Today marks a year since New Delhi revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution that had granted special status to Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir since its partition in 1947. Fearing a protest by Kashmiris who consider Aug. 5, 2019, to be a “black day,” India once again imposed a lockdown yesterday with immediate effect.
Article 370, along with Article 35A, established special status for the disputed territory and defined a separate set of laws for the Kashmiri people. These included limited citizenship, ownership of property and fundamental rights for current residents of Jammu and Kashmir, which were critical for a plebiscite to be held under the United Nation's auspices. Due to this law, Indian citizens from other states could not purchase land or property in Jammu and Kashmir, but that has changed as India has maintained its illegal annexation agenda and set new rules after revoking Article 370.
India championed the move as a step that would bring development and peace to Kashmir, but instead, daily violence has increased, the economy has collapsed and the livelihoods of Kashmiris have been destroyed. Since then, India has brought in new draconian laws such as the Public Safety Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, as well as new residency rules such as the Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure), which are aimed at shifting the demographics of the Muslim-majority region, according to locals who want independence from India or unification with Pakistan.
The Kashmiri people have been struggling for 73 years since the day the British decided to end their 200-year rule on the Indian subcontinent and divide it into two separate nations: Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India. The partition process was not simple because, in addition to the British-controlled territories, the subcontinent also consisted of about 550 sovereign princely states ruled by local monarchs and other territories under French, Portuguese or Omani rule. Kashmir is the sole unfinished agenda of partition and the only region of British India that has not become a part of one of the two countries or gained independence.
The Kashmiri crisis was one of the first issues brought to the U.N. in 1948 in the post-World War II era. It has been 72 years since the Kashmir dispute was first debated there, but a solution has yet to be reached. On April 21, 1948, U.N. Security Council Resolution 47 was adopted concerning the Kashmir conflict. Accordingly, the Kashmiris were going to decide their future with a plebiscite – either they would accede to Pakistan or India. Although Security Council resolutions are legally binding, India was belligerent, refused to cooperate and blocked the implementation of the vote. Today, there are 11 Security Council resolutions for a free and impartial plebiscite in Kashmir, but New Delhi doesn't just block them, it also uses violent methods to continue its illegal occupation.
Since 1989, over 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed by Indian forces. According to official figures, out of these, more than 7,200 people have been murdered in Indian custody, more than 23,000 women have been widowed, more than 110,000 children have been orphaned and more than 11,000 women have been raped by Indian occupation forces. In addition, over 7,000 unnamed mass graves have been discovered with thousands of victims. Some 10,000 Kashmiri youth have been injured due to the deliberate use of pellet rounds. With the deployment of around 200,000 additional troops last year, which raised the number of Indian occupation forces in the state to 700,000, Jammu and Kashmir became the most militarized zone and largest prison in the world today.
Unfortunately, emboldened by international silence toward its illegal annexation agenda and motivated by ideological compulsions, Indian aggression is systematically increasing. The situation in Jammu and Kashmir requires urgent international attention, but the world is silent and deaf, and the tension between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan, which have fought two wars over Kashmir, has not been eased. Experts have already begun to calculate the effects of a possible war to determine how many millions of people will die and how many billions of people will suffer in the aftermath.
The Kashmiri crisis from time to time attracts attention from numerous actors inside and outside the affected region, but in the middle of a power struggle, every country is looking to gain its own benefits. Pakistan has been knocking on everyone's door in order to mobilize the international community and find a diplomatic solution, but disappointingly, its efforts have yet to go anywhere. So, it looks like Islamabad has to do more than just ask the world to do something.
Showing the international community that you are ready to act unilaterally if outside states continue to be blind and deaf, and that your nation will not wait any longer is the new way of diplomacy in today’s world. This is compelling diplomacy. These days, getting started on a critical issue is the only way of showing that something has to be done. This is the only way to say, “If you do not do what is necessary, then I will do it.”
If Islamabad acts more boldly, it will be a reminder and a message to the world that no one will or can start to save the Kashmiris except Pakistan. Only then will the Kashmir issue hit the headlines, and no one will be able to ignore it.