Why the UN fails humanity in Kashmir

Published: February 2, 2013
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In the past twenty years, thousands of Kashmiris have disappeared, over 70,000 have died, and countless women and children have become orphans and widows. PHOTO: REUTERS

Kashmir is an open-air cemetery sprinkled with corpses of hopes and dreams, ambition and laughter, on which government officials shovel piles of “investigations” to hide the truth of long-standing crises.

There are over 500,000 Indian troops patrolling the Kashmir Valley. It is the most militarised zone in the world, bearing the highest soldier-to-civilian ratio for any given territory. In the past twenty years, thousands of Kashmiris have disappeared, over 70,000 have died (only since 1990), and countless women and children have become orphans and widows.

New graveyards flourish in Srinagar, with epitaphs that bear the journey of resistance.

The inscription on the gateway to the “Martry’s Graveyard” in Srinagar reads: “’Lest You Forget We Have Given Our Today For Tomorrow of Yours”

A 2011 investigation by the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission found 2,730 bodies languishing in unmarked graves, allegedly said to be of Pakistani “militants”.

Another report by the International People’s Tribunal showed that at a site of 1,453 unmarked graves found in Kupwara, only two were of women.

Investigations into matters such as these were largely toothless, since the armed forces of India enjoy impunity from human rights abuses under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Disturbed Areas act.

These laws, amongst other things, allow Indian officials to raid houses, whisk away and detain on “reasonable” grounds, whatever that means.

Meanwhile, the United Nations and by-and-large the international community has turned yet another blind eye to the abuses that are a reality for Kashmiris. Calls for plebiscite have been ignored for decades, elections have been impartial time and time again, torture, imprisonment, and rape are everyday matters – all of this, in a land which the 17th century Mughal emperor Jahangir described as “heaven on earth.”

The #UNFailsHumanityinKashmir

Along with the Israeli-Palestinian and Korean Peninsula crisis, the “Kashmir Question” was among the first conflicts that the United Nations sought to adjudicate. Though the intent and goals of the mission were noble and farsighted, it’s safe to say the UN has failed.

Besides largely ignoring the ubiquity of the human rights abuses, the UN has failed in Kashmir on other fronts. Following the First Kashmir War in 1947, India sought to arbitrate the dispute by taking it to the UN, which instructed the countries to set up an impartial plebiscite to decide the future of Kashmir. Twenty-three UN Resolutions and sixty-five years since, Kashmiris still await.

In 1989, a large scale resistance to Indian rule flared up in Kashmir. Their grievances were in large part in protest over the rigged elections held two years prior.

On the Pakistani side, officials gave support to the resistance and urged the UN to resolve the dispute via a referendum – and though it shouldn’t come as a surprise – Indian policy makers reacted with indignity over Pakistan’s decision to resolve the issue in any manner other than a bilateral agreement.

Even a cursory review of a recent unfolding of a series of events at the Line of Control seems to point towards a similar narrative developing.

Once again, Pakistan lodged a complaint against India to the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) in order to resolve the issue of transgression is a responsible, restraint, and cautious manner.

The plea was met with silence.

Once again, #UNFailsHumanityinKashmir

In spite of a lack of arrows in their quivers, there are however some salient signs of progress emerging. In a paper entitled “Kashmir: ripe for Resolution?” authored by Boston University professors Moeed Yusuf and Adeel Najam, the academics assessed 46 proposals between 1947-2008 for resolving the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir. They find some patterns emerging, which leads them to believe that the situation is more ripe than ever for a resolution. This is so because both sides are now coming together under a core value, which is an autonomous Jammu and Kashmir. Since the insurgency began, 24 of the 35 proposals have centered around some form of autonomy as an essential condition.

Though it may seem that we’re as far as can be from an end to the violence and tears, another full-fledged, uninterrupted peace discussion – during which all reservations are put forth for debate – may be what gets us closer to an end.

Because the UN has failed, we must act.

As one user on Twitter user put it:

Aamna Kahloon “When Injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty”

Read more by Hamza here.

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Hamza Mannan

Hamza Mannan is a freelance writer and his work has appeared across various newspapers.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.