S. H. RAJPUT
Territorial disputes constitute a considerable proportion of problems facing the humanity. Unfortunately, they are not being accorded the due significance they deserve. In almost all such disputes the world at large has adopted a rather lackluster attitude. Efforts, if any, aimed at their solution lack the vigour, strength and the foresight required in bringing about a viable, just and sustainable solution. The excessive human suffering in these disputes has failed to raise the conscious of the world, especially those who claim to be the champion of human rights. Resultantly, most of these issues have now turned chronic and adversely impact the international peace and security. Whether it is Kashmir, Palestine or Myanmar the unconscionable indifference of the international community has contributed to the misery of the local people. In the following paragraphs, I will focus on the causes that contributed towards the prolongation of such disputes. In doing so, my focus will be on Kashmir dispute primarily due to the fact that it is one of the oldest disputes on the UN agenda as well as its direct impact upon my country – Pakistan.
Kashmir problem as we all know owes its inception to the partition of India into two independent states: Pakistan and India. The basic rule for the partition was that the Muslim-majority area would form Pakistan and Hindu-majority area would form India. Kashmir was a predominantly Muslim region. However, its Hindu ruler decided to join India against the wishes of the general public. This led to revolt against him. Taking advantage of the situation India sent its forces to protect the ruler. The war erupted between the locals and Indian forces. India took the issue to the Security Council which after long deliberation decided vide Resolution No. 47 of 21 April 1948 that a plebiscite be held in Kashmir under the UN auspices, to ascertain the wishes of the people to join India or Pakistan. Knowing very well that the predominantly Muslim Kashmir would vote for Pakistan (70% plus population of Kashmir is Muslim) India resorted to all sorts of subterfuges to delay the holding of plebiscite. Hence, the plebiscite was never held.
As stated above, the study of other similar issues would reveal that more or less similar tactics have been used to delay or evade the solution. These include, false commitments by the leadership to ward off pressure and pacify the international community; gaining support of major world powers to perpetuate one’s illegal control; use of excessive force to suppress the local population; bringing about demographic changes through settlements, large scale massacre etc., using elections as a tool to install government of one’s liking, giving the issue a different colour by attributing it to terrorism, taking advantage of the indifference of the world community to the problem etc. India has used all these techniques to perpetuate its control over Kashmir and avoid the solution prescribed by the UNSC resolution.
To begin with, India, to prove itself as the victim and Pakistan an aggressor, took the issue to the United National Security Council (UNSC) in 1948. This backfired as instead of agreeing to Indian demand, the Security Council in its above mentioned Resolution, inter alia, called for holding a plebiscite in Kashmir to ascertain the wishes of the people to join India or Pakistan. This was a great setback for India, as Muslims formed more than 70% of the total population of Kashmir and in all probability would side with Pakistan. To avoid such an eventuality, India made sure that the plebiscite was never held. This was done despite that the then Indian leaders publicly stated that they would respect the wishes of the local people and would not keep Kashmir against their wishes. Hence, first Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, in his address to the nation on 2 Nov. 1947 said “And let me make it clear that it has been our policy all along that where there is a dispute about the accession of a state to either dominion, the accession must be made by the people of the State”. A number of assertions of similar nature were made by Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi.
All this was primarily done to give the impression to the international community that India would implement the UNSC resolution. Unfortunately, the commitments made by leaders like Nehru and Gandhi were never honoured. It appears that it was just a ploy to ward off international pressure. India now claims Kashmir as part and parcel of its territory even though it has been designated as disputed territory by the above mentioned UNSC Resolution.
During the cold war India took the cover of Soviet Union’s support for its Kashmir stand. Soviet camp’s support helped India withstand international pressure. India did this despite the fact that it was a member of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). The Soviet Union even vetoed UNSC resolutions, for instance, in 1957 and 1962 calling upon India to fulfill its responsibilities under the UNSC resolution of 1948. After the end of cold war, India took advantage of its proximity to the US and other western powers which were more interested in enhancing their economic and strategic interest with India. Despite claiming to be the champions of human rights, they deliberately overlooked the brutality committed by the Indian security forces against civilian protesters in Kashmir. Needless to mention that since 1989 around 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed, 11,000 women have been raped, many have gone missing and the mayhem still continues.
