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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

An open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron on the occasion of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UK

An open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron on the occasion of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UK
By: Zafar Khan*

To Remind Prime Minister Modi of India: on the unabated oppression and violations of basic human rights in Indian occupied Jammu Kashmir, including the denial of right to assembly and free speech. Denying the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front-JKLF- and the Huriyat Conference the democratic right to engage with the public.  The rise of extremist communalism and chauvinism with the BJP and RSS nexus in Jammu Kashmir.
 India’s flagrant and blatant denial of the inherent, inalienable and internationally recognised right of Kashmiris to self- determination. India’s betrayal of the United Nations’ trust by reneging on her responsibilities and obligations under the UN resolutions to hold a fair free and democratic plebiscite on the political status of Jammu Kashmir. India’s equally utter disregard for bilateralism over Kashmir by refusal to engage with Pakistan and reneging on the inherent locus standi of 20 million Kashmiris in the dispute.
Mr Cameron the silence and inaction over  Kashmir dispute by the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council,-UNSC- including the United Kingdom, has heightened India’s belligerent and truculent attitude on Kashmir.
Mr Cameron, India’s Prime Minister must be reminded on his country’s solemn obligations and undertakings, to facilitate a free, fair and democratic plebiscite under the UN’s auspices, so that the will of 20 million Kashmiris could be determined peacefully, over the political status of  their country.
Size of India’s population and economy alone, should not merit a permanent seat on the UN Security Council for India, as it has patently failed to uphold the fundamental principles of the United Nations on the Kashmir dispute.
India’s contribution in the development of constructive and peaceful environment within South Asia is equally lamentable. Thus can India, especially under Mr Modi be considered a reliable and responsible state in the region?  India has certainly become more belligerent and hegemonic in the region under Prime Minister Modi and a real threat to regional stability. Far from seeking a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir dispute Mr Modi has fuelled an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty.
Mr Cameron, during his visit to the Valley of Kashmir on 7 October, Prime Minister Modi declared that he would not listen to anyone on Kashmir. These are hardly the words of a statesman who is out on a mission of peace and reconciliation on Kashmir dispute and his country’s relations with her immediate neighbours.
Mr Cameron as you welcome Prime Minister Modi to London your government is duty bound to take up with him the unresolved political status of Jammu Kashmir, as the UK is custodian of justice and fair play by the virtue of being a permanent member of the UNSC.
Mr Modi should be taken to task on communalism, extremism and chauvinism that has been unleashed under his watch in Kashmir.
He should be taken to task on the oppressive and undemocratic methods adopted by Indian occupation forces to stifle public expression, and deny the pro freedom and anti-status quo politicians like Mr Yasin Malik**, their democratic right to engage with the masses in the public square.
He should be reminded that on 1 January 1948 it was an Indian government led by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru which took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations.
He should be reminded that on 27 October 1947 India invaded Kashmir by landing her troops in Srinagar, under the pretext that the then despotic ruler had acceded Kashmir to India on the previous day, when in reality he was not in control of the country, as he was fleeing from  his rebellious subjects to Jammu from Srinagar.
He should be reminded that it is more credible to believe that a plan might already have existed to invade Kashmir under the pretext of accession, when British India was partitioned into India and Pakistan on 14 and 15 August 1947 respectively.
He should be reminded that India invaded Kashmir to throttle a freedom movement of people who endured unimaginable suffering and despotism at the hands of their rulers.
Mr Modi should be reminded of the fact that unlike Pakistan, India refused to enter into ‘Stand Still Agreement’ with the Government of Jammu Kashmir prior to the partition of British India- which clearly indicates India’s ill intent towards Kashmir.
Mr Modi should be reminded that newly emancipated and decolonised India had in fact invaded a country that was an independent and sovereign nation between 15 August, (India’s Independence Day) and 27 October 1947, the day Jammu Kashmir was invaded.
This is certainly the conclusion of independent observers on the events of the period which includes among others, the respected British historian and expert on Kashmir Alastair lamb. Poignantly therefore, Kashmiris throughout the world, mark 27 October as a Black day in their history.
