Peace is the Key
The renewed wave of violence has brought the Kashmir issue, which had largely been eclipsed since the 9/11 attacks, back to the international radar. This has happened especially because Kashmir has become a global hotspot for major human rights violations. This is due to this fact that several international bodies are now openly calling for close scrutiny of human rights abuses, sustained repression and disproportionate use of force by India in the Kashmir valley. They are also highlighting the need for having peace in this part of the world because the stubborn attitude of India regarding this globally accepted political dispute and dealing with it only militarily has created death and destruction in whole state, and peace and harmony of the whole region is threatened. With the resolution of this issue, a new era of peace, stability and development will prevail not only in Jammu and Kashmir but in the whole South Asia.
Peace and security are sine qua non for any society, culture, economy and state to prosper and flourish. But, these are the terms that are virtually unknown to the Kashmiris. They have long been living under the tyranny of the Indian government who have been abusing all types of human rights of the Kashmiris since long. But, the year 2018 was the bloodiest in recent memory, after the occupying Indian forces decided, apparently in a moment of dire frustration, that the only way they could survive was by exterminating as many Kashmiri fighters as they could set their eyes on.
Kashmir once a beautiful abode of peace and harmony has now turned into land of bloodshed and suffering. Here the important question arises what is the most obvious existing reality of the state of the Jammu and Kashmir? Today again, the vicious cycle of violence that is resulting into loss of numerous precious human lives, huge economic loss, property damage, and above all, everyday sufferings of common Kashmiris have gripped the valley. There is constant atmosphere of insecurity and fear in South Asia as a region and among the people of Kashmir particular. The growing violent state response to political movements in the region especially in Kashmir, not only affected the security but it had also greatly harmed the Indo-Pak relations, as there are many unresolved issues between these two nuclear countries; Kashmir being one of them. Use of violence by India as well as by non-state actors has become greatest obstacle to finding the solution and restoring peace in the state.
South Asia is often described – quite rightly – as the utmost dangerous place on globe. Although SAARC was established to promote regional peace, it remained distant dream only because of strained Indo-Pak relations. As many authors and experts believe, Kashmir can become a Switzerland of Asia but the tainted relations between the two powers have adversely affected the peace and stability in South Asia, especially in Kashmir. In most of the South Asian states, popular aspirations such as right to self-determination and autonomy are perceived by their respective national regimes to be in conflict with their imaginary idea of national identity. Over half a century after independence, the nations of South Asia remain mired in a vicious cycle of poverty, deprivation, and underdevelopment.
Jammu and Kashmir is a landlocked region in South Asia, sandwiched between India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China. There are a number of conflicts and outstanding disputes between India and Pakistan. However, the Kashmir dispute remains a flash-point of tensions between the world’s two important nuclear powers. Pakistani and Indian troops still continue to confront each other on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and along the Siachen Glacier. Kashmir has often been described as a ‘Paradise on Earth’. However, the nature of conflict and dispute between India and Pakistan has turned this beautiful region into a graveyard. The border disputes plus other unresolved issues of contention between India and Pakistan have given this very heaven the unwanted tag ‘Hell on Earth’. The onset of militancy in the J&K, started in the late 1980’s and continued for nearly two decades, have grown from last few years again, and has further complicated the volatile situation in the region particularly in Kashmir. Today, the word ‘Kashmir’ has become synonymous with torture, death, human rights violations, destruction and genocide.
Read More: The Kashmir challenge
Kashmir has become entrenched in the minds of Pakistanis and Indians as the single biggest issue facing South Asia. Kashmir has come to represent very high stakes for both countries in terms of national pride. This pride has given nothing to the people of this unfortunate land except the destruction. Violence has also directly affected important sources of livelihood such as agriculture, horticulture and the handicraft industry. Infrastructure, too, has suffered immensely. The violent atmosphere also induced a sense of resignation and frustration. The common people, caught between the guns of the non-state and state actors were more concerned about their survival than about engaging in productive social and economic activities. Both the countries tested their mighty power in the battlefield and Kashmir became natural choice to both these countries.
In today’s Kashmir, normal life has been grossly interrupted and people are forced to live in constant fear of both by state and non-state actors. In fact, Indian forces have been known to commit severe human rights violations in Kashmir. An Amnesty International report says that “Security forces continued to enjoy virtual impunity for human rights abuses as a result of provisions contained in special security laws, including POTA, as well as in the Protection of Human Rights Act.” On the other hand, the public political movements and uprising especially from 2008 were handled with brute forces by the governments in New-Delhi and in Srinagar. The deep-rooted frustration among the people of Kashmir again went up in 2016 that still continues in one form or the other. There seems no chance of return of peace in the region so that people of Kashmir can inhale the normal air, where life and property of an ordinary Kashmiri can be respected and loved.
