On the eve of Pakistan’s general elections this week and India’s looming elections in 2019, the citizens of Kashmir are facing inhuman violence, threat to their freedom and life as Indian troops carry out numerous militant killings resulting in civilian deaths and surmounting casualties. But, the recent killings of well-known journalist Shujaat Bukhari and U.N’s report on the deterioration of human rights in Kashmir have resulted in introspection among Kashmir’s citizens as Indian government rejected the outcome of the report. Here’s a run-down of how Kashmir reacted to the report and the security conundrum faced by civilians.
Latest update: Spokesperson of UN, Rupert Coville has expressed deep regret over how the Indian media and government has dismissed UN’s report on Kashmir and the human rights abuses reported in the valley and the excessive use of force by Indian security forces that led to numerous civilian casualties.
The article is dated June 14, 2018, but updated to reflect recent events in the valley:
On Thursday (14th June 2018), the entire valley of Kashmir erupted in joy and social media was buzzing as if the crescent had been sighted and Eid had begun a few days earlier. There was an outpouring of celebrations from every nook and corner of the valley and people were celebrating the pre-festivities amid hopes of getting justice for their sacrifices. Be it the students at Central University of Kashmir (CUK), journalists or civil society, everyone had an opinion about the report but the common understanding was —- a long overdue report released by UN high commissioner for human rights acknowledging the Kashmir struggle for freedom and respect of international conventions on human rights will force policy-makers to acknowledge the struggles faced by citizens of the valley.
The report sought for the establishment of an international probe into human rights violations and implementation of ‘Right to self-determination in the territory’, a long overdue demand curbed down by the central government of India despite UN’s backing.
The report also outlined the human rights violations committed across the Line of Control (LOC) by both Indian and Pakistani armed forces and further highlighted how the bloody conflict has robbed millions of their basic human rights and created conversations on social media with citizens cheering the UN for recognizing the cruelties faced by locals in the landlocked Himalayan region.
India, meanwhile, quickly latched onto the report terming it fallacious and tendentious but as the positivity spread among locals about international recognition of their struggles, this was cut short by the tragic murder of eminent journalist of Rising Kashmir newspaper — Shujaat Bukhari. The assailants appeared outside his office, pumped volley of bullets in his body including two guards and left the spot without any trace. The eminent voice was added to the long list of victims of the Kashmir conflict.
Kashmir, the vale without peace:
The region of Kashmir, both Indian occupied Kashmir and Azad Kashmir or Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) is an internationally recognized dispute between Asian neighbors — India and Pakistan and the locals have one demand — the right to a plebiscite as advocated by UN in 1948, pleaded by India and accepted by Pakistan. Both the countries have laid claims over the territory although the ground realities have changed and people aspire for a free and undivided Kashmir. But, the catch situation is further emboldened as both India and Pakistan ignore the ground realities and call it a disputed territory in bilateral dispute, thereby garnering political mileage in their domestic affairs and elections. Again, this is playing out in Pakistan’s elections and will play out in Indian elections next year as right-wing polarization intensifies and minorities including Kashmiris, Dalits, Christians and Muslims face the brunt of it.
Kashmir is divided into two regions by India and Pakistan and the UN has indicted both the countries of grave human rights violations. Pakistan calls its part an independent territory but has ceased all the powers of the local establishment. The UN report states that the human rights violations in Pakistan occupied Kashmir is of a different magnitude and of a more structural one. The Indian occupied Kashmir is held by seven hundred thousand troops which is a violation in itself. The violations committed by the government forces have consumed the lives of more than seventy thousand troops and there is no end to the carnage.
Read the report HERE.
Journalists, reportage and obfuscations: Author’s take:
Many human rights groups and journalists have documented the plight of the Kashmiri people and put-forth the ground reality to the world. They have toiled hard to garner global focus towards the conflict and pressurize the two countries for a fruitful solution. In the course of their journey, many journalists and activists have lost their lives. They have been the victims of bullets from both counties as both have tried to dominate their narrative in front of the world.
In this course, the ground reality has been muzzled and truth has been caged. And the people who have tried to put a break on the flow of grenades and bullets have been the victims of the same tragedy. Shujaat was one of the leading Kashmiri voices trying to find a peaceful solution to the conundrum and hoping for lasting peace amid bullets, pellets and grenades. Since the death of militant commander Burhan Wani in 2016, Kashmir has gone back to 90s and the force used by India to muzzle the struggle has renewed the militancy recruitment. Days and mornings are marked by mourning and strikes. There is no difference in funeral prayers and mandatory five-time prayers followed by a devout Muslim. The unionist politicians have lost their relevance and the Indian Union is in no mood to bow before the aspirations of common Kashmiris. The army has become the outlaw and the parading of a civilian on the bonnet of a vehicle as a human shield has earned an army officer rewards instead of condemnation. The crushing of protesters under the armored vehicles have added a new feather to the oppression machinery in Kashmir.
In this hopeless and grim situation, Shujaat was a ray of hope. A man with unrivaled wisdom who condemned usage of violence and force.
Shujaat had a long career of serving the cause and had an astute understanding of the ground realities. He was an optimist and an independent, brave and fearless voice who never hesitated to take on the establishment on both sides of the border for their unmindful tricks. He kept the shoe on and campaigned for the Kashmir’s freedom cause. His biography, if ever written, will speak volumes about his efforts and how the brave soul died in the line of duty. Shujaat fell to the bullets of those who wanted to keep the cauldron simmering. His death will only embolden Kashmiris to seek peace amid conflict and strive to uphold his ideals despite his death.
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