The Indian reaction to Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s address at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 23 in New York was along predictable lines. The Kashmir dispute had suffered stalemate for the past decades when Prime Minister Nehru started dragging his feet on the question of a UN-supervised plebiscite in the Jammu and Kashmir state. What happened subsequently was the enactment of the drama to prove to the world that J&K was an ‘integral’ part of India. It is besides the point that the Indian rhetoric has only alienated the Kashmiri people to the extent that they celebrate Indian national days as black days while Pakistan’s national days attract spontaneous celebrations throughout the occupied state.
Unfurling of Pakistani flags, illuminating houses on Pakistan’s national days or distributing sweets to mark the winning of the Pakistani cricket team against India have become a sheer embarrassment for the Indian leadership ever since India rescinded from honouring its promise of allowing a UN-supervised plebiscite in the occupied state. Even objective Indian politicians belonging to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), such as Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha, admitted that there was complete alienation amongst the Kashmiri people against India. This is not the first time that Indian leaders have spoken the truth. Another stalwart of the Indian independence movement Jaiprakash Narayan in his articles in Hindustan Times and debates in the Lok Sabha (lower house) had openly admonished Prime Minister Nehru for reneging from his promise of allowing the right to self-determination to the Kashmiri people under the auspices of the UN. Indeed, Indian intransigence prevailed upon sanity to overrule the dispensation of justice to the hapless Kashmiris.
Given the apathy or expediency of the big powers, the fate of the Kashmiri people hangs in the balance. It is the political expediency that the US’s heart bleeds upon the plight of the Uyghur Muslims in the Xinxiang province of China. Still, it looks the other way on the Indian brutalities perpetrated in the Illegally Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), where over one hundred thousand men, women and children have been brutally murdered, thousands are missing or behind bars in Indian jails
The chronology of deception by the Indian leadership on the Kashmir dispute is so blatant that even its repetition becomes an embarrassment. However, the history of colonization is replete with such excesses that indigenous people were subjugated to slavery for centuries. Whether in Australia, New Zealand, Canada or America, the sons of the soil were enslaved and, upon resistance, brutally killed. Now historians are digging up the origins of indigenous people in these countries for academic purposes without offering remorse for their forefathers’ acts. India has applied the Chanakyan deception to linger on the plebiscite issue whenever they came under international pressure. Meanwhile, it created a mindset in the country which believes that Jammu and Kashmir is an ‘integral’ part of India—a blatant lie and sheer defiance of the UN Security Council’s resolutions about the status of Jammu and Kashmir. In the past, India had adopted a two-pronged strategy to justify its occupation.
First, for many decades, the Indian leaders have been repeating the mantra of secularism, warning that a plebiscite in Kashmir would damage the credentials of India as a secular country besides casting a negative backlash on the Muslims in the rest of India. The Indian argument lacked legitimacy as Kashmir was an international issue. India not only took to the UNSC, but also agreed that a plebiscite should ascertain the will of the Kashmiri people to join Pakistan or India. Therefore, linking the plebiscite to the fate of Indian Muslims in India was hogwash. The Indian Muslims have always been living like second-rate citizens; their plight has been further aggravated after the takeover of Hindutva forces led by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), to which Prime Minister Modi has been a parcharak (preacher).
Second, successive Indian governments have argued that since many elections have taken place in Jammu and Kashmir, the people of the state have exercised their right to self-determination in favour of India. Fortunately, the UNSC called the Indian bluff. It made it clear that holding elections in the occupied state would not mean a declaration of the Kashmiris will in India’s favour. Under Resolution 91 (1951), dated March 30, 1951, the UNSC stated that the “final disposition of the state of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.” The same resolution further affirmed that “the convening of a Constituent Assembly as recommended by the General Council of the ‘All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference’ and any action that Assembly might attempt to take to determine the future shape and affiliation of the entire state or any part thereof would not constitute a disposition of the state in accordance with the above principle”.
Initially, India applied many tactics to woo the Kashmiri populace. While many pliable Kashmiri politicians got enamoured with the Indian largesse and supported the Indian contention on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, they were booted out whenever they tried to raise the rights of the Kashmiri people, even for their motives. Sheikh Abdullah, his son Farooq Abdullah and grandson Omar Abdullah have been a pawn in the hands of the Indian ruling elite. Like Abdullahs, other pro-Indian politicians were declared pariahs with the stroke of a pen on August 5, 2019, when the Hindutva-dominated Modi government put them behind bars or house arrest as soon as Articles 370 and 35-A in the Indian Constitution were revoked, which allowed special status to the Kashmir state, especially forbidding non-Kashmiris to purchase property or voting rights in the occupied state. For all intent and purposes, the Hindutva dispensation is clamouring to turn the Kashmiris Red Indians into their land.
The question arises as to how a country claiming to be the world’s largest democracy can deny the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people. The UN Charter is the custodian of the right to self-determination of the people struggling for their independence. It even allows armed struggle for freedom and the right to self-determination. Interestingly, India is a candidate to become a permanent member of the UNSC—a body supposed to protect the sovereignty of the states. Incidentally, except for India, the other claimants for the permanent seat in the UNSC – Japan, Germany and Brazil – do not violate the UN Charter or any UNSC resolutions. The international community will be justified in asking India to first honour its pledge to the Kashmiri people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination before demanding a permanent seat in the UNSC. In any case, occupation of Kashmir will always embarrass India.
Note: This article appeared in BOL, dated 02 October 2022.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not necessarily represent Institute’s policy.