Kashmir, in its current situation, represents a case of symbiosis of violence and destruction. However, the peace process, initiated by India and Pakistan after the Kargil crisis, was historic when Atal Behari Vajpayee, and Pakistan’s former president, Pervez Musharraf, initiated a peace process on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Summit meeting in Islamabad, in January 2004. No doubt that it is quite evident that the Kashmir issue has evolved over time. It has changed from a relatively simple territorial dispute to a far more complex cultural, religious and political issue having global implications.
The first step to a solution must involve the end of violence in Kashmir. In order to achieve this, there has to be action by all stakeholders and parties. New Delhi and Pakistan must consider the needs and wants of the Kashmiri people to make the people feel recognized and acknowledged. The political establishment of the valley and New Delhi must also bring the wanton abuse of human rights by forces into check. Replacing armed and military-led counterinsurgency operations with accountable and answerable policing and reviving and boosting an economy devastated by violence and conflict would instil greater confidence among Kashmiris.
Kashmir can become a zone of peace and development once again, with the participation of all parties and factions involved in the conflict. This realization itself is, no doubt, a grand achievement of the peace process. The Mumbai attack in 2008, Pathankot and Uri might have shaken peace in the region. Though, present relation between India and Pakistan are very tease after these attacks. However, both governments should instead focus on creating a favourable environment for cooperation, not just between New Delhi and Islamabad, but also between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, where decades of tension and unrest have created distrust and caused each to view the other as illegitimate. More trade, communication and people-to-people contacts may help foster better relations between the Pakistan and J&K governments. Now the time has come to renounce violence. Kashmir demands resolution by the process of negotiation and peace rather by the coercive means like operation ‘All out’.
Resolution of Kashmir Dispute
Following are the recommendations forwarded in “Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir” released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on 14 June 2018:
To the Human Rights Council:
Consider the findings of this report, including the possible establishment of a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.
To the authorities in India:
(a) Fully respect India’s international human rights law obligations in Indian-Administered Kashmir,
(b) Urgently repeal the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990; and, in the meantime, immediately remove the requirement for prior central government permission to prosecute security forces personnel accused of human rights violations in civilian courts;
(c) Establish independent, impartial and credible investigations to probe all civilian killings which have occurred since July 2016, as well as obstruction of medical services during the 2016 unrest, arson attacks against schools and incidents of excessive use of force by security forces including serious injuries caused by the use of the pellet-firing shotguns;
(d) Investigate all deaths that have occurred in the context of security operations in Jammu and Kashmir following the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India;
(e) Investigate all cases of abuses committed by armed groups in Jammu and Kashmir, including the killings of minority Kashmiri Hindus since the late 1980s;
(f) Provide reparations and rehabilitation to all individuals injured and the family of those killed in the context of security operations;
(g) Investigate and prosecute all cases of sexual violence allegedly perpetrated by state and non-state actors, and provide reparations to victims;
(h) Bring into compliance with international human rights standards all Indian laws and standard operating procedures relating to the use of force by law-enforcement and security entities, particularly the use of firearms: immediately order the end of the use of pellet-firing shotguns in Jammu and Kashmir for the purpose of crowd control;
(i) Amend the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 to ensure its compliance with international human rights law;
(j) Release or, if appropriate, charge under applicable criminal offences all those held under administrative detention and ensure the full respect of standards of due process and fair trial guaranteed under International law;
(k) Treat any person below the age of 18 who is arrested in a manner consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child;
(l) Investigate all blanket bans or restrictions on access to the Internet and mobile telephone networks that were imposed in 2016, and ensure that such restrictions are not imposed in the future;
(m) End restrictions on the movement of journalists and arbitrary bans on the publication of newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir.
(n) Ensure independent, impartial and credible investigations into all unmarked graves in the state of Jammu and Kashmir as directed by the State Human Rights Commission; if necessary, seek assistance from the Government of India and /or the international community. Expand the competence of the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission to investigate all human rights violations and abuses in the state, including those allegedly committed by central security forces;
(o) Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Optional Protocol, and introduce enabling domestic laws as recommended during India’s UPR in 2008, 2012 and 2017;
(p) In line with its standing invitation to the Special Procedures, accept the invitation requests of the almost 20 mandates that have made such requests; in particular, accept the request of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and facilitate its visit to India, including to Jammu and Kashmir;
(q) Fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law.
To the Government of Pakistan:
(a) Fully respect international human rights law obligations in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir;
(b) End the misuse of anti-terror legislation to persecute those engaging in peaceful political and civil activities and expressions of dissent, and amend the Anti-Terrorism Act to bring it in line with international human rights standards, including by incorporating human rights safeguards;
(c) Federal and local authorities should amend sections of the Interim Constitution of Azad Jammu Kashmir and other relevant legislation that limit the rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, and peaceful assembly and association;
(d) Immediately release from prison or house arrest any political activists, journalists and other civil society actors who have been convicted for peacefully expressing their opinions;
(e) Federal and local authorities should amend the constitutions of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan to end the criminalization of the Ahmadiyya Muslims and to allow to them to freely and safely exercise their freedom of religion or belief;
(f) Abolish blasphemy provisions in Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan to facilitate the enjoyment of freedom of religion and belief by all people;
(g) Fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law.