On February 5 every year, federal and provincial governments of Pakistan hold rallies, public meetings and seminars to support Kashmiris ‘Right to Self-Determination’ under the United Nations Resolutions.
Though Pakistan has been the most active supporter of Kashmiri’s rights, observing ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ is not Pakistan’s initiative solely. A Kashmir-based Journalist Mr. Gowhar Geelani quoted Srinagar-based international law expert Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain as saying that Kashmir Day has been observed historically right from 1932, after being first proposed by the then Kashmir Committee. “In the 1930s, the day was observed to express camaraderie with the Kashmiris’ struggle against the autocratic Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh. In present day context, Kashmir Day is being celebrated to show solidarity with the struggle of Kashmiris against India,” Sheikh Showkat said. “Basically, it [Kashmir Day] started from undivided Punjab and it has been celebrated ever since, with pauses in between. This day will continue to hold importance until the Kashmiris achieve their objective of right to self-determination.”
Pakistan has officially been observing Kashmir Day since 2004. The-then Pakistani prime minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, visited Muzaffarabad on February 5 and addressed a joint session of the Legislative Assembly and Council. Gilani also quotes Ajazul Haque, one of Kashmir’s leading columnists, who is of the view that “February 5 symbolises Pakistan’s deep-rooted relationship with Kashmir. “The pro-Pakistan sentiment in Kashmir is neither dead nor diminished, it’s suppressed and the reasons are rooted in the conditions we are going through since the 1990.” However, India terms it a bilateral dispute and avoids internationalizing the issue.
Indian continuous human right violations in the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) Valley have made J&K a tipping point. The international opinion is with Kashmir and against India’s human rights violations. London’s Labour Party leader Keir Starmer clearly and aptly gave words to Kashmiris emotion through a statement that “his party’s position on Kashmir has not changed and it still supports and recognises UN resolutions on the rights of the Kashmiri people”. Keir Starmer stressed “the importance of hearing the voices of the Kashmiri communities and upholding respect for international law and human rights”.
In another development, three photographers of Associated Press, Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand, were awarded Pulitzer prize for coverage on unprecedented lockdown in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJ&K). With recognizing Kashmiris struggle, it is high time that International Community take strict actions against India and should be held accountable for its illegal actions in the Valley. As for Kashmiri’s struggle, the recent incident has also exposed the lies of Indian government. As the Indian govt claims that everything is under control in IIOJ&K, but the recent encounter shows otherwise. Kashmir is on tipping point and the world might soon observe the entire South Asian region engulfed in the conflict.
In its bi-annual report covering the events from January 1 to June 30, the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) said that “the region witnessed the extrajudicial executions of at least 32 civilians and the killing of 54 armed forces personnel… It also saw 55 internet shutdowns and the destruction of 48 structures… three children and two women were also killed, while at least 107 cordon and search operations and cordon and destroy operations were conducted in the region.” The report also adds that “vandalism and destruction of civilian properties were reported.” Kashmiri media has also been muzzled through harassment and intimidation.
As per the report, “besides physical assaults, a few Kashmir-based journalists were also booked under stringent charges and cases were filed against them… the police filed cases against two Kashmiri journalists under the Unlawful Activities Act, which clearly infringes on the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press as such tactics signal a forewarning for media personnel to adhere to the state narrative.” Moreover, after the massive protest because of Indian abrogation of Article 370, the internet services have also been banned since August 05, 2019; internet was totally blocked 55 times. Most worryingly, a new media policy is also introduced that would enable India “decide what is “fake,” “unethical” or “anti-national” news and take legal action against the journalist or media organisation concerned, including sharing information with security agencies.”
Since the martyrdom of Burhan Wani, a series of clashes have been occurring, leading to martyrdom of Riaz Naikoo and many more. According to Mr. Wani’s father, “Indian Army has thrashed everybody here … In any case, everybody does not turn into an activist or freedom fighter. It relies upon the amount one can take. Somebody’s ‘Ghairat’ (self-respect) gets tested consistently, so he chooses to reply. Others choose to remain calm. My child could not stand to see the abominations and the mortification, so he picked this path. Burhan’s fight is not only for himself but for the whole Kashmir and for the sufferings of people of Indian occupied Kashmir.”
The situation in IIOJ&K worsened after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A of Indian Constitution by India, which changes the legal status of the Valley. According to Mr. Farooq Abdullah, “the modification, abrogation of articles 35A and 370, unconstitutional delimitation or trifurcation of the state…an aggression against the people of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh.” To suppress Kashmiris right of self-determination, India has augmented its paramilitary forces in the Valley soon after the revocation of Article 370.
Now the question is: what should be done? Should we just observing Kashmir Solidarity Day with no results and change in Indian actions. The late Dr Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema suggested that to secure the desired dividends for the resolution of Kashmir dispute, a little more concentration is required in order to push the world community’s attention. The exercise entails three stages: awareness, active expression of views, and undertaking concrete efforts aimed to resolve the dispute… The peace of South Asia is directly linked with the resolution of the Kashmir dispute and it cannot be resolved unless the Indian attitude registers positive change. Last but not the least, for the peace and prosperity of South Asia, moreover, the region needs full international support to the resumption of India-Pakistan dialogues both at the governmental as well as non-governmental levels. Otherwise, every year Kashmiris will keep on suffering human rights violations and the world will only remember them on 5th February for just a day.
*Adeel Mukhtar Mirza, Assistant Research Associate, Islamabad Policy Research Institute