Mr Modi should be reminded that there are numerous United Nations Resolutions which clearly stipulate that a plebiscite under the UN’s auspices must be facilitated by India to determine the future status of the state of Jammu Kashmir.
The first of these resolutions was passed in April 1948 then subsequently a plethora of resolutions followed in June 1948, August 1948, January 1949, March 1950, March 1951 and January 1957; all these resolutions require the state of India mainly, to facilitate a plebiscite for determining the status of Jammu Kashmir with unfettered participation of the populace in the plebiscite.
Mr Modi should be reminded that India made many commitments and pledges at the UN, including the following to comply with the wishes, aspirations and rights of the people of Kashmir:
“that the question of Kashmir’s future status vis-a-vis its neighbours and the world at large and the question on whether Kashmir should withdraw from her accession to India, and either accede to Pakistan or remain independent with a right to claim admission as a member of the United Nations all this we have recognised to be a matter for unfettered decision by the people of Kashmir after normal life is restored to them” UNSC document Agenda 227.
How ironic then that India demands a permanent seat on the UN Security Council while she has completely reneged on her solemn commitments and obligations in relation to the Kashmir dispute.
India has failed to honour the Shimla Accord of 1972 with Pakistan that required both countries to resolve the Kashmir issue in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. We believe Pakistan should now rescind the Shimla Accord because it no longer has any validity due to India’s refusal to engage on the question of Kashmir’s future political status under its framework.
Today Mr Modi and his lieutenants have gone as far as to say that there is no Kashmir problem or Kashmir issue, as was declared quite blatantly by Mrs Sushma Swaraj, the Indian Foreign Minister in September 2015, at the UN General assembly in New York.
It is incredible therefore that India is demanding a seat at the top table in the comity of nations when she does not care to honour the resolutions of this August world body, which with the purpose of its inception, is bound to uphold the fundamental principles of justice, liberty and democracy for the subjugated, dispossessed and colonised people of the world like the 20 million people of Jammu Kashmir across both sides of the Line of Control-LoC- .

Sadly Mr Cameron the UN and the permanent members of the UN Security Council, on the question of Kashmir’s future political and constitutional status, have also patently failed the 20 million Kashmiris on their inherent and inalienable right of self-determination. United Nations Security Council  inaction  has embolden India to hold on to Kashmir with the force of arms as there are over 700-000 Indian military and paramilitary forces of occupation in the territory.
These forces, over the past 27 years in particular, have killed around 100-000 people, with thousands missing and many hundreds buried in unmarked graves throughout all parts of Indian occupied Jammu Kashmir. Over these 27 years the Indian forces have committed some of the most outrageous acts of brutality against a defenceless people including rape and torture.
Mr Cameron Prime Minister Modi should be taken to task on the extremism and chauvinism that his political rhetoric and Hindutva ideology of the Bharatiya Janata Party- BJP- has encouraged in Jammu Kashmir. Mr Modi’s BJP led government has aggressively pursued its chauvinistic political ideology and has orchestrated to subvert the harmonious social character of society in Indian occupied Jammu Kashmir.
Mr Modi never tires of reminding the world of India being a democracy of one hundred and twenty five crores-1.25 billion- people. In reality however Indian democracy is defunct and quite tenuous beyond the borders of Jammu Kashmir. As if presence of 700, 000 military and para military forces of occupation was not sufficient in Indian occupied territory, the BJP government has unleashed forces of extremism that have become out of control in Kashmir.
The ultra-right wing extremism and chauvinism of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Shiv Sena, Vishwa Hindu Prashad (VHP), and an assortment of other belligerent extremists, have taken lead from Prime Minister Modi’s Hindutva ideology and bellicose political rhetoric that has given rise to extremism which has crossed all limits of decency and civilised behaviour.
Mr Cameron political and democratic expression is being stifled through a combination of militarised oppression, violent extremism, chauvinism and acts of communalism of the BJP and the RSS. Anti-status quo popular leaders like Mr Yasin Malik are prevented contact with masses in an alarming frequency which is an affront to democracy and would not be tolerated in a democratic society.
As can be seen below, Mr Malik for example has been arrested or put under house arrest dozens of times over the past year. Only in the period of last couple of months alone he has been prevented from participating in public events and activities many times. During the 2014 assembly elections Mr Malik was incarcerated throughout the seven week long election process. He was denied not only contact with the public but the occupation authorities violated his fundamental democratic right of assembly and free expression, by keeping him in custody.
 Soon after coming into power Mr Modi intended to change the character of Kashmiri society on the one hand, and on the other Kashmir’s relationship under the so called accession treaty with India- a treaty which in reality is temporary contrary to India’s claim that Kashmir is an integral part of its union. Within first 5 months of his Premiership Mr Modi visited Kashmir 8 times to bring about his intended change. In the assembly elections he had hoped to secure a majority for his BJP which he failed to obtain despite investing so much time and effort.
Mr Modi’s party however secured 29 seats in the 87 seat assembly but all of the seats were won from the Jammu province. This result reflected the communal polarisation of Kashmiri politics with the Modi factor that fanned the flames of BJP/ RSS Hindutva extreme chauvinism, especially in the non-Muslim majority Jammu province. Mr Modi’s government however forced a coalition with the Peoples’ Democratic Party and with the PDP began to influence policies and actions that have further communalised sections of society within the Jammu region with extreme chauvinist Hindutva political rhetoric.
Repressive and heavy handed actions against the JKLF- and in particular its Chairman Mr Yasin Malik, as well as other anti-status quo leaders have increased over the past year.
Mr Modi wished to abrogate article 370 of the Indian constitution which affirms the autonomous status of Jammu Kashmir, and stipulates the temporary and provisional nature of its relationship and arrangements with India.
However Mr Modi’s failure to have article 370 abrogated led him to embarked upon creating ‘facts on the ground’ by  making demographic changes both in Jammu as well as in the valley of Kashmir.
Kashmiris however whemently opposed the BJP machinations with political activism by the anti-status quo leaders like Mr Malik. The coalition however has exacerbated the political atmosphere due mainly in its failure to curb the rise of communalism and chauvinism of the BJP and RSS in Jammu region of the state.
Mr Cameron death of a young truck driver Zahid Rasool Butt (succumbed to his injuries on 18 October), who was attacked by RSS backed extremists in Unhamper, is a sad example of this state of affairs that now prevails in Jammu Kashmir. Yasin Malik has called this state of affairs a handiwork of rulers who have created an ‘atmosphere’ that ‘pollutes and communalises’ society.  Communal extremist and chauvinists act with impunity as they have no fear of penalties or legal retribution and their actions are an attempt to vitiate the traditional socio- cultural and political solidarity of Jammu Kashmir. Mr Cameron, it seems Prime Minister Modi is engaged in policies that would eventually lead to bifurcation of Indian occupied Jammu Kashmir on communal and religious lines.
 Mr Cameron the  BJP and RSS led extremism is a direct result of  Prime Minister Modi’s  political rhetoric which gives the extremists a green signal in adopting social, cultural and political chauvinism, that prior to 2014 had not been a factor in Kashmiri society and most definitely unheard of in the power politics within Indian occupied Jammu Kashmir.
The BJP and RSS extremism is a dangerous and troubling development that would further polarise Jammu Kashmir on religious lines. The ideological collusion and nexus of the BJP and the RSS is a toxic mix which creates fear, intimidation and violence that does not bode well for peace and communal harmony in the region as a whole and Jammu Kashmir in Particular. The presence of more than 700,000 military and paramilitary forces of occupation further emboldens the unholy nexus of these forces of communal disharmony and extremist chauvinism.
Mr Cameron the state oppression and denial of free movement, assembly and free speech is an intolerable situation, to which Mr Yasin Malik and other prominent anti-status quo leaders are subjected to day in day out. Prime Minister Modi’s frequent refrain of India being a democracy of 125 crore loses its meaning when a popular leader of Yasin Malik’s** stature is taken in custody or put under house arrest even during the wedding of his close family members.
As an example the following is an account of Mr Malik’s arrests since August which is a serious indictment against Mr Modi’s ‘democratic’ India.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
Details of Mr. Yasin Malik’s arrests and house arrest from August 2015.
·        On way to district Pulwama arrested at Pantha Chowk, Srinagar on 12 August while going to attend the funeral ceremony of one local innocent young civilian Bilal Ahmed Butt who was killed by Indian forces.
·        Ahead of Indo-Pak NSA meeting that was scheduled to be held on 23 August.
·        Mr. Malik was arrested from his residence and detained in a local Police Station (PS) on 20 August and released on Aug. 25.
·        Arrested at Safapora on 28 August while going to district HQ’s of Bandipora to lead and address a peaceful protest rally against human rights violations.
·        House arrested on 6 September on the pretext of Kashmir Flood Anniversary Peaceful Programmes that were scheduled to be held on 7 September organised by local trade and business community to remember the catastrophe and the losses. Released on 8 September.
·        Put under house arrest on 11 September and was not allowed to lead and address a peaceful rally at the district HQ in Ganderbal.
·        Arrested at Zenageer near Sopore and lodged at Sopore PS on 15 September and was not allowed to attend the funeral ceremony of  Bashir Ahmed and son 3 year old Burhan Bashir who were killed by unidentified gunmen backed by government sponsored special task force of police. He was later released on 17 September.
·        Arrested on 22 September while holding a token one day hunger strike against BJP, VHP and RSS high handedness and anti-Kashmir policies adopted by state and Indian authorities, and especially against RSS threats to block Jammu highway from the Valley of Kashmir.
·        Put under house arrest on the evening of 24 September on the pretext of Eid-ul-Azha the next day. Was not allowed to offer Eid prayers.
·        Put under house arrest a day before he was scheduled to lead and address a peaceful protest rally at Kangan in district Ganderbal on 2 October.
·        Arrested from his residence on 8 October and detained at the Kothibagh PS on the pretext that he was to lead a peaceful protest rally at Lal Chowk, Srinagar the following day on 9 October against human rights violations and high handedness of RSS, Indian forces and state authorities. It is worth mentioning here that his elder sister’s son was to enter into wedlock on 8 October and Mr. Malik, and his maternal uncle were to accompany the groom’s wedding party -Barat- and the wedding  function was to take place at Mr. Malik’s residence.
·        Mr Malik was put under house arrest on 11 October when RSS extremists attacked truck drivers from the valley of Kashmir on Jammu Highway near Udhampur. Mr. Malik appealed to the public to observe a peaceful bandh (shut down) on 12 October against the attacks by BJP and RSS extremists and chauvinists backed by government machinery. Mr Malik was immediately put under house arrest.
·        Mr Malik was prevented from attending the funeral of Zahid Rasool Butt (murdered truck driver) at Islamabad in South Kashmir, and was put under house arrest 19 October. Zahid Rasool was attacked by RSS extremists on Jammu Highway near Udhampur and succumbed to his injuries on 18 October.
·        Prevented from addressing a rally in Islamabad on 20 October, to protest at the murder of Zahid Rasool Butt and taken in custody at Islamabad police station.
·        Brought back to Srinagar and kept under custody at Kothibagh Police Station 20Oct to 26 Oct despite suffering serious neck injuries at the hands of the  Central Reserve Police Force-CRPF (para military force)
·        On release Mr Malik admitted himself to the Soura Medical Institute for immediate emergency medical treatment for his neck injuries.
·        Put under House arrest on 26 Oct to 27Oct.
·        Arrested on 31 October ahead of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Srinagar (Scheduled for 7 Nov), and to date (9 Nov) being kept in solitary confinement at Kothibagh police station in Srinagar.

Mr Cameron the method and manner of Mr Malik’s arrests, is clearly undemocratic and devoid of any justification. Mr Malik is a popular leader who commands respect and love of his people and by denying him direct contact with the masses is a serious disregard of his political and democratic rights. Mr Malik’s frequent arrests and denial of his right to engage with the public is a clear indication that India fears the popular Will of the Kashmiri masses.
