By S. M. Hali

Prima facie, the title would appear to be one of the numerous reports regarding the sad plight of Kashmiri Muslims engaged in their struggle for their right of self determination promised by the UN Resolutions on Kashmir. Alas, it was shocking to read an article at Wikipedia, titled: ‘Human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir’ detail the alleged torture of Kashmiri Hindu Pundits and forcing them to flee the Valley in an attempt of ethnic cleansing. Quoting reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists, the article claims reports systematic human rights violations by militants which claim Jammu and Kashmir to be part of Pakistan. Naming the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) to be responsible for carrying out human rights violations, ranging from kidnapping to ethnic cleansing of several hundred thousand Hindu Kashmiri Pundits, the article refers to a 2010 US state department report blaming separatist insurgents in Kashmir and other parts of the country of committing several serious abuses, including the killing of security personnel as well as civilians, and of engaging in widespread torture, rape, beheadings, kidnapping, and extortion.

It cites an incident known as the 2000 Amarnath pilgrimage massacre in August 2000, in which armed groups killed 30 Hindu pilgrims. The Indian government blamed the Lashkar-e-Taiba for the killings. The thrust of the article is on the claim that during the eruption of armed rebellion, the Islamic insurgency has claimed to have specifically targeted the Hindu Kashmiri Pundits minority and violating their human rights. It quotes the Indian government that 219 Kashmiri pundits were killed and around 1, 40,000 migrated due to militancy while over 3000 stayed in the valley. The article informs that the violence was condemned and labeled as ‘ethnic cleansing’ in a 2006 resolution passed by the United States Congress. It stated that the Islamic terrorists infiltrated the region in 1989 and began an ethnic cleansing campaign to convert Kashmir to a Muslim state. Since then nearly 400,000 Pundits were either murdered or forced to leave their ancestral homes. According to a Hindu American Foundation report, the rights and religious freedom of Kashmiri Hindus have been severely curtailed since 1989, when there was an organized and systematic campaign by “Islamic Militants” to cleanse Hindus from Kashmir. Less than 4,000 Kashmiri Hindus remain in the valley, reportedly living with daily threats of violence and terrorism.

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It is appalling that the gross human rights abuse conducted by the Indian security forces on the Kashmiri Muslims has not only been downplayed but their just struggle for freedom has been labeled as terrorism and insurgency. The story does mention a December 2010 The Guardianaccount by Jason Burke, titled: ‘WikiLeaks cables: India accused of systematic use of torture in Kashmir’. According to the Guardian disclosure, WikiLeaks quote US Embassy classified cables reporting that US diplomats in Delhi were informed by ICRC that “Beatings and electric shocks were inflicted on hundreds of civilians detained in Kashmir.”

The veracity of the Wikipedia article is doubtful since the issue of Kashmir is not only an internationalized one, duly noted by the UN but also taken cognizance of as a flashpoint by international observers which may escalate into a war between nuclear weapons equipped Pakistan and India. The very genesis of the Kashmir issue was a human rights abuse, when in 1947, disregarding the Independence Act 1947; Indian government forcibly occupied the Valley. Kashmiri freedom fighters tried to liberate their homeland from the clutches of its illegal invaders and Pakistan Army was sent to aid them. The fledgling Pakistan Army, devoid of arms and ammunition put up a brave fight and pushed back the Indian Occupiers. When they were near the Kashmiri capital of Srinagar, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sought UN intervention and secured a ceasefire. The UN, after deliberations, passed Resolutions, making it binding upon India to hold a plebiscite under UN supervision, for the Kashmiris to declare through their right of self determination to accede to Pakistan or India. Despite agreeing to abide by the UN Resolutions, the Indians not only reneged on their promise, but continued to suppress the Kashmiri Muslims. Pakistan and India went to war in 1965 and 1971, but the fate of the Kashmiri Muslims did not change.

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In 1989, disillusioned by broken promises, the Kashmiris took up arms in a just struggle for freedom from Indian oppression. This right too is guaranteed under the UN Charter. In retaliation, Indian forces were launched into the Valley of Kashmir to crush the freedom movement with full force. Their systemic human rights abuses have been well documented as Indian journalists and, human rights activists Arundhati Roy, Praful Bidwai, Kuldip Nayar et-al have spoken out against the naked aggression of the Indian forces in Kashmir. The havoc wreaked by Indian forces have caused the death of over 100,000 Kashmiri Muslims, the rape of thousands of Kashmiri women and the incarceration of thousands of Kashmiri youth. To add insult to injury, their just struggle for liberation has been labeled as acts of terrorism and Pakistan has been accused of abetting and aiding the Kashmiris, while Pakistan offers only diplomatic and moral support to the downtrodden Kashmiris. Indian forces have installed an electronic fence along the Line of Control in Kashmir, patrol it with armed guards and dogs and preclude the chances of infiltration or cross border terrorism as the Indians allege. Draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958 that gives protection to Indian Armed Forces personnel from being prosecuted have enabled the Indian forces to continue their reign of terror in the Valley with impunity. This law is widely condemned by human rights groups. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay, in her visit in June 2012, has urged India to repeal AFSPA and to investigate the disappearances in Kashmir. The discovery of mass graves of Kashmiri Muslims has aggravated the number of Kashmiri Muslims slaughtered and speaks volumes for the gravity of the situation. In reality it is the Kashmiri Muslims who need support and justice to rid them of India’s illegal occupation.