Is Anyone Listening?
After sixty-two years of enforcing military occupation, with particular reference to the last twenty years, one of the government of India’s worst fears is being realised. It is now faced with non-violent mass protests (commonly known as the Kashmiri intifada) in entire Jammu and Kashmir. This is nourished by people’s memory of years of Indian repression in which tens of thousands have been killed, hundreds of thousands tortured, injured, molested, raped, and disappeared.
In the recent past the 27 countries European Parliament overwhelmingly passed an urgency resolution on Nameless & Mass Graves discovered in Indian Held Kashmir calling on the Indian government in paragraph 5 "...to investigate all a llegations of enforced disappearances" and via paragraph 9 "calls for full access to be granted to both sides of the Line of Control for the UN Special Rapporteurs under the terms of reference of the UN special procedures, notably the Special Rapporteurs on Torture and on Extra Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions and the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances".
Not surprisingly, the voice the government of India does not want the outside world to hear and, as such, has tried so hard to silence in Kashmir has massed to a deafening roar. "Raised in a playground of army camps, checkpoints and bunkers with screams from torture chambers for the soundtrack, the young generation has suddenly discovered the power of mass protest, and above all, the dignity of being able to straighten their shoulders and speak for themselves and represent themselves. For them it is nothing more than epiphany. Not even the fear of death seems to hold them back. And once that fear has gone, of what use is the largest or second largest army in the world."
Why India is always prepared to face, to say the least, embarrassment on account of "holding" Kashmir? The answer lay in the distorted politics of the past sixty-two years on Kashmir. In particular, over the last two decades Indian government has been plagued by weak coalitions, patronage and corruption with little or no emphasis on addressing the Kashmiri conflict.
Whereas India needs to recognise that the road to peace and stability in South Asia runs through Kashmir, however, at the same time it also needs to come to terms with the fact that the terror problem within is home grown. India has a political problem with its Hindu fundamentalists and minorities - the strongest being 150 million Muslims amounting to some 13% of the Indian population. "They are unrepresented at every economic, political and social level with a high profile exceptions. A perverse consequence of the partition of the Indian sub-continent is that Muslims are everywhere a minority - which closes off the chance of political power... They have not shared in the progress of the last two decades and face a Hindu nationalist movement, parts of which are ugly and violent."
Ugly and violent in terms of the bloody Gujarat riots of 2002 in which hundreds of Muslims (Men, Women and Children) were burned alive in their own homes, the Malegaon blast of 2006, Samjhauta Express bombing of 2007 and the Bombay riots of 1993 besides hundreds of communal riots up and down the country over the last six decades. Even the killing of anti-terrorism chief Hemant Karkare and his two associates is being questioned by no person than a cabinet minister in the indian government namely A. R. Antulay. Undoubtedly, this second class treatment and the persistent accusations has led Muslims angry; fearful, frustrated thereby losing faith in the Indian democratic institutions - a classic example being already experimented with draconian laws like the POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) which primarily targeted alone and only Indian Muslims.
India needs to be told that the Kashmiris have paid a huge price for its intransigence over Kashmir, with an estimated 90,000 dead, 8000 enforced disappearances, thousands of molestations and rapes, unlawful detentions, tortures, with curfews and shutdowns as an every day norm; how much longer can the government of India turn a blind eye to its conscience?
If, as the Indian government claims, the perpetrators of the outrage in Mumbai were motivated in part by the policies of India in Kashmir then indeed, it is time for a change of policy; not only for the sake of the people of Kashmir but for the sake of the innocent civilians that lost their lives during those days of violence in Mumbai. The killing of civilians is never right and should be condemned and two wrongs do not make a right.
So is it not about time that Indians across the country (be it ordinary citizens, civil society, NGOs, politicians etc) take to the streets to protest against the gross Human Rights violations that their government is committing in Kashmir; condemn and denounce publicly these atrocities by the active engagement of their more than half a million well equipped military and para-military forces; pronounce as Indians - no more murdering and raping of defenceless Kashmiri Men, Women and Children which has only brought shame to India and its citizens; and declare that we (Indians) stand with our Kashmiri brothers and sisters in their pain and suffering and in their just struggle for their political right to self-determination
Indians and the government of India need to be persuaded to see the virtue of a political solution to Kashmir. Indeed such an approach will have enduring effect on India politically, economically and diplomatically. Jammu & Kashmir, It might be said, is the Alsace-Lorraine of Europe (substituting India & Pakistan for France & Germany). It has sparked three conventional wars between the two countries. No one can take the risk of their fourth encounter bearing in mind their nuclear capabilities. Resolving Kashmir can turn back the nuclear clock in South-Asia.
