The current Kashmir movement, started in the aftermath of the killing of Burhan Wani in July 2016, has broken many myths of the Indian Occupied Kashmir. For the last three years, the movement has become unstoppable even with the use of pellet shotguns and that of a Kashmiri youth as a human shield by the Indian Army in the Valley. It has now proved to the world beyond any doubt that the struggle for right to self-determination is indigenous, legal and peaceful without foreign support. This has led to the admission of Indian Army Chief that the Kashmiri youth cannot be defeated along with the breakup of BJP-PDP alliance. Moreover, the unflinching struggle has also led to the first-ever United Nations Report on human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir exposing the Indian brutalities and human rights violations.
Burhan Wani was an icon of social movement against the Indian occupation and this led him to opt for violent means due to the massive Indian atrocities against his family and other Kashmiris. Indian misperception was that silencing him would ultimately lead to the controlling of the youth movement; however, Wani’s assassination has started an unending social and violent resistance that has not yet died down even after three years. The Indian forces have used pellet shotguns rendering thousands of Kashmiri youth blind and paralyzed for the rest of their lives. Even this military tactic, questionable under the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) of which India is a state party, could not suppress the zeal and motivation of the Kashmiri youth against the Indian occupation of the Valley. This led to another horrifying act of questionable tactic by the Indian Army; the use of human shield to protect the occupation forces in the Valley.
According to the Press Trust of India, Indian Army Chief, Bipin Rawat has admitted the use of human shield by stating that, “It’s a proxy war and proxy war is dirty war that is where innovation comes in. You fight a dirty war with innovations.” This has led the Amnesty International India to ask the government ‘to prohibit firing pellet shotguns immediately in the Kashmir Valley.’ And many Indian writers such as Arati Jerath claim that ‘Modi’s Kashmir policy has failed as the muscular approach would not work in Kashmir.’ Manish Tewari believes that, “It is quite evident that hard power cannot be the solution to Kashmir imbroglio. At best you can hold territory but not win the hearts and minds of the people.” This admission is more significant when former GOC of Indian Northern Command Lt Gen. H.S. Panag writing in the Press Trust of India Blog stated that, “Unfortunately, rather than seizing political initiative, the state, trapped by ideology and political rhetoric, an excited jingoist media and public emotions fed by orchestrated nationalism, is suffering from inertia and continues to repeatedly ride on military strategy which is useless against an alienated mass.” Also the Indian Army Chief admitted that, “We kill them and more would join. Infiltration can be controlled, but this cycle of recruitment of local youth can go on and on. Dialogue is must for the maintenance of peace. So…let’s give peace a chance in the region.” Therefore, the post-Wani Kashmir movement did what the status quo Kashmiri leadership could not achieve in many decades.
Moreover, on the heels of the release of UN Report, Indian Army made another blunder by killing a moderate Kashmiri journalist Shujaat Bokhari, which earned the wrath of the Kashmiris and Indians alike. The BJP leaders have threatened such reprisals against Kashmiri journalists who may follow Bokhari.
The other casualty of Indian military failure was the breakup of the BJP-PDP alliance in Jammu and Kashmir and the imposition of Governor Rule. Governor Rule in J&K means direct control of New Delhi and Indian military that has backfired many times and increased militancy. It also is a blow to some of the pro-India elements namely Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. In the so called BJP-PDP alliance, the BJP won all 25 seats from Jammu but not from Kashmir Valley. The alliance came into being in March 2015 for ‘reconciliation and confidence building within and across the LOC.’ Under section 92 of the J&K constitution, Governor’s rule can be imposed for a maximum period of six months. The longest was six years direct rule in early 1990s with the eruption of Kashmir intifada which culminated in 1996. Manish Tewari believes that ‘BJP wants to villainise Kashmir to polarize the rest of India, use the internal dynamics to heat up the LOC, and hope that an inverted Kargil-like situation may manifest that would allow them to ride a wave of hyper-nationalism in the 2019 general elections.’ (What a use of ideology and alteration of peace to win domestic politics). This feeling is also echoed by Yashwant Sinha, former BJP leader and External Affairs Minister: “There is no doubt that the issue in the state will help the BJP accentuate communalism and polarization. They will rake this up in the elections to come, including 2019.” Arati Jerath believes that ‘if India is unable to hold elections in Kashmir, it would be an admission to the world that its writ does not run there. What a tragic confession that would be.’ Therefore, it has been manifested that the self-styled Kashmiri leadership of Abdullahs and Muftis would not be able to fool the Kashmiris on the streets. The Kashmiri political leadership is now looking for excuses to save their souls. Since the time of Sheikh Abdullah, this brand of leadership being hand-in-glove with the Indian Government has caused more damage to the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, but not anymore.