To subdue the Kashmiris, India has also resorted to excessive use of force. Kashmir is at present the most highly militarized zone in the world. Half a million Indian army has been stationed there since 90’s to subdue the indigenous movement. Over and above its predominant number, the army has been given free hand to deal with the Kashmiris. Several draconian laws have been enacted, such as; Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA) which grant blanket immunity to the security forces from acts which would otherwise constitute grave human rights violation. Recent reports by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein dated 14 June 2018 and the All-Party Parliamentary Kashmir Group (APPKG) in the UK Parliament dated 30 October 2018, inter alia, criticized the high-handedness of the security forces. Despite its predominant number, excessive powers and use of brutal force the Army has failed to pacify the Kashmiris and dampen their zeal and enthusiasm to attain their right of self-determination. Rather the movement is gaining momentum with every passing day.
Another reason for perpetuation of the Kashmir issue is the indifference shown by the major powers and their selective treatment of human rights violations. This emboldened India in continuing with its despotic rule in Kashmir. In fact, the major powers seem to condone the human rights violation so blatantly committed by the India security forces. A double standard seems to be in play. Countries not considered important are being criticized and sanctioned for slight human rights violations. Whereas, countries considered important for economic or strategic reasons get away with the worst type of crime against the humanity. The self-interest and double standard exhibited by the major powers has led to the perpetuation of such problems in the world. Had they taken a principled stand on human rights violations, many of these chronic problems which now bedevil the world would have long come to an end.
Coupled with the brutal use of force against the local population, India also resorted to bring about demographic changes in the Kashmir region. At the time of partition Muslims constituted 72.40% of the population and as per 2011 census they are 68.72%. Total population of Indian Occupied Kashmir, at present, is around 12,548,926. Over the last few decades India settled thousands of Hindus in different regions, such as, Ladakh, Kathua, Jammu etc. It is noteworthy that the Muslim population in Jammu district is merely 5% compared to 39% at the time of partition. Similarly, in Kathua district, it has been reduced from 30% to 8%. In Ladakh as a whole, the population of Hindus has risen from 6.2% in 2001 to 12.1% in 2011. Such a massive growth – 100% – in the population of Hindus in a period of ten years is unimaginable. To change the demography of Kashmir India intends to change the Constitution and local laws. Hence, several plans are underway especially in the Kashmir valley, where Muslim form 97% of the total population. These include separate colonies for non-Kashmiri retired Indian army officers and composite townships for Hindus. Recently, India abrogated articles 370 and 35A of Indian Constitution. The former granted special status to Kashmir and the latter prohibited non-residents to acquire property and jobs in Kashmir.
Evidently, these constitutional changes are primarily aimed at giving legal cover to its past and future attempts aimed at bringing about demographic changes in Indian Occupied Kashmir. These are also a violation of UN resolutions of March 1951, which maintained that no constituent or legislative assembly, law or any enactment can make any change that would affect the results of the plebiscite. Therefore, all acts or steps taken by the Indian Government to change the demography of the internationally recognized territory are a clear violation of the UN Resolutions. Given the international communities’ indifference to this blatant violation by India, it is feared that India might succeed in bringing about substantial changes in Kashmir’s demography to the detriment of the Kashmiri people.
Another tool used by India to give legal cover to its illegal occupation of Kashmir was holding of periodical elections. Records show that the local population’s participation in these elections had been extremely low and none of these elections could be termed as free and fair. The Governments formed as a result of these elections were by and large puppet and hardly enjoyed any support among the locals. Indian claims that these elections amounted to grant of right of self-determination to the Kashmiris. This, however, hardly makes any sense. First of all these elections never gave a choice to the people to choose between India and Pakistan. Secondly, these were by and large rigged. Thirdly, the UN was never involved in holding these elections. Hence, this Indian claim is nothing but a farce and does not stand the test of international law.
