The land where screams are muffled behind fallen rubble, where the souls of children are sent to earth with destinies marked in blood, where men wail in horror every day, where a child sits upon the dead body of his grandfather as the shattered world around them breaks even more, the land where darkness has stayed far too long, where visits by the angel of death are far too frequent, where people cry out every day, questioning each and every one of us, why are you letting this persist. Kashmir, the land of the wounded, the broken and the abandoned. Kashmir, where we failed humanity long ago, where we wonder every day, what is left to save? Who is left to save? And who will save them?
The valley of Kashmir was caged the day the rest of the subcontinent was freed from the shackles of colonialism. We got our azaadi, but at what cost? Our Kashmiri brethren have suffered since 1947 tremendously in ways one cannot fathom. A number of human rights reports have been drawn on the multiple abuses of power that the people of Kashmir have seen since the partition of the sub-continent, but that is all they are, embellished, fancy words on a piece of paper that do not even stop someone in their tracks anymore, because the world is so desensitized to the violence that Kashmiris have been facing since forever. But their troubles got worse on August 5, 2019, as India revoked the special status granted to Kashmir under article 370 of its constitution and the land saw a new wave of violence and bloodshed as international forums rushed to report on the terrors the valley would now be subjected to.
There have been more than 50,000 deaths in Kashmir since 1989. One look at the current situation in the area and one can see the very existence of the entire International Bill of Rights being shred to pieces. The Indian government has brutally disregarded every basic human right in the book and continues to tread upon the Kashmiri people with new ways of violence every day. The ‘International Bill of Rights’ is an umbrella term that is collectively used for three separately drafted documents by the UN which are the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols.’ This bill seeks to develop a worldwide respect for all basic and fundamental human rights. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a 43-page report in early July 2019 which touched upon how problematic and concerning the condition in Kashmir was and continues to be. The report was released as an update to a 2018 report by the same office on the same issue.
Prior to revoking article 370, the Indian government has tried various other manipulations of the law as well to make things worse for Kashmiri residents such as in 2018, when “the Indian state government of Jammu and Kashmir amended section 10 of the Public Safety Act, removing the prohibition on detaining permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir outside the state. At least 40 people, mainly separatist political leaders, were transferred to prisons outside the state.” (Ganguly 2019) Not only this makes it hard for the families of these detainees to come visit them and proceed with legal steps but also the conditions of these prisons, specifically for Muslim detainees, are very questionable. The walls of these cells see many human rights abuses, the rights of the prisoners are trampled upon. The report also noted that India’s Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act (AFSPA) “remains a key obstacle to accountability,” since it was enacted in 1990, on the grounds of which the Indian government has not allowed for the prosecution of any security personnel in a civilian court. (Ganguly 2019)
Here it is pertinent to look at certain articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that concern the situation at hand. Article 3 states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person, article 5 states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, article 9 states that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile, article 25 states that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family whereas article 28 states that everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized. (UN 1948) One brief look through the document and it is easy for anyone to point out which of these rights are denied to the citizens of Kashmir. Some of these highlighted in the OHCHR report were that the Indian security personnel in the valley had problematic crowd control techniques such as using pellet firing shotguns on the protestors, which causes a large number of civilian deaths, the women in the valley face horrendous instances of rape and sexual harassment, attacks on the lives and property of innocent people who are then left stranded without anywhere to go, young children captured and forced to join armed combat and whatnot, the words human rights seem like an arbitrary, abstract, impossible concept when one rests their eyes on the valley.
Furthermore, what is more alarming is that the Indian government was and continues to be in complete denial of these reports by the OHCHR, not acknowledging them or anything covered in them and coming up with appalling, mind shattering justifications for the lost lives of countless civilians.
If we take a look at the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, article 6 states that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life, article 7 reiterates article 5 of the UDHR by stating that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and article 20 states that any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law. (UN 1976) If we consider India’s Hindutva ideology considering article 20, it is fair to say that it has been the main reason the atrocities against Kashmiri residents have reached this extent. This ideology is causing Hindu extremism in the region which opposes the secularism that the Indian nation prides itself in. The aggressive policies that the Indian government has always adopted towards Kashmir, especially the current Modi government, they stem from this very ideology, and as Modi and his party BJP have openly stated many times, their main goal is to spread this ideology to all regions of India.
While we sit here and read reports filled with numbers, number of casualties, number of houses ruined, number of civilians injured, number of security personnel deaths, number of people detained, number of people raped, India continues to deploy troops into the valley and continues to abuse their way through the very core of the Kashmiri society. People are losing lives, families, homes, their very dignities, healthcare goes scarce, internet is cut off and people are denied the basic rights of transportation and communication, all as the world continues to play the game of numbers. The fact is, the numbers will only grow, not cease, until and unless people stop electing officials who openly pride themselves in their discriminatory ideals and goals. As said by Ming Wai Sit in their opinion piece, “The BJP have fostered an environment that encourages hate speech and hate crimes directed at Muslims, often under the banner of Hindu nationalism”. (Sit 2019) The Indian government continues to use the Hindutva ideology to subjugate all Muslims in India especially the Kashmiris, while they also escape accountability by claiming that whatever happens in Kashmir is an ‘internal matter’. Recently even though many major international forums have started raising more and more concerns about the Kashmiri condition, we need to ask ourselves, does it really change something? Seven bloodied decades filled with cries of the innocent, yet the pellets still rain, yet the valley still mourns. Kashmir cries for freedom, it begs for freedom, it bleeds for freedom, it dies for freedom. After all this is over, who will we free?
Ganguly, Meenakshi. 2019. Kashmir: UN Reports Serious Abuses. July 10. https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/07/10/kashmir-un-reports-serious-abuses.
Iqbal, Dr Rahat. 2020. Hindutva – Indian Policy Towards Jammu & Kashmir. July 22nd. https://strafasia.com/hindutva-indian-policy-towards-jammu-kashmir/.
Sit, Ming Wai. 2019. Hindu Nationalism and Its Impact on Kashmir. December 17. https://www.geopoliticalmonitor.com/hindu-nationalism-and-its-impact-on-kashmir/.
UN. 1976. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. March 23. https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx.
UN 1948. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. December 10. https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/.