Human rights work in tandem with Kashmir peace initiatives. The two do not war with one another. The idea that suppression of human rights promotes peace is discredited by all history, including that of Kashmir. History should not imprison the future, but neither can it be ignored in assessing the justice and morality of aspirations.
India has unilaterally annexed Kashmir in the early 1950s with a special constitutional status that promised autonomy. But India gradually reneged on its promise, and Kashmir was reduced to virtually the same status as all of Indias other States.
Kashmiris, however, are exceptionally patient and accommodating. For years they struggled through peaceful and democratic means to protest their denial of self-determination. But 1987 marked the straw that broke the camels back. Another rigged election by India created despair, especially among the Kashmiri youth. India Today magazine reported, In the Amira Kadal constituency of Srinagar, Muslim United Front (MUFs) Syed Mohammed Yusuf Shah (Alias: Syed Salahuddin) was a candidate. As the vote counting began, it was becoming clear that Yusuf Shah was winning by a landslide. His opponent, Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah, went home dejected. But he was summoned back by the electoral officials and declared the winner. When the crowds protested, the police arrived and arrested Yusuf Shah and his supporters. They were held in custody till the end of 1987. Further, Indias ruthless suppression of peaceful dissent destroyed the moderate option, resulting in the latest uprising in 1989.
Since the 1989 uprising, more than 100,000 Kashmiris have died. Greater numbers have been tortured, mutilated, kidnapped and arbitrarily arrested. Political prisoners number in the thousands. Emergency laws were enacted. The gruesome human rights landscape in Kashmir has been confirmed by every independent human rights organization in addition to the recent report by the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights.
Although it is neither for Pakistan nor for India to determine the self-determination timetable for more than 22 million Kashmiris, we welcome the peace initiative between the South Asian neighbors, which include negotiations over Kashmir. We believe in the universality of human rights and human aspirations. Thus, we welcome the initiative to the extent it seeks to lift a heavy financial and military burden from the necks of Pakistan and Indian.
Indias so-called democracy in Kashmir resembles Myanmars patently bogus democracy. The recent local bodies elections are emblematic.
Kashmirs right, however, is not self-executing. Diplomacy, perseverance, and small but gradual steps will be necessary. The following is urgent to jump start progress on human rights and peace in Kashmir:
1. India must repeal all of its draconian laws that violate human rights in Kashmir;
2. Military hostilities must cease immediately, and a scheduled withdrawal of security forces should commence;
3. All political prisoners must be released;
4. Fundamental human rights to assemble peacefully for political purposes, to freedom of speech and of association, and to freedom of religion should be recognized and honored;
5. Kashmiris should be included in all future negotiations along with India and Pakistan..
Fulfillment of this 5-point agenda would not be a dead end but a beginning of a better tomorrow.
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai
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