As stated above, Indian stand on Kashmir is marked by consistencies depending upon the situation. Of late, India has started characterizing the indigenous Kashmiri movement as terrorism. This was done soon after militant groups gained prominence at the international scene after 9/11. Unfortunately, the major powers blinded by their petty interests, bought India’s propaganda. India was needed not only because it offered a huge market for their products and military equipment but also in view of the enhanced role assigned to it in containing China – the rising super power. All this emboldened India to continue with the mayhem in Kashmir. Equating indigenous movement in Kashmir with terrorism, in fact, aimed at transforming world’s perception about the real nature of the Kashmir movement. The question arises as to how all of a sudden it became terrorism. The movement is much older and India never used the term ‘terrorism’ before 9/11? If it is terrorism then the whole population of Kashmir needed to be termed as terrorist- which would hardly make any sense. The fact that the struggle is indigenous is evident from the way people come out on the street; attend funerals despite curfews; get killed or injured etc. The fact that Black Day is observed throughout Kashmir on Indian Independence day (15 August) and Pakistan’s flags are raised on Pakistan’s Independence Day (14 August) amply shows the mood among the local people. Similar sentiments are expressed by Kashmiri Diaspora throughout the world. Nowhere in the world are rallies or gatherings held by the Kashmiris to support Indian stand on Kashmir issue.
All this can’t be the handiwork of terrorists. Terrorists cannot force Kashmiris to face the Indian security forces and get killed; or attend the funerals in hundreds of thousands; or to observe Black Day on Indian Independence Day and raise Pakistan’s flags on Pakistan’s Independence Day. Such actions only represent the will of the people and are not the result of any pressure or intimidation. Had it been the outcome of pressure from militant groups, Indian security forces would have achieved their aim long ago by the use of force. In fact, despite all their oppressive techniques Indian security forces have utterly failed to control the uprising in Kashmir. Hence, Indian propaganda of equating Kashmir freedom movement with terrorism needs to be unequivocally rejected.
India has termed the Kashmiris as militants and terrorists, because they react to the repressive measures of the security forces. One may ask India as to what it expects from the Kashmiris? To what extent they tolerate the high handedness of the security forces? There is a limit to everything. Their peaceful protests are greeted with bullets, their women are raped and leaders put behind the bar etc. etc. Silence and submission in such a situation is inconceivable. No honourable nation can tolerate such humiliation. If India really wants peace in Kashmir it should take the first step of demilitarization of the region. Stop human rights violations. Grant the people all the rights enshrined in the UN Charter.
Interestingly, despite all this, India claims Kashmir as its integral part and demands Pakistan to hand over the part of Kashmir under its control. Nothing could be more absurd than this claim. The people in the Independent Kashmir are living happily, free of all repression that their brothers in Indian Occupied Kashmir are faced with. By claiming Independent Kashmir India wants to turn this part into the hell too. In fact, India has been so blinded by its arrogance that it has objected to projects under CPEC passing through Kashmir on the ground that it is a disputed territory. As if the people in disputed territories have no right to any development. India is not happy that the life in the Independent Kashmir is far better than in the Indian occupied Kashmir. This fact by itself acts as a great embarrassment to India.
The above facts make it crystal clear that India has no intention to leave Kashmir. It will never agree to the plebiscite under the UN auspices knowing full well that it stands no chance of winning it. It will continue with the present repressive policies taking advantage of the indifference shown by the international community especially the major powers who claim to be the champion of human rights. All this would no doubt add to the complexities of the problem.
India’s stand on Kashmir is nothing but a mockery of international law and numerous resolutions by the UN. It flies in the face of the high moral grounds claimed by the champion of human rights. International community is, therefore, morally and legally bound to play a positive and assertive role in solving this problem once and for all according to the wishes of the Kashmiris. Unless the international community rises above its petty interests, and works towards the solution of the issue more and more such problems will occur. The would be aggressors, emboldened by the present state of affair will feel encouraged to embark on such adventures. The people aggressed against, finding no peaceful solution, would have no option but to use force to attain their legitimate rights. The multiplier effect of all this would be that the problems which are otherwise local would transcend borders, ultimately becoming a threat to international peace and security. The world already faces enough of such chronic problems and can ill-afford to have more of these.