At the international level, the continued and unabated violence of Indian forces in the IOK led to the release of first-ever report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in June 2018. The 49 page report censures India on lack of access to justice; establishment of military courts; administrative detentions; excessive use of force; use of pellet shotguns; arbitrary arrests and torture; enforced disappearances; violations of rights to health, education and freedom of expression; reprisals against human rights defenders and journalists; and sexual violence. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged to conduct a ‘comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.
At the international level, the continued and unabated violence of Indian forces in the IOK led to the release of first-ever report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in June 2018. The 49 page report censures India on lack of access to justice; establishment of military courts; administrative detentions; excessive use of force; use of pellet shotguns; arbitrary arrests and torture; enforced disappearances; violations of rights to health, education and freedom of expression; reprisals against human rights defenders and journalists; and sexual violence. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged to conduct a ‘comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.’ Interestingly, the reporting period begins from June 2016 and goes to April 2018; three years into the post-Wani Kashmiris’ struggle against Indian occupation. India tried to undermine the report under its soft power image but many Indians such as Angshuman Choudhury describe India’s response to the UN Kashmir report as distasteful and erroneous. As the Indian Ministry of External Affairs reacted by stating that ‘report is to build a ‘false narrative’ and violating India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.’ Arati Jerath believes that the Modi Government has pushed itself to front line of international pressure. Moreover, on the heel of the release of UN Report, Indian Army made another blunder by killing a moderate Kashmiri journalist Shujaat Bokhari, which earned the wrath of the Kashmiris and Indians alike. The BJP leaders have threatened such reprisals against Kashmiri journalists who may follow Bokhari. Indian journalist, V. Sudrashan believes that with the assassination of Shujaat Bokhari, ‘the shadow of death returns to the Valley. It is to silence the freedom of expression and nationalist voices.’ Apart from journalists many other entities have become a part of the political cross-fire from the Indian side. Another example happens to be the Assistant Professor from Kashmir University, M. Rafi Bhat. Since long, Pakistan and Kashmiri leadership have been demanding an independent international inquiry and sending of fact-finding missions in the IOK to see the Indian excessive use of inhuman means to suppress the Kashmiris’ struggle. The time has now come to accept this logic of the OHCHR.
The major powers such as the U.S. the EU and Russia seem less interested; however, the Chinese interest in peace in J&K for its economic interests has been visible. At the sidelines of SCO Summit, China proposed a trilateral meeting between China, India and Pakistan to work together for regional economic dividends. Though Chinese offer is more in the domain of trade/economics but China needs peaceful environment in the entire disputed territory of J&K to implement its global economic outreach passing through Pakistan. Although, as its policy of denial, India has not shown its interest in this initiative but Pakistan is keen to translate economic dividends into political stability. Interestingly, the Chinese role in Kashmir is being forwarded by the Kashmiris themselves as many Kashmiris in some parts of the Valley have fluttered the Chinese flag during their peaceful demonstration against the Indian occupation. This could be another important impact of ongoing Kashmir movement that is looking for other options to get their basic human rights restored.
Therefore, the Kashmiri struggle for their rightful cause has been vindicated as the issue has been internationalized. The above factors point to the fact that the Kashmir struggle has entered into a decisive phase in the post-Wani period; the movement is unstoppable, making dents in military/political realms both in J&K and India, and jolting the conscience of international community through the OHCHR Report. The Kashmiris have rejected the self-styled Kashmiri leadership and are now looking for other avenues to redress their grievances with India, which manifest the failure of status quo Kashmiri leadership. The Kashmiris have done their part inside the Valley, now it is the role of Pakistani diplomacy, the saner Kashmiri leadership across the LOC and abroad, and the conscience champions of human rights across the world to heed the voices of helpless Kashmiris and their plight.
The writer is the Director School of Politics and International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.
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