International Seminar on Human Rights Violations in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir
Palace of Westminster, UK Parliament Building, London (4 February 2019)
Remarks by Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi
Honourable MP Rehman Chishti, Chairman All Parties Parliamentary Group on Pakistan;
Honourable MP Debbie Abrahams, Chairperson All Parties Parliamentary Group on Kashmir;
President Azad Jammu & Kashmir Sardar Masood Khan;
Honourable Members of the House of Lords, House of Commons and the European Parliament;
My colleagues, Chairman Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and honourable Members of the Committee;
Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen!
Assalam-o-Alaikum and Good Afternoon,
It is encouraging and invigorating to see such a large assembly of supporters of the Kashmir cause gathered here today
I wish to thank MP Chishti for his kind invitation and for organizing this event
I wish to acknowledge with gratitude the presence of Honourable Kjell Bodevik, former Prime Minister of Norway; Honourable Lee Rhinnon former Senator of Australia and Datuk Seri Sheikh Ahmad Awang, Representative of Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organization.
A very special thanks to the All Parties Parliamentary Group on Kashmir for speaking out against human rights abuses in IoK.
By calling on the Indian government to inter alia repeal the draconian laws, ban use of pellet guns, open jails for inspection, and initiate a comprehensive public investigation into identities of bodies in mass and umarked graves, the Group has laid bare some of the worst human rights abuses being perpetrated in IoK.
I feel empowered to be with you, both in my personal capacity as a democrat, an ardent supporter of the Kashmiris’ right of self determination and as the Foreign Minister of a country that remains a party to the Jammu & Kashmir dispute
We are here to express solidarity and make common cause with all those who love and value freedom, despise oppression, and stand up for what is just and right.
In Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir, humanity is bleeding, the Valley is burning, people are distressed
Under the heavy burden of alien occupation that grows more stifling and more suffocating with each passing day.
Each passing day brings sordid news of rape, murder, killing and grievous injury inflicted upon a hapless civilian population by Indian occupation forces armed to their teeth, and unshackled by any restraint of civility or law, reason or compassion.
Each passing moment unfolds new trials and tribulations, new tragedies and traumas
Yet with each passing second, the reality of the Indian occupation becomes self-evident: that it is an occupation of a territory and a people alienated from, and alien to India.
And that no matter what depraved barbarities the occupation unleashes, Kashmiris will be masters of their own destiny
What my friends, is the Kashmiris’ cardinal sin for which for seventy years now, they are facing so heavy a retribution?
Why with such surgical precision, is an entire generation of young men and women being killed, blinded, maimed and raped?
Why is there a deafening silence, dogged (dog-id) denial, blanket censorship and callous indifference to the plight of innocents in what is acclaimed to be the world’s largest democracy?
Why this exceptional cruelty?
Is it because they seek their legitimate right to self determination granted to them by numerous UNSC resolutions?
Or because their hearts and minds, bodies and souls yearn for living their lives as they want?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Self determination is not a gift or endowment
It is the most fundamental of rights, the most inalienable of freedoms
Some seventy years ago, when the United Nations was born out of the ashes of world war, this right, this basic tenet of International law was embedded into the Charter of the UN, and repeated in subsequent affirmations, the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, and on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights
Seventy years ago also, the world adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, outlining the individual rights and freedoms that every human being is entitled to irrespective of colour, race, cast or creed.
About the same time, the Indian military marched into the Valley of Kashmir triggering what has been the longest dispute on agenda of the UN
For seventy years the idealism and promise of the United Nations, the prospect of the collective conscience of man rising to the occasion and acting in unison, has repeatedly hit against the hard rock of real politik, the harsh reality of Indian occupation
It was India that committed to holding a free and fair plebiscite to determine the will of the Kashmiri people.
It was Indian leadership that repeatedly reaffirmed this commitment
And it is India that has repeatedly reneged on its solemn commitments
Choosing instead the destructive path of genocidal repression
I have five questions.
ONE: Where in the world will you find such a heavy concentration of armed forces equipped with draconian laws meant to institutionalise violence by these forces against an unarmed civilian population?
I am referring to the Armed Forces Special Powers and Public Safety Acts that give legal cover to armed personnel to assume at once the mantle of law enforcer, judge, jury and executioner. And act with complete and unfettered impunity
Even under these laws, the central government has failed to grant approval for prosecution of a single case of human rights abuse. Not a single prosecution, not one conviction!
TWO: Where in the world do you find mass graves?
In its 2009 report ‘Buried Evidence’, the NGO International People’s Tribunal and Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons investigated hundreds of mass graves throughout occupied Jammu & Kashmir. It concluded that the bodies unearthed were of indigenous Kashmiri Muslims, who had been killed by Indian occupation forces on the false pretext that they were infiltrators.
THREE: Where do you find mass rape and sexual abuse being used as an instrument of torture?
The Kunan-Poshpura incident that led to gang rape of over 100 innocent women by Indian army personnel back in 1991, is without parallel in modern history.
Its victims still cry out for justice
FOUR: Where is justice for 8 year old Asifa Bano of Kathua (Kutth-wa) who was brutally raped to death?
In India processions were taken out in favour of the rapists; elected members of the government spoke out in their defence, and concerted efforts are being made reportedly, to discredit the evidence and exonerate the criminals.
FIVE: Under which canon of humanitarian law is blinding of innocent protestors by use of pellet guns a justified action? How was the use of pellet guns justified against 20-month-old Hiba?
Amnesty International’s report, ‘Losing Sight in Kashmir’ records 88 cases of deliberate blinding out of thousands of pellet gun victims.
The UN OHCHR Report cites 6,221 people injured by pellet guns between July 2016 – Feb 2017 including 728 with eye injury.
As if all this was not enough, there is credible evidence to suggest that India intends to permanently alter occupied Jammu & Kashmir’s demographic profile.
Efforts are underway to amend or do away with Article 370 of the Indian constitution, stripping away whatever little autonomy IoK has on paper.
Even while suppressing the Kashmiris’ valid and just aspirations, India has relied on a smokescreen of intricately woven and fundamentally flawed false narratives, deceits and assertions to paint the Kashmiri struggle as terrorism sponsored by Pakistan and supported by few in the valley
Each time the human rights situation in occupied Kashmir deteriorates, India ratchets up tensions along the Line of Control.
In the name of stopping terrorists, killing civilians on both side of the LoC
Even as its forces continue to perpetrate the most heinous acts of terror imaginable
Each time it finds the going getting tough, it diverts domestic and international opinion by raking up tensions with Pakistan.
Not any longer
Truth is not always the most convenient fiction. Reality has a way of manifesting itself; fact has a way of coming out.
Last year for the first time, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published a nearly 50-page report on the human rights situation in Kashmir, notably Indian occupied Kashmir.
It chronicles in great detail, instances of arbitrary and excessive use of force, arrests, torture, sexual violence, restrictions on freedom of expression and reprisals against defenders of human rights over the eventful two year period, from mid 2016 till mid 2018.
It underscores that 145 were killed and nearly 10,000 injured in this period, due to excessive use of force, including bullets, metal pellets and chemical shells by the Indian occupation forces.
The report inter alia calls on both India and Pakistan to fully respect the Kashmiris’ right to self determination as enshrined in international law.
Most significantly it calls upon the Human Rights Council to set up a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.
Pakistan has welcomed and endorsed the call for the Commission of Inquiry.
India has reacted with traditional obduracy.
On the heels of the Report, the UK All Parties Parliamentary Group on Kashmir published its own findings on the human rights situation in Indian occupied Kashmir, echoing concerns raised in the OHCHR document, and vindicating Pakistan’s long standing position.
The reports have three common features:
A) They are authored by neutral observers representing informed international opinion which could not have possibly been biased in favour of one side or another
B) They carry scathing criticism of the Indian occupation forces, the human rights abuses their members perpetrate, and the special laws that allow such actions with impunity.
C) They build upon and reaffirm validity of the large body of research carried by NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Asia Watch and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In a world replete with political expediency and transient morality these reports, and the seminar that is being organized here today, give us comfort, comfort in the fact that the conscience of humanity is not dead
that freedom loving, just and God fearing people the world over still care about the plight of the Kashmiris and are concerned
And that no doctrine of state security or sovereignty can justify heinous acts of violence
Justice may be delayed but will not be denied.
To our Kashmiri brethren, I wish to assure that they are not, nor ever will be, alone in their just struggle.
that we will continue to lend to the freedom struggle, every possible political, diplomatic and moral support.
And stand by their side every step of the way.
To our redoubtable diaspora, I say that it is time for a charter of affirmative action
The Commission of Inquiry must be constituted at the earliest.
People must be named, blamed and shamed
Evidence must be gathered, cases must be built
And murderers, uniformed or not, indemnified or not, prosecuted.
To conscientious members of civil society everywhere, I say it is your collective responsibility to lend voice to the voiceless and give strength to the oppressed.
And to members of media fraternity, I urge objective and detailed reporting on the ongoing atrocities. In the court of international opinion, a higher reputational cost must be incurred by those who act with shameless, senseless disregard.
If we feel nothing, say nothing, do nothing in the face of blatant inhumanity, then we are perhaps equally at fault.
This apathy must end.
I laud our British friends and colleagues, particularly members of the All Parties Parliamentary Group on Kashmir for remaining seized of the matter, and for their efforts to sensitize the British public and the world at large to the plight of the Kashmiris.
The night of despair may be long but it is not endless
The darker the night, the closer the dawn
I am convinced that the dawn of self determination of the people of Kashmir is near.
The blood of the martyrs, the sacrifice of millions will not be in vain.