Author Name: Maham Shahid Gillani      30 Aug 2019    


The cloud of sudden death looms large and heavy on the inhabitants of Kashmir living on both sides of the de facto border, known as the Line of Control (LoC). They often have to huddle into small bunkers to dodge bullets, shrapnel, and bombs, and later crawl out to assess the destruction caused by artillery and cross-fire. This has been the norm for the past seventy years. Nevertheless, reports suggest that violence along the border has mounted sharply in recent years. Only in 2018, there were around 3,000 ceasefire violations by Indian forces, as a result of which 58 people lost their lives and another 300 were injured.

Kashmir stretches across high white Himalayan peaks. In the summer, the meadows are carpeted with wildflowers; in the winter, towering mountains are covered with sheets of white. It has been renowned for its beauty for centuries. But Kashmir is a morose land,
marred by Indian violence, bloodshed and atrocities with little development and a sense of hopelessness.
The last few years have witnessed surging upheaval in the Indian-held Kashmir (IHK), with the state forces increasingly resorting to uncalled-for aggression against the local population. Tales of rank humiliation at the hands of the Indian army are widespread among Kashmiris, gender no bar. Frequent curfews, emergency laws, media blackouts, and arbitrary detention of Kashmiri leaders are also routine in IHK. In terms of violence and fatalities, the recent past has been staggeringly brutal for Kashmiris and bears testimony to what Modi terms "India of new convention and policy". Independent reports indicate that 2018 was the deadliest year for IHK in nearly a decade, with over 500 people killed as a result of direct violence.
Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning here that the plight of the Kashmiris goes beyond state repression; slogans that rend the air include "shoot the traitor Kashmiris". Hindu mobs routinely attack Muslim neighborhoods and set their properties on fire with impunity. Kashmir continues to reek of blood, while standard-bearers for universal human rights in the West remain blind and deaf to the cries and tears of Kashmiris. Would the world community also remain silent and insensitive to brutality against unarmed civilians if LoC were a de facto border in any other part of the world? Human rights organizations cry hoarse even if a single life is lost in the developed world, but no eyebrows are raised when hundreds of children are blinded by pellet guns, dozens of women are raped and scores of men are murdered in broad daylight by Indian forces. Are people of Kashmir children of a lesser God? Even the United Nations has failed to pay meaningful heed to Indian atrocities in Kashmir beyond occasional reports indicating violence and human rights abuses.
The UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) remains no more than a lame duck. Kashmiris are thus forced to fight their own case on the roads of Srinagar and beyond. Rebel combatants are labeled as "terrorists", "militants" and "insurgents" by India to malign them internationally. Yet most Kashmiris call them "mujahids". The transformation of Burhan Wani into a local hero and symbol of resistance after his killing by the Indian forces lends credence to this. The mujahids have become accustomed to Indian violence and are willing to lay their lives for freedom. Ahmed Adil Dar was not a miscreant who was patronized by any state or non-state actor, but a local who was humiliated by the Indian forces that forced him to retaliate and fight for freedom. The Line of Control remains a seventy-year-old scar that will not heal with ease. Pakistan needs to design a robust strategy to reassert the legitimacy of the freedom struggle of the Kashmiris and build international pressure on New Delhi to pay heed to the rights and aspirations of the locals. It could do so by initiating and sustaining a concerted international campaign entailing several steps. First, the zero-tolerance policy vis-a-vis all organizations and groups implicated in cross-border militancy should be effectively implemented in a sustained manner. This would accentuate the fact that the freedom struggle in Kashmir is indigenous. Second, the international community must not only be constantly re-appraised of the gross human rights abuses in IHK but also compelled to change course over the issue. This can be done in partnership with close allies like China, Turkey as well as prominent members of the OIC. Third, Islamabad ought to launch a diplomatic and legal offensive at the international level to highlight the risk of a perilous genocide of Kashmiri Muslims in IHK. Last but not least, Pakistan should vigorously endeavor to project Kashmiri struggle and Indian oppression on mainstream as well as social media.

International organizations are, at best, dormant with regard to the surging upheaval in Kashmir. Despite the grave situation in Indian-held Kashmir, they cannot be expected to assume a key role in the issue on their own. This effectively leaves the ball in Pakistan's court. It is thus time for the country to stir the world up to shake the status quo of tyranny in Indian-Occupied Kashmir.




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