Int’l apathy to Kashmiris’ sufferings

Shahid M Amin

FOR the last three months, thousands of Kashmiris have been coming out in the streets daily to protest against Indian rule. Discontent with Indian occupation has been there all along in Kashmir, ever since 1947, but the present popular uprising is on an unprecedented scale. There is a virtual shutdown in the valley and other areas, and the protestors keep coming out daily to confront the Indian occupation forces, shouting for “azaadi” and waving Pakistani flags. Indian troops, para-military forces and police have used brute force against protestors, including the use of pellet guns which have blinded scores of Kashmiris. Some of the youth have resorted to throwing stones on the pattern of the Palestinian Intifida. Top Kashmiri leaders have been arrested or detained in their houses, and thousands of protestors have been jailed and are undergoing punishment, including torture. This gross violation of human rights by Indian forces is no secret and has been confirmed by the international media.

In response to Pakistan’s call for an enquiry into Indian atrocities, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, stated on September 13 that ‘an independent, impartial and international mission is now needed which should be given free and complete access to establish an objective assessment of the claims made by the two sides.’ India promptly turned down any role for the UN High Commission, claiming that the ‘Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is part of a pluralistic and secular democracy, where freedoms are guaranteed by an independent judiciary, an active media and a vibrant civil society.’ This Goebbels-like lie should shame anyone in India with the slightest sense of truth and decency. But what about the reaction of the rest of the world to Indian atrocities in Kashmir?

The USA and Europe are great champions of human rights but, in the present situation, they have been guilty of double standards. They shed tears when e.g. a Christian in Pakistan is tried for blasphemy. But the terrible human tragedy in Indian-occupied Kashmir, which has been taking place in full sight of the world media, has left unmoved the lovers of human rights. The US has given only one public reaction over a period of three months. A US State Department spokesman said on July 30: ‘We’re obviously concerned by the violence and we want to see the tensions de-escalated’.

This comment put the victims (Kashmiri protestors) and the perpetrator of violence (Indian forces) on an equal footing. It was notable, however, that the US minced no words in condemning the Uri terrorist incident on September 18, in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed. It even implicitly accepted the Indian version that terrorists had come from acoss the border, while expressing sympathy for India. It is obvious that the US is reluctant to say anything that would annoy India. In the last decade, Washington has established a strategic alliance with New Delhi. The US is fully aware of the Indian atrocities in Kashmir, but principles are being set aside at the altar of national interests.

On July 28, an EU spokesman expressed ‘condolences to the families of the victims and the many injured during the latest outbreak of violence in Kashmir’. He said that India and Pakistan should also involve the Kashmiri people in the dialogue process. The spokesman took no note that nearly all those killed in the current violence were Kashmiris who had fallen to India’s use of force. No condemnation was made of the blinding of dozens by firing of pellet guns, which is a crime against humanity. Europe has important economic and political interests in India, which clearly take precedence over human rights. Many countries wash their hands of the Kashmir issue by urging India and Pakistan to settle it through bilateral talks. This absence of international involvement suits India, which has no intention of budging from its intransigent stance on Kashmir.

The most satisfactory stance so far from Pakistan’s point of view was taken by OIC Secretary General, Iyad Ameen Madani, a Saudi national, as well as the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir, which met in New York on September 19, attended by Foreign Ministers of Turkey and Azerbaijan, and by officials of Niger, Saudi Arabia and ‘true representatives’ of Jammu and Kashmir. The Group expressed deep concern over the grave situation in Indian-held Kashmir and demanded the settlement of the dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people and UN Security Council resolutions.

In the Muslim world, only Turkey and Azerbaijan came out openly in support of the Pakistani point of view on Kashmir. The latter probably did so as a quid pro quo for Pakistan’s support of Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Other Muslim countries by and large have remained silent on Kashmir. In the context of the current unrest in occupied Kashmir, and Indian atrocities against protestors, there has been no public statement by Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Indonesia or Malaysia. No one has called for an emergency meeting of OIC Foreign Ministers to discuss the Kashmir situation. It can be argued that OIC Secretary General has spoken on behalf of the Muslim world. But this is more of an illusion rather than the reality.

The record shows that many resolutions get passed in the OIC but the member states do not take them with the seriousness that they deserve, or treat them as binding. OIC states are known to have taken different stances on the same issue at the UN and other international bodies. There have been instances when an OIC member state confidentially conveyed to another state that a given OIC resolution did not reflect the actual stance of that country. The OIC is unfortunately a kind of paper tiger and some of Its resolutions are more froth than substance. Despite all professions of Islamic solidarity and one Ummah, the Islamic world remains deeply divided. Regional bodies like the GCC, ASEAN and the Arab League take precedence over the OIC. There are also deep ethnic and sectarian divisions. Also, there is a gap between the handful of rich OIC members and the majority of struggling countries. The OIC can only be effective if its member states have unity.

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