PJF urges G8 leaders to exert pressure on India, Pakistan for a lasting settlement of Kashmir

PJF urges G8 leaders to exert pressure on India, Pakistan for a lasting settlement of Kashmir

Toronto: On the occasion of the G8 Deauville summit (May 26-27), Peace and Justice Forum (PJF) has urged the leaders and Presidents of the European Council and Commission for their help in resolving the longstanding Kashmir issue. Moreover, India must be persuaded to put an end to widespread human rights abuses by its forces in Kashmir and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Mr Mushtaq A. Jeelani, Executive Director of PJF, in separate letters to British Prime Minister David Cameron, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, US President Barack H. Obama, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and President of the European Commission José Manuel Durão Barroso, expressed his serious concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in Kashmir, and the failure of India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue.

The Executive Director wrote: The people of Kashmir are tired of repression and the status quo, for four years in a row now, they have been in the streets, protesting against India’s brutal occupation, demanding freedom and respect for human rights. Kashmiris are armed with nothing but their anger which has risen up against the Indian military presence. The Indian government has retaliated with bullets, curfew, censorship and arrest; killing civilians ruthlessly and then labelling them as \”terrorists.\” The street battles between unarmed protesters and trigger-happy soldiers have brought normal life in Kashmir to a standstill causing immense suffering to entire population.

Mr Jeelani recalled that the Kashmir issue remains at the heart of hostility between the nuclear-armed arch rivals India and Pakistan and was the cause of two of their three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947. Unfortunately, the people of Kashmir are caught in the middle of this deadly tug-of-war.

He reminded the leaders that since October 1989, Kashmir has become the most highly militarised zone in the world; more than 700,000 Indian soldiers are deployed there. In almost 22 years, the occupying Indian forces have killed more than 100,000 Kashmiris – many more scarred and wounded, to silence the people’s demand for justice, respect for human rights, freedom and the right of self-determination. They continue to carry out arbitrary detention, summary executions, custodial killings, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, rape, sexual exploitation, torture and fake encounters. Generations of Kashmiris have grown up under the shadow of the gun; not a single family is unaffected; property worth hundreds of millions of dollars has been destroyed and the suffering and devastation continues unabated that has inflicted loss of life and destruction on an unprecedented scale, sadly drawing no significant attention from the international community.

The Executive Director underscored that Indian forces operate under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), also known as \”black laws,\” which give authorities broad authorisation to arrest, search, and shoot without questions. Impunity has become a licence for the Indian occupation forces to wreak havoc with the lives of Kashmiris. The deliberate and unprovoked attacks and other patterns of abuse have all become too frequent to report. No perpetrator has ever been prosecuted in a real manner, despite the fact that such crimes have been extensively documented by many international human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

He urged leaders’ attention to Amnesty International’s 2011 report: \”Impunity for past violations in Kashmir, including the disappearance of thousands of people since 1989 during the armed conflict in Kashmir, continued. Official inquiries into some of the violations made slow or little progress… Between June and September [2010], the police and security forces fired at protesters during pro-Independence protests demanding accountability for past violations… Torture and other ill-treatment, extrajudicial executions, deaths in custody and administrative detentions remained rife. Institutional mechanisms meant to protect human rights and human rights defenders remained weak and judicial processes failed to ensure justice for many victims of past violations and abuses…\”

He said that on March 21, 2011, Amnesty International further noted: \”Hundreds of people are locked up on spurious grounds under the Public Safety Act in Jammu and Kashmir every year. This report exposes a catalogue of human rights violations associated with the use of administrative detention under the Public Safety Act. It highlights how these run counter to India’s obligations under international human rights law. If India is serious about meeting these obligations, then it must ensure that the Public Safety Act is repealed and that detainees are released immediately or tried in a court of law.\”

Mr Jeelani underscored that last few years have seen spontaneous, massive and non-violent protests where virtually everyone including young men, their sisters, mothers, uncles and grandparents are out in the streets protesting against India’s continued occupation. Such – on and off – protests have strengthened the Kashmiri freedom struggle into a classic people’s movement. The voice that India has tried so forcefully to silence in Kashmir has massed into a loud thunder. Kashmir’s young generation that has helplessly watched the Indian forces’ brutality against innocent civilians for more than 20 years has lost its patience as well as its fear. With an almost mad courage, Kashmir’s young have faced down armed soldiers and taken back their streets; this has shaken the Indian establishment.

He reminded leaders that the message from the people of Kashmir is loud and clear: the status quo is no longer an option.

The Executive Director underlined that India must understand violence is not and cannot be the answer to popular demands for justice, freedom and the right of self-determination. A plebiscite under the United Nations supervision is the only answer to resolve the issue.

Mr Jeelani said the perception that the Kashmir issue is a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan is totally unfounded. Kashmir is not a territorial or bilateral issue. It is about the future of 15 million people with their own history of independence; their own language and culture. This has been an explicit explanation for the failure to resolve the Kashmir issue through on-again and off-again bilateral dialogue for the past 64 years. The people of Kashmir are tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome; moreover, they have lost complete faith in the bilateral process of India and Pakistan and their ability to resolve the issue.

He reminded the leaders that the G8, as the governments of the world’s leading industrialised nations, can play a crucial role in helping to bring a lasting peace that ends the Kashmir conflict, is more urgent than ever. Mr Jeelani underscored according to The Washington Post (Aug 8): \”The real problem in the Afghan war is India, Pakistan and Kashmir – Peace in AfPInd requires not U.S. troops on the ground, but a concerted effort to bring India and Pakistan to the negotiating table, where under the watchful eyes of the international community they can end their hydra-headed confrontation over Kashmir.\” At stake is not just India, Pakistan’s peace and stability, but equally important is the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir.

The Executive Director underlined that the 15 million people of Kashmir are yearning for peace, justice, freedom and the right of self-determination. They want a just and dignified peace that guarantees total freedom from foreign occupation and alien domination. Their struggle to achieve that right of self-determination will not be extinguished until India and Pakistan accept its exercise by the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“The G8 has a timely opportunity to exert pressure on both India and Pakistan to come up with some kind of a road map aimed at achieving a lasting political settlement of the Kashmir issue; moreover, it is time to underline to them that the status quo is not sustainable,” emphasised Mr Jeelani.

“The G8 leaders must help India and Pakistan to transform the Kashmir issue from being a bone of contention to a bridge of understanding for lasting peace and prosperity of South Asia’s billion plus people. A peaceful solution of the Kashmir issue will help to bring stability in the South Asian region, including in Afghanistan and eliminate a potential threat of another major war. This would help lay the foundation for a new era of coexistence between India and Pakistan,” continued the Executive Director.

“More importantly, it is time the international community demand that India put an end to widespread human rights violations by its security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir and to bring the perpetrators to justice,” concluded Mr Jeelani.

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