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EDITORIAL: When in August 2019 India’s ultra-Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped the illegally Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K) of its special status resorting to worst human rights violations and abuses, he had inducted extra troops into IIOJ&K, already the world’s most militarised region. More than three years later, Kashmiri people remain as a resolute as ever to throw off the yoke of occupation. As usual, this year they observed India’s Republic Day on January 26 as ‘Black Day’.

According to media reports, fearing protests the occupation authorities had deployed soldiers and police personnel everywhere, also erecting barricades all along the route leading to the cricket stadium, the main venue of Republic Day functions in Srinagar. In other parts of the troubled territory as well strict measures were put in place to prevent anti-India demonstrations.

Still, people hoisted black flags inscribed with the slogan “26th January Black Day for Kashmiris”, in different areas of Srinagar and other cities despite the physical harm the gesture could invite from occupation forces.

Since 1989 when the Kashmiri peoples’ simmering anger erupted in an open fight against Indian rule, more than a hundred thousand Kashmiris have lost their lives. Mass arrests, enforced disappearances, custodial killings, torture, rape, and use of pellet guns that have blinded scores of young protesters have continued with impunity, creating a huge humanitarian crisis. Hardly a day goes by without fresh reports of civilians or freedom fighters killed by security forces.

As a result, things have come to a point where even the previously pro-India former chief ministers of the disputed region, Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have been advising the Modi government to hold talks with the Kashmiri leaders as well as Pakistan to resolve the situation. Some sane people in India also do not like what they see in IIOJ&K.

A former External Affairs Minister and a senior BJP leader, Yashwant Sinha, who in 2017 made several visits to the Valley at the head of a concerned citizens’ fact-finding mission, in his report had called on Delhi to hold “multidimensional dialogue”, including talks with the Hurriyat Conference and Pakistan, and urged the government to improve human rights.

He also told a TV interview that the alienation of the masses of people in Jammu and Kashmir bothered him, adding “you just have to visit the Valley to realise that they have lost faith in us.” Yet Modi went on to change the state’s special status, and intensify repression. That though could not change the reality for the Kashmiri people. Consistent reports of casualty figures suggest use of repressive measures has not weakened their determination to gain freedom from Indian rule — which UNSC resolutions promised them more than 70 years ago.

As for Indian claims that the UN resolutions are not valid anymore, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made it clear only a few days ago that the world body still regards Jammu and Kashmir as a disputed territory and that the dispute needs to be resolved in accordance with UN resolutions. Lest anyone should still think otherwise, he explained: “we have, as you know, a peacekeeping operation there. We are, of course, committed.”

So is Pakistan, the other party to the dispute as recognised by the UNSC resolutions. India’s ruling Hindu chauvinist BJP-RSS combine though refuses to listen to voice of sanity from inside or outside the country, going on to perpetrate massive human rights abuses in IIOJ&K, and retching up tensions with Pakistan, which could lead to an all-out conflict between the two nuclear-armed nations. That is in no one’s interest. Western countries, especially the US, need to use their influence to settle the issue, for it could destabilise this entire region, including their friend, India.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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