Despite India’s incessant mantra that Kashmir is an integral part of India or that Kashmir issue does not exist, and that it is all due to Pakistan’s ‘involvement’, and that people of Kashmir are ‘happy’ with India; all that can be said in response to the above, is that India should allow democratic, moderate and popular leaders like Yasin Malik to engage in the public square freely and without harassment and intimidation; and that she should allow for a conducive political environment to emerge for the long awaited UN sanctioned and supervised plebiscite to take place.
Mr Cameron this is a challenge India and above all its current Prime Minister Mr Modi is not prepared to accept. He denies the leadership and the people of Kashmir, to have a say on the future status of their country in a democratic and free popular expression. India’s intransigence and prevarications over Kashmir are a clear betrayal of the UN’s trust over India’s obligations on Kashmir.
Mr Cameron Pakistan too considers the Kashmir issue and the dispute as an ‘unfinished agenda’ of the partition of British India. It therefore becomes all the more important that the dispute is resolved in accordance with the democratic Will and fundamental rights of the people.
Regrettably Mr Cameron your Government considers India as a responsible state that it can be trusted with permanent membership of the UNSC.  For Kashmiris however United Kingdom’s approach amounts to rewarding India for her intransigence and betrayals over its obligations, both at the UN as well as in bilateral commitments on Kashmir. As a permanent member of the UNSC Britain has an obligation to ensure that Kashmiris are allowed the opportunity to exercise their inherent and inalienable right to self-determination through a democratic referendum or a plebiscite.
The question that Kashmiris justifiably ask of powers like the UK with important positions in international affairs- are they prepared to make a stand for the rights of  20 million Kashmiris to self-determination and are they principled enough to take  an Indian prime Minister to task on the Kashmir dispute?
Mr Cameron it is on such a matter of  principle that a British government in 1982 dispatched military task force thousands of miles away to the Falkland Islands  to defend and protect  the right of just 2,900 (2013 figures) Falkland Islanders to self-determination. Equally important example is of the September 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, which your government willingly allowed to take place. The struggle of people of Kashmir is a struggle to exercise the very right that in September 2014 six million Scots were allowed to exercise, to either break or keep their union with the United Kingdom which they had entered into in 1707.
Mr Cameron, contrary to India’s claim the so called Kashmir’s accession treaty with India, obtained through questionable circumstances, is temporary and provisional in any case. Furthermore there are at least a dozen UN resolutions in recognition of the Kashmir dispute that are yet to be implemented. Mr Modi and his government may wish to ignore these historic dimensions and facts of the Kashmir dispute, but the facts on ground are that over the years the people forcibly divided Jammu Kashmir on both sides of the LoC have not reconciled with the status quo.
However Kashmiris want peace for themselves and between India and Pakistan. They have a strong desire for their country to become a bridge of peace and prosperity, and not a bone of contention and enmity in the South Asian sub-continent.
Mr Cameron it is an absolute necessity therefore that constructive engagement and dialogue takes place between the concerned parties. Thus far unfortunately Mr Modi has shown no desire for dialogue with Pakistan and the Kashmiris. Even visits of Kashmiri leaders to the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi prompts Mr Modi’s government to cancel scheduled meetings between Indo-Pakistan Foreign office officials. It is therefore a duty and responsibility on a world power like the UK to take Mr Modi to task on such an unbecoming and unreasonable attitude on the question of Kashmir’s future status.
Mr Cameron as long as powerful country like Britain, with privileged position in world affairs, maintains the view, that the “pace and scope” of interaction over Kashmir is up to India and Pakistan, unfortunately such a passive British ‘nudge’ and position  will add no moral or diplomatic pressure on Prime Minister Modi to be constructive over resolving the Kashmir dispute. Furthermore as permanent member of the United Nations’ Security Council such a passive British position on an extremely dangerous issue, that could precipitate a catastrophic fourth war between India and Pakistan, is an abandonment of international responsibility and an utter disregard for the 20 million Kashmiris and their fundamental democratic right to self-determination.


Zafar Khan* is head JKLF’s Diplomatic Bureau based in United Kingdom

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