Each year, Feb. 5 is commemorated across the globe as "Kashmir Solidarity Day" by millions of Kashmiris, as well as citizens of other countries. This day is a reaffirmation of the worldwide support for the inalienable rights of the Kashmiri people to self-determination as promised under the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.
This year, the day is being commemorated in the backdrop of a particularly painful year in the life of Kashmir.
People in Indian-occupied Kashmir are no strangers to tragedies. They have been enduring them for the past seven decades. However, in recent months, the magnitude and frequency of these tragedies has reached new heights – or more correctly, depths.
We are witnessing the same familiar pattern of colonial tactics to prolong the occupation on an increasingly larger scale. The oppression is eliciting a familiar human response of peaceful defiance to such tactics, and the tragic cycle continues. Repression prompts protests in Indian-occupied Kashmir, demanding right to self-determination. These protests are met with vicious force by the occupation forces. The use of brute force leads to more civilian deaths, and in turn triggers more protests.
While in the eyes of the occupation forces there is nothing sacred in Kashmir, they have now started targeting the funerals of slain Kashmiris. Each funeral leads to more deaths, which in turn result in more protests, and another train of funerals. No one knows when a funeral ends and a protest starts or a protest turns into a funeral. The funerals themselves have morphed into a show of resistance and defiance.
The vicious cycle
The vicious cycle has sadly come to define the life in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir of today.
The calculus of repression seems simple from the perspective of the occupation force. Every man, woman or a child calling for the right to self-determination must be treated as a "terrorist." This definition essentially encompasses the entire population in occupied-Kashmir.
However, the recent events in the Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir have once again proven beyond any shadow of doubt that the arbitrary killing of Kashmiri youth by occupation forces under the pretext of "fighting terrorism" can neither stem the tide of resistance nor befool the international community.
The waves of palpable anger and defiance unleashed by the extrajudicial killing of Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016 still continue to ripple across Jammu and Kashmir. An estimated quarter of a million Kashmiris attended his funeral alone. The circumstances of his death and the scenes witnessed on his funeral have been re-enacted many more times in subsequent months and years.
Earlier this month, dozens were injured when Indian security forces opened fire on civilians in Sugan in Shopian district in an attempt to prevent them from attending the funeral of another alleged Kashmiri "militant." However, this did not prevent thousands from turning out.
This is the ground reality in Indian-occupied Kashmir and flies in the face of the political doublespeak that labels this movement for self-determination as terrorism.
With over 700,000 occupation forces deployed in the region backed by "black laws" that allow impunity, Indian-occupied Kashmir remains one of the most militarily terrorized territories in the world.
Thousands of Kashmiris have been killed in extrajudicial "encounters" by the occupation forces. Hundreds of mass graves have been found. Many more Kashmiris remain missing. Earlier this month, the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in Indian-occupied Kashmir launched a "calendar" containing sketches and stories of their missing family members to remind the world that they would continue to wait for the return of their loved ones.
Kashmiris have and continue to endure excessive and disproportionate use of force; rape and sexual assault; torture; enforced disappearances; unending curfews; house arrests and arbitrary detentions; as well as collective, inhuman and degrading punishments.
Live ammunition has been frequently and indiscriminately used against protestors. Hundreds of Kashmiri men, women and children have suffered debilitating injuries as a result of the use of pellet guns – many losing their eyesight permanently. Indian-occupied Kashmir is now associated with "dead-eyes" owing to the indiscriminate use of pellet guns against civilians.
That explains why a more fearless defiance of the Indian occupation forces is emerging in Jammu and Kashmir today. When life loses all meaning, death is the only way to make a statement. Each and every escalating cycle of repression is being matched by an ever-stronger surge of Kashmiri resistance. Every time the wildfires of brute force wreak havoc in the Kashmiri communities, the seeds of defiance spring forth from the ashes even stronger.
The international actions
However, there are signs that the international community is now waking up to these gross violations of human rights.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recently issued a report on the situation in the Indian-occupied Kashmir that highlights many of these gross and systematic violations of human rights. The report also calls for early institution of a Commission of Inquiry under U.N. auspices to investigate and fix responsibility.
The U.K. Parliament's All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir (APPKG) has also outlined Indian human rights violations in occupied Jammu & Kashmir. It reinforces many of the findings of the OHCHR report, especially the use of pellet guns, draconian laws used for oppression as well as the presence of unmarked graves and enforced disappearances.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) too highlighted these gross violations of human rights, underscoring the need for sending a fact-finding mission to Indian-occupied Kashmir.
Despite the increasing chorus of such calls and the piling evidence, India continues to ignore legitimate demands for an international probe into human rights violations in occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Like Palestine, Kashmir remains one of the longest lasting situations of foreign occupation, and the longest unresolved issue on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council. It is a dispute that continues to threaten peace and stability in South Asia and hinders the realization of the goal of durable peace between Pakistan and India.
It is time for the successors of India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to honor the pledge he gave to the Kashmiris and to the world:
"We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. The pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it."
Human resilience and defiance against oppression and occupation cannot be subdued through force. Kashmiris are a living proof of this. The more they die in the pursuit of their cherished dream, the more life they give to it.
* Spokesperson and first secretary of the Embassy of Pakistan in Ankara