As the sun rises over the picturesque landscape of Kashmir, it’s easy to believe that all is well in the region. But beneath the scenic beauty is a harsh and unsettling reality — composed of a military occupation, oppression of the entire population and expression of fear, loathing and anger by the people of Kashmir. The picture that the Indian government tries to paint — of normalcy and development in occupied Jammu and Kashmir — is a myth.
For the last seven decades, Kashmir has been the epicenter of a bitter dispute between India and Pakistan in which the people in Jammu are an integral party. To resolve the conflict, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 47 in 1948, and more than a dozen subsequent resolutions, stipulating that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir would be decided by its people through a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the UN. This was accepted by India and Pakistan and, in accordance with Article 25 of the UN Charter, both parties are obligated to implement these resolutions.
But this Saturday, Aug. 5, marks four years of India’s unilateral actions to consolidate its occupation of Illegally Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and imposing what India’s leaders have ominously called a “final solution” for Kashmir. To do so, India has resorted to a series of illegal actions, gross and consistent violations of human rights and other crimes that continue to this day.
India increased its military deployment in IIOJK to 900,000 troops right before Aug. 5, 2019. This is the densest occupation in recent history — with one soldier for every eight Kashmiri men, women and children. This massive force has perpetrated a vicious campaign of repressive actions, including extrajudicial killings of innocent Kashmiris in fake encounters; custodial killings and “cordon-and-search” operations; use of pellet guns to kill, maim and blind peaceful protestors; abduction and enforced disappearances; and “collective punishments,” with the destruction and burning of entire villages and urban neighborhoods.
This brutal campaign is driven by the ideology of “Hindutva,” which propagates the religious and ethnic supremacy of Hindus and hate against Muslims. Noting this pattern, Genocide Watch has warned that “the Indian government’s actions in Kashmir have been an extreme case of persecution and could very well lead to genocide.”
To suppress the voice of the Kashmiri people, Indian authorities have used censorship and surveillance for decades in the occupied territory. Since August 2019, information control has been fully institutionalized. Journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders and the entire Kashmiri political leadership are routinely incarcerated, beaten, humiliated, harassed and even accused of “terrorism” for reporting the human rights violations in IIOJK.
There is only one normality: the normalization of violence. Generations have grown up witnessing violence, insecurity and trauma. Numerous human rights organizations, international bodies and independent reports have documented use of rape, sexual assault and harassment perpetrated by Indian security forces against Kashmiri civilians, particularly women as a weapon of war. Emergency laws, such as the 1990-Armed Forces (Special Powers), have created an environment of complete impunity for Indian security forces.
To extinguish the ethno-religious identity of Kashmiris, historical sites have been destroyed and damaged. One of the most troubling aspects of the destruction of cultural heritage is the demolition of religious sites, particularly mosques, which inflicts deep emotional wounds on the Muslim population.
In a classic settler-colonial project, India has initiated illegal demographic changes in the occupied territory, grossly violating international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention. This is central to its plan to convert IIOJK’s Muslim majority into a Hindu majority territory, to drown out the demand for freedom and self-determination. New “domicile rules” have been introduced, and more than four million fake domicile certificates have been issued to Hindus from across India to settle in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The land and properties of Kashmiris are also being confiscated for military and other official use.
All the measures taken by India in the last four years are blatant violations of international law, including the relevant Security Council resolutions, specifically Resolution 122 (1957). Therefore, all the actions taken by India on and after Aug. 5, 2019 are not only illegal but, ipso facto, null and void.
To justify its occupation and oppression, India has sought for decades, and particularly since 9/11, to portray the Kashmiri freedom struggle as “terrorism.” Likewise, to delegitimize the indigenous Kashmiri struggle for self-determination, India falsely alleges that it is instigated by Pakistan. To expose India’s falsehood, Pakistan has proposed expanded patrolling by the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) along the line of control in Jammu and Kashmir. However, India refuses to allow the UN mission to patrol the line of control and to expand it. Despite numerous attempts, India continues to deny access to Jammu and Kashmir to the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN agencies as well as other human rights and humanitarian organizations and international media.
Pakistan desires peaceful relations with all its neighbors, including India. Pakistan has responded with responsibility and restraint to India’s repeated provocations. On the other hand, India continues to resort to aggressive rhetoric and repeated threats of the use of force against Pakistan, even under the nuclear overhang. The onus is on India to create conditions that are conducive for a meaningful dialogue to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. To this end, India must:
• stop all human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir
• halt and reverse its illegal demographic changes there
• reverse the illegal and unilateral measures imposed on and after Aug. 5, 2019
• grant access to international observers, including human rights mechanisms of the UN and international media, to observe worsening human rights situation on the ground
The international community must play a proactive role obliging India to respect the human rights of the people of Kashmir and to work toward a peaceful, inclusive resolution of the conflict. Peace in South Asia will be possible only when the Jammu and Kashmir dispute is resolved. The Security Council and the UN secretary-general must make concerted efforts, as empowered by the UN Charter, to promote a peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, according to the relevant UN security Council resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people.
Preventive measures to stop abuses in IIOJK and to promote global accountability is both a moral imperative and a collective human rights responsibility. Millions of Kashmiris have suffered for too long. To end their plight, they demand a peaceful resolution to the conflict. It is time to make peace a new normal.
This is an opinion essay.
We welcome your comments on this article. What are your thoughts on the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir?
Munir Akram is the permanent representative of Pakistan’s mission to the UN and a former president of the UN Economic and Social Council. He previously served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN in New York City from 2002 to 2008, after serving as ambassador to the UN in Geneva from 1995 to 2002.