Voices for Kashmir

Voices for Kashmir: Getting Louder and Shriller

Iqbal Khan

On conclusion of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit, China once again reaffirmed on October 09 that the Kashmir issue was a dispute left from history that needs to be properly and peacefully resolved in line with the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements. A joint communique said that the Beijing was paying close attention to the current situation in Kashmir and opposed any unilateral actions that would complicate the situation: “The two sides underlined that a peaceful, stable, cooperative and prosperous South Asia was in common interest of all parties. Parties need to settle disputes and issues in the region through dialogue on the basis of equality and mutual respect.”

America’s democratic Senator Mark Warner, co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, expressed his unease over restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir. He stated on October 08 that he is “disturbed by restrictions on communications and movement of people in Jammu and Kashmir” and asked the Indian government to live up to democratic principles by allowing freedom of press, information and political participation. These restrictions were imposed by Modi government on August 5 by revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir State under Article 370 of the Indian constitution. Hours before announcing the revocation of Article 370, Indian officials imposed a blanket of tough security measures, cutting off the internet and phone services and jailing thousands of Kashmiri political leaders, academics and activists.

It also imposed a strict curfew, limiting movement in the Kashmir Valley, home to approximately eight million people. The statement by Warner is significant because he has been one of the best friends of India inside and outside the Senate. Warner has been co-author of several important India-centric legislations in the Senate.

New York Times has summarised some of the miseries of IoK residents in its October 07 report entitled: “In Kashmir, a Race Against Death, With No Way to Call a Doctor”. Report by Sameer Yasir and Jeffrey Gettleman narrates that: “Saja Begum spent hours navigating roadblocks as she went door to door at hospitals and pharmacies in a desperate search for antivenin after her son was bitten by a snake”. She could not call an ambulance as the Indian government had shut down Kashmir’s mobile network. She underwent a panicked, “16-hour odyssey to find an antidote that could save her 22-year-old son encountering “a landscape of cut-off streets, security checkpoints, disconnected phones and hobbled doctors; doctors and patients say the crackdown has taken many lives. “Cancer patients who buy medicine online have been unable to place orders. Without cell service, doctors can’t talk to each other, find specialists or get critical information to help them in life-or-death situations. Many doctors interviewed by The New York Times “said they could be fired for even speaking with reporters. Kashmiri doctors have also “accused Indian security forces of directly harassing and intimidating medical personnel”. A number of hospital based health professionals “estimated that hundreds of people have been left in an emergency situation without ambulances, and that many may have died as a result of that and other communication problems”.

MeenakshiGanguly South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch, in her report “Restrictions, Detentions Persist in Kashmir” has urged that “India Should End Crackdown, Restore Phones, Release Political Detainees”. She noted: “It has been over two months… yet abusive restrictions, including a lockdown on internet and mobile phone services, remain”.

Numerous foreign leaders have expressed concern over Indian government’s continued detention of Kashmiri leaders and anyone deemed likely to protest, alleged use of torture, restrictions on movement enforced by a massive military presence, and problems in accessing public services.

Indian activists have filed a petition with the Supreme Court “to ensure protection of children after the media reported that many had been detained, beaten, or denied safe access to schools…one as young as 9, who had been taken into custody”. Any criticism of the government can draw swift rebuke, including sedition allegations. Fear of arbitrary arrests and shootings by security forces has left the Kashmir valley full of shuttered shops and empty classrooms. The authorities have blocked visits by diplomats, international journalists, Indian activists, and opposition politicians.

UN Secretary General repeated his call for Kashmir dialogue on October 04. UN spokesman StephaneDujarric told a regular briefing: “The secretary general’s position on Kashmir has not changed,” Dujarric said. Responding to a question about the worsening humanitarian situation in the occupied Kashmir, where nearly eight million people are living in an open prison without basic rights, the spokesman said human rights issue needs to be addressed. “Our message on Kashmir has not changed as the situation on the ground has not changed, so I would refer you to what we’ve already said, expressing our concern, encouraging dialogue, and saying that the situation in Kashmir, if it’s going to be solved politically, needs to have human rights at its centre.” “The secretary general restates that freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental rights”, Dujarric added

On October 07, Pakistan once again told the United Nations that:

“The international community must pay special attention to the plight of women and their families living under foreign occupation and ensure that their basic and inalienable rights are guaranteed,” Ambassador MaleehaLodhi told the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural matters. While the voices for Kashmir are getting louder and shriller, Indian government is in a state of denial, trying to falsely project return of Normalcy to IoK. UNSG needs walk his talk, he must begin to act, before it’s too late. He could begin by appointing his special envoy for Kashmir.

Iqbal.khan9999@yahoo.com

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