Plight of Women & Children in Smoldering IIOJK

In this day and age, when the world powers and the United Nations bodies are striving hard and utilizing all possible options to safeguard and shield the territorial integrity of Ukraine in the face of Russian onslaught, the people of Kashmir have been experiencing the worst brutalities and atrocities at the hand of supremacist Hindutva regime for over seven decades. Unfortunately, the international community at large has adopted a callous and unconcerned approach and attitude towards this worst-ever human tragedy.

Successive Indian governments have adopted tyrannous treatment of the Kashmiri Muslims and they have been denied their right to self-determination recognized by the related resolutions of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for over seventy years.
India forcefully and illegitimately occupied the princely state of Kashmir that triggered the first war between the newly independent Pakistan and India on October 22, 1947. So far, Pakistan and India have fought three wars over Kashmir in 1948, 1965, and 1999, but have been unable to settle the world’s longest running dispute hitherto.
The world is cognizant of the fact that Kashmir is a ticking time bomb and a flashpoint of conflict between Pakistan and India that could trigger a nuclear war anytime between the two countries, which could result in billions of casualties. Because, the fascist Narendra Modi-led Indian government has adopted heavy-handed approach and has crossed all limits indulging in state terrorism in the Indian Illegally Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) to suppress the just struggle of Kashmiris that want to break free from the yoke of Indian slavery.
The world’s lackluster response and inaction has further emboldened the supremacist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) inspired government and has further intensified its war crimes to terrorize and oppress the freedom fighters in the heavenly valley. The Indian occupation forces have turned the occupied territory into a slaughter house and killing ground, as they have been given license to kill the Kashmiris ruthlessly without any fear of accountability, making life for oppressed Kashmiris, especially for women and children who are living in the militarized zone a nightmare. Women and children have been facing an unending ordeal of terror and trauma at the hands of Indian occupying forces. The conflict has affected women and children more than any other group or class, especially the widows and orphans, because they are the main targets of the Indian military that aims at demoralizing the freedom fighters.
The gravity of the situation could be judged from the fact that the Indian forces are using rape, molestation, and sexual violence against women and children as a weapon of war with complete impunity in a bid to suppress the legitimate freedom movement in the occupied valley; incidents of rape, torture, sexual violence, forced conversions and killings have become India’s tools in the pursuit of its nefarious designs. Thus, fear, pain, trauma, and outcry, seem to be the unfortunate destiny of Kashmiri women and children. Kashmir presents a horrifying picture as over 22,896 women have been widowed, around 1000 children martyred, 107,754 children orphaned and over 11,110 women have been raped and gang-raped by Indian occupation forces. The women, particularly between the age group 18-49, most often fall victim, which has affected their physical, mental and social wellbeing. 
The notorious Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 (PSA) are jeopardizing the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations. The lack of justice till date for the victims of Kunan-Poshpora case exemplifies the protection enjoyed by Indian forces after committing atrocious acts of sexual violence. It highlights not only the violations of human rights being committed under the guise of counter-terrorism but also the systematic impunity provided to the notorious forces by the fascist government at all levels within the occupied valley.
A study by Doctors Without Borders in 2006 showed that Kashmiri women have one of the highest number of reported cases for sexual violence in conflict zones, but shockingly, they have yet to receive any response to their plight as they eye the international community in utter despondency.
Similarly, a report recently released by the research section of Kashmir Media Service on the occasion of World Children’s Day, revealed that children are the worst victims in IIOJK. The report said that a large number of school boys are among thousands of Kashmiris arrested since the military and police siege when India scrapped the special status of IIOJK in August 2019.What is new is that by the abrogation of articles 370 and 35A Indian occupation forces now have a license to validate the systematic genocide of Kashmiris, and commit atrocities against Kashmiri women and children in particular in a bid to change the demography of the valley. They are witnessing two types of violence: first type is when they are directly affected by killing, torture and detentions, the second is when they see their families being subjected to killing, torture and humiliation. 
The situation in Kashmir is an illegal occupation that can be classified as an international armed conflict to which all the customary international humanitarian laws apply. India is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, where Common Article 3 prohibits the murder, torture, and ill-treatment of non-combatants by both the government and militant forces. Indian forces are also violating International Law as the Article 27 of International Law states: “Women must be especially protected against any attack on their honor, particularly against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault.”
India is party to international human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL). Advisory Opinions (1996) states: that the “protection of the ICCPR does not cease in times of war,” ensuring that human rights treaties are applicable during armed conflict as well. Article 4 of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women states that governments should exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, punish and provide reparation for all crimes committed against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the state or by private persons.
Similarly, Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (2000), the Geneva Convention (1949), and the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Convention (1977), and a number of UN Security Council resolutions have been adopted between 1999 and 2009 in order to expand and provide guidance on how to advance protection and respect for children’s rights in times of conflict.
India is violating all these international laws and conventions and has little regard for these international rules and regulations mainly because of the world’s powerful countries’ economic and business-driven approach as India is among the largest trade markets in the world. However, it is high time that international human rights organizations hold the country accountable for such violations before it is too late.
After years of piecemeal and often half-hearted efforts to settle the Kashmir dispute, the world’s mobilization around Ukraine reminds us of the extraordinary potential when the governments realize their human rights responsibilities on a global scale. All governments should bring the same spirit of solidarity to the multitude of human rights crises in Kashmir to settle the decades-old dispute as per the wishes and aspirations of Kashmiris.
Like Martin Luther King the people of Kashmir also have a ‘dream’ that they shall see the dawn of freedom one day. HH

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