Kashmir Million March & Indian Intransigence
By Sajjad Shaukat
People belonging to various segments of society including political parties and other important dignitaries came out on the streets of London in UK on October 26, this year, and participated in the Kashmir Million March to express solidarity with the citizens of Indian-held Kashmir in their decades-long struggle for the right of self-determination. It started from the Trafalgar Square and concluded at 10 Downing Street to protest against the human rights violations by Indian troops in the Indian-occupied Kashmir.
Despite the sinister efforts of Indian high officials and media to sabotage the Kashmir Million March, it held in the heart of London. In this regard, some Indian-backed miscreants threw bottles at the stage from where the participants of the March were to be addressed. In this respect, former prime minister of Azad Kashmir, Barrister Sultan Mehmood said India’s sympathizers tried to sabotage the procession. He elaborated, “We have gathered here to express solidarity with the people of Kashmir and to draw attention of the international community towards Kashmir issue,” adding, that “this struggle would continue till the independence of Kashmir.”
Addressing the gathering, Barrister Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry, British parliamentarian Lord Nazir and other speakers said, “There is a need for the united efforts so that a message can be given to the international community that there would be no peace unless Kashmir issue is resolved…the Kashmir issue must be resolved in the light of UN resolutions…if a referendum about freedom of Scotland can be held, then similar thing can be arranged for Kashmiris too.”
It is notable that India has started a propaganda campaign regarding Kashmir. In this context, India claimed that on October 25, 1947, the then ruling Hindu Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh had opted for accession to India by signing the instrument of accession and Indian Government had accepted it on October 27 1947. In fact, this act of Hindu Raja was in total contrast to the aspirations of Muslim majority of Kashmir, who desired to join Pakistan. India’s occupation of Kashmir was against the international norms and a “Standstill Agreement” signed by Hari Singh with Pakistan on August 15 1947. (Refer page 97 of Conflicts between India & Pakistan-An Encyclopedia compiled by Peter Lyon). Consequently, India inserted armed forces into Kashmir and forcefully occupied it. The people of Kashmir retaliated by fomenting an indigenous resistance movement against the Indian intruders.
As a matter of fact, India occupied two third of the territory of Jammu and Kashmir known as 1ndian occupied Kashmir, whereas one third area was liberated by local Muslims as Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Since then, New Delhi has been suppressing the innocent people of Indian dominated Kashmir through mass extra judicial killings, forced disappearances at the hands of forces—gang rapes, indiscriminate use of force and torture, firing on demonstrations, custodial killings, encounters, detentions etc.
Since 1989, over 50,000 (By some reports nearly 100,000), Kashmiri people have been killed during the ongoing conflict), while, State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has found 2,730 bodies buried into unmarked graves, scattered all over Kashmir—believed to contain the remains of victims of unlawful killings by Indian security forces.
Several international agencies and UN have reported gross human rights violations in Indian controlled Kashmir. In a press release, the spokesman of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated, “The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is concerned about the recent violent protests in Indian administered Kashmir that have reportedly led to civilian casualties as well as restrictions to the right to freedom of assembly and expression.” A 2008 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees determined that Indian-administered Kashmir was only ‘partly free.’ A recent report by Amnesty International stated that up to 20,000 people have been detained under a law called Armed Forces Special Powers Act -1958 (AFSPA) in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Undoubtedly, the Kashmir dispute as recorded in United Nations document involves the right of “self-determination” which means the right of all people to freely determine their political status. UN Security Council clearly laid down that question of accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through democratic method of free and impartial plebiscite. The UN resolutions are still valid even though India has made many efforts to declare them bilateral after Simla agreement. It is a unilateral interpretation of the issue by Indian leadership to keep it in a cold storage. Despite passage of more than 40 years, India has not made any serious effort to resolve this issue. In this respect, New Delhi’s move of cancellation of recent Foreign Secretary level talks Islamabad is a point in case. In such a background, Kashmiri people have time and again been registering their voice to highlight their plight and attract attention of the world community to acknowledge their right of self-determination.
It is mentionable that Pakistan’s recent serious and sincere effort at the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has infused a new spirit amongst the Kashmir people. They announced to organize Kashmir Million March in London, which held on October 26, 2014. Barrister Sultan Mahmood spearheaded the event. It is projected that Kashmir Million March not only highlighted the grave human tragedy in Indian-occupied Kashmir, but also called on Britain to play its role in helping the Kashmiris obtain their legitimate right of self-determination. The Barrister has also demanded of the United Nations to take notice of the killing of the innocent Kashmiri people as a result of firing on Line of Control. He remarked that the Kashmir Million March would be befitting reply to the Indian aggression. He also demanded that the Indian Prime Minister, instead of issuing provocative statements should withdraw 800,000 Indian forces deployed in the disputed territory. Barrister Sultan and Andrew Griffiths Member of the British Parliament and Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kashmir in the House of Commons also addressed a press conference in the British parliament ahead of the march, and pledged that people in electoral constituencies will be made the part of the Kashmir movement.
Frustrated by the campaign of Kashmiri people, India through diplomatic channels raised the issue of Kashmir Million March with Britain in a meeting of Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in London. India was also trying to project through media that Kashmiris are divided over organizing Kashmir Million March to be organized from Trafalgar Square to the 10 Downing Street.
However, Kashmir is an internationally recognized dispute and cannot be resolved at bilateral level. Indian government’s propaganda of describing mass Kashmiri resistance as terrorist activity is an attempt to nullify the indigenous nature of freedom struggle in Jammu and Kashmir. Despite India’s harsh and repressive measures, Kashmiri movement for self determination can not be suppressed.
Pakistan being a legitimate party to the Kashmir dispute, by virtue of partition plan and UN resolutions, has right to support the cause of the right of self determination of Kashmiri.
Nevertheless, Kashmir Million March organized in UK is true reflection of the aspirations of the Kashmiri people who are endeavoring to wake up the conscience of world community (Specially the super powers) to listen to their voice, and become aware of true face of democratic India.
And, the March is show of unity among the Kashmiri people, and a “signature plebiscite” against the Indian occupation and oppressive activities.
By resorting to desperate diplomatic activities to influence UK authorities with regard to Kashmir Million March, New Delhi has acknowledged that it uses oppressive methods to gag the aspiration of the Kashmiri people.
While, the March is also an encouragement for other oppressed communities of India to display their solidarity to the people of Kashmir and also highlight their light as well.
It is of particular attention that the West propagates the freedom of expression and demonstration, so the UK Government upheld its traditions by allowing and fully supporting the said March.
Especially, a petition was submitted asking the British government to impress upon India to resolve the Kashmir dispute. In a statement, Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Gilani declared the Million March a much-needed step and stated that it is to give the world a message that terrorism has no direct or indirect link to the Kashmir liberation movement and the people of Kashmir were struggling for their genuine right.
Nonetheless, Kashmir Million March, held in the streets of London would prove a milestone in the struggle of Kashmiris’ right of self-determination, and an obstacle to the intransigence of India which is using delaying tactics in resolving this old issue.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations