Occupied Kashmiris’ long wait for justice goes on
Feb. 5 is observed by Pakistanis and Kashmiris all over the world as Kashmir Solidarity Day. This day is commemorated to show support for and unity with the people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, as well as to pay homage to the martyrs who lost their lives fighting for Kashmir’s freedom.
The Jammu and Kashmir dispute is the unfinished agenda item from the partition of the Indian subcontinent. It is also one of the oldest issues on the agenda of the UN Security Council. Unlike the rest of the Indian subcontinent, foreign domination did not end for most Kashmiris in 1947. It was, in fact, replaced by a brutal military occupation by India.
The systematic oppression of the Kashmiri people by the Indian occupying forces has been going on for over seven decades. India has deployed close to a million military, paramilitary and security personnel to subjugate the Kashmiri people and deny their fundamental rights — including the inalienable right to self-determination. Today, Jammu and Kashmir is the most militarized part of the world. Many refer to it as the largest open-air prison in the world.
In recent years, India has accelerated its settler colonial project in Jammu and Kashmir. The ultimate objectives are to crush the legitimate and indigenous freedom struggle; engineer a demographic change; reduce the Muslim majority into a subservient minority; completely erode Kashmiris’ religious and cultural identity; distort the historical boundaries of the state; and prevent, by all means, the conducting of a free and impartial plebiscite allowing the people of Jammu and Kashmir to decide the course of their own destiny.
India’s illegal and unilateral actions in Jammu and Kashmir clearly show that, deep down, it knows that Kashmir does not belong to it. It has tried military occupation, political engineering, sham elections, curfews and communication lockdowns, but it has not been able to win over the hearts of the Kashmiri people. With every passing day, the yearning for freedom in Kashmir is getting stronger.
With every passing day, the yearning for freedom in Kashmir is getting stronger.
Ameer Khurram Rathore
In order to suppress the freedom movement, India has suspended all fundamental freedoms and liberties in the state. Thousands of Kashmiris, including children, have been detained. Torture and enforced disappearances are the norm. Hundreds of young men have been the victims of extrajudicial killings in “fake encounter” and “cordon and search” operations. Collective punishment, including the burning of entire villages and sexual violence, is used as a state policy. The occupying forces are emboldened to carry out these heinous activities without any repercussions through laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Public Safety Act.
All this is happening in plain sight of the international community. Despite the Indian state machinery’s best efforts — augmented by a pliant media and a jingoistic entertainment industry — to project “normalcy” in Jammu and Kashmir, the true face of its brutal occupation is fully exposed.
The UNSC has discussed the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir three times since 2019. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has publicly expressed its concerns, as documented in detail in its reports of 2018 and 2019. The UN special procedures mandate holders have also issued joint communications on several occasions sharing their serious concerns on severe restrictions, in particular violations of the right to life, arbitrary detentions, torture, ill-treatment and reprisals against human rights defenders and political activists. Leading human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as international media outlets, have also repeatedly chronicled India’s atrocities.
Using the platform of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Muslim nations have always extended their full support and solidarity with the brave people of Kashmir. They have urged India to halt its oppression, call back occupying forces and allow the Kashmiri people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination.
India’s systematic denial of the legitimate right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people and its brutal subjugation of the indigenous freedom movement cannot be given a free pass. Pakistan, the Muslim world and indeed all freedom-loving people of the world are with the valiant people of Jammu and Kashmir.
In the timeless words of Martin Luther King Jr., “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The day is not far off when the people of Kashmir will see a just end to their heroic struggle against India’s foreign occupation. InshaAllah.
— Ameer Khurram Rathore is Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia.