by definition not angry populations and likewise, no genuine uprising has ever been a result of prosperity, social harmony and a happy population. In this sense, the realities in Kashmir speak for themselves, not least because a genuinely contended population cannot be easily mobilised by external political proclamations.
The extent to which Kashmiris are suffering is therefore self-evident, in spite of the fact that the IOK authorities make it extremely difficult for international reporters to gain access to the streets where demonstrators are frequently beaten and killed for demanding a peaceful right to have the vote that the UN mandates that they must have.
There is no other logical way forward and more importantly, there is no other just way forward but for the UN to take action in the name of creating peace through a general plebiscite on Kashmir’s future.