Kashmir is in the news once again for several reasons. Both side of the divide administered by the Indian and Pakistani state is seething in anger due to serious discontentment.
While the Indian controlled portion is up in arms against the blatant violation of Human Rights committed by the security apparatus, a section of the Kashmiri leadership from Pakistan occupied Kashmir has called for consolidating their struggle against Islamabad’s highhandedness simultaneously.
Exiled Kashmiri leaders will participate in a demonstration outside the Pakistani High Commission in London on Thursday, April 28 to protest against the Pakistani usurpation of Gilgit-Baltistan tribal areas which remained an inalienable portion of undivided Kashmir till the time New Delhi and Islamabad surreptitiously agreed to retain control over respective territories at the end of an unresolved and bitter conflict.
This demonstration organized by the Kashmir National Independence Alliance seeks to nail Islamabad’s misrepresentation of facts on the issue of integrating the tribal areas of north-western Kashmir.
Pakistani authorities have all along maintained that they assumed administrative control of these areas only after finalizing an agreement with Azad Kashmir President Sardar Ibrahim Khan. However, Sardar Khan has on several occasions refuted this claim by confirming that he had never entered into any deal with Islamabad consciously with regard to the future of Gilgit-Baltistan area.
Kashmir National Party leader Shabir Choudhry and others who support the movement against Pakistani occupation of tribal areas and rest of Pakistan administered Kashmir, makes it a point to underscore the importance of seeking the moral support of Kashmiri citizens residing in the Indian side too.
Choudhry explains that Kashmiris on both sides are oppressed people deprived of fundamental Human Rights while denouncing Pakistan’s tendency to offer mere lip service for the Kashmiri right to self determination. Indeed, the harassment meted out by Indian and Pakistani authorities has taken a toll on the psyche of the young generation of Kashmiris who remain confused about their true identity.
Interestingly, Pakistani nationals are also lending their support to the Kashmiri cause with the hope of ushering peace and stability in South Asia that has been held hostage by the ‘K’ word for an inordinately long duration.
Meanwhile, an Amnesty International report on how the Public Safety Act (PSA) is being misused in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir to secure long-term detention of individuals against whom there is insufficient evidence for trial has stirred up a hornet’s nest.
During the last two decades, a whopping 8000 to 20,000 people were detained under this draconian legal provision with 322 persons being taken into custody from January to September, 2010 alone. Most of the detainees held on spurious grounds are exposed to custodial torture and other forms of ill treatment.
Journalists, lawyers, civil activists, politicians and even juvenile protestors are included in the long list as India continues to dither on ratifying the Convention against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of 1984.
Often such arbitrary and abusive laws are used by the authorities to settle personal scores. The situation has reached such an alarming stage that even the Indian government appointed interlocutors tasked with suggesting ways and means of devolving greater administrative powers to the Indian administered region in consultation with the Kashmiri leadership have taken serious exception to such medieval method of maintaining law and order.
Amnesty’s Asia Pacific Director Sam Zarifi points out to this author that the interlocutors appointed by the Indian Interior Ministry have been taken into confidence regarding this sensitive subject.
“A delegation from Amnesty International did meet with the Home Ministry interlocutors in March 2011 before the release of the report on PSA and discussed issues relating to the report and other human rights violations in J&K.”
They will duly examine the report before submitting their recommendation to the Indian government.
Zarifi believes that accountability is the key to preventing such abuse of power.
Unfortunately, no worthwhile politician ever made a serious attempt to discover the reasons behind a nation like India with rich democratic tradition and values being required to tread the path of crushing civil protest or genuine political movements in brutal and illegal ways.
Perhaps, the Indian political class is at long last waking up from the deep slumber with an ex Union Minister and a current member of the Indian Parliament, Ram Vilas Paswan publicly acknowledging that nothing has so far been done on behalf of the Indian State to alleviate the suffering of innocents like refining the draconian laws.
“Persons suspected of committing recognizably criminal offences should be charged and tried in a court of law in conformity with international fair trial standards” says Sam Zarifi.
Though it would be difficult for New Delhi to seek support from UNHCR and invite the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in consonance with Amnesty’s advice, something needs to be done urgently before the imagination of the oppressed is fired up due to extreme lackadaisicalness.
Both New Delhi and Islamabad must recognize that Kashmir can witness a churning in the days ahead that might usher a new political landscape from the rubble of an exhausted order and is latent with the possibility of uprooting insensitive regimes in the process.