India’s panicky but provocative behaviour may undermine the good work which the two governments of Pakistan and India have undertaken over the years to stabilise their neighbourly relations. It could even turn nasty.
More importantly, there are three powerful organisations that have debated and adopted resolutions on the Kashmir issue. Firstly, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution on the conflict in 1948 affirming that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are to determine their own political future through "a fair and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations." This was followed by other resolutions. Secondly, the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), representing fifty-six Muslim countries around the globe, endorsed the Kashmiris right to self-determination at their heads of state summit in Casablanca in 1993. Thirdly, the EU Parliament similarly upheld the Kashmiri plebiscite with the adoption of its report on Kashmir in May 2007.
So what can be expected from the community of nations around the globe? The people of Jammu & Kashmir say fulfill the promises made to them by the international community at various levels i.e. their right to self-determination; protection and promotion of their human rights pursuant to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Is it not fair to ask why the international community is slow particularly at the level of violence going on there. Is anyone listening?
President Barack Obama of the USA stated that his administration would encourage India to solve the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan in the interest of peace and security in that region. The Obama administration needs to move with dispatch on multiple fronts with relation to India, Pakistan and Kashmir: impressing India to accept as a fate accompli third party mediation (not forgetting that India is seeking active facilitation of the US on the Mumbai blasts) by appointing a special representative on Kashmir, fashioning a new direction designed to address the Kashmir conflict and bolstering cordial relations between India and Pakistan.
Undoubtedly Barack Obama has the opportunity to create more enduring alliances in South Asia and the negotiation and resolution of the Kashmir conflict is the key to that.
A. Majid Tramboo, Chairman of International Council for Human Rights Kashmir Centre, was confirmed by the ICHR’s Board of Directors in April 2003 , following their unanimous decision to open the Kashmir Centre in Brussels. Keenly aware of the long and bitter suffering of the people of Kashmir, Barrister Tramboo ensured that this project moved from conception to realization with remarkable speed. Within six months, Barrister Tramboo hosted the official ceremonies to open the ICHR Kashmir Centre before an audience of MEPs, MPs and Embassy representatives various countries, European Commission and Council personnel, international scholars, NGOs, and media as well as otherdistinguished guests.
Barrister, Majid Tramboo divides his time between Brussels and London, where in 1999, he founded and continues to head the law firm of Tramboo & Company, practising exclusively in immigration, asylum, nationality and human rights matters. His distinguished legal career began in 1983 at the Jammu and Kashmir High Court where he practised in conducting civil and criminal litigation. In 1988, he served as in-house Counsel for conducting civil litigation and immigration, asylum and nationality matters, which included appearing before adjudicators and the Immigration Appeal Tribunal for Khambati & Sohal , Solicitors in London.
In 1990 he accepted a position with the United Kingdom Immigration Advisory Service (UKIAS), London, as a Tribunal Counsellor, where he reviewed cases dismissed by adjudicators, settled grounds for leave to appeal and represented appeals before the Immigration Appeal Tribunal. As the Head of Legal Services for Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) , London, in 1994, he provided training to the legal staff, this included preparing training manuals and up-to-date, in-house law reports (including commentaries on new rules, regulations and case law). Additionally, he assessed the competence of the legal staff, in terms of the preparation and presentation of cases, which involved intricate points of law before the Immigration Appeal Tribunal, adjudicators and special adjudicators. Barrister Tramboo was the senior partner of the Tramboo Partnership, a London law firm established 1996 that practised exclusively in immigration, asylum, nationality and human rights matters.
A multilingual person, Majid Tramboo, graduated from the University of Kashmir, received his LLB from the University of Bombay and was called to the Honourable Society of Bar at Lincoln’s Inn, London, having successfully completed the examinations conducted through the Council of Legal Education in London.
A committed human rights activist, Barrister Tramboo advocates causes for all people without distinction of any kind. Member of the International Human Rights Association of American Minorities directorate he is IHRAAM’s Representative at the UN Commission on Human Rights. Born Kashmiri, Barrister Tramboo has long championed the Kashmir people’s right to selfdetermination internationally.
European Parliament Resolution on Allegations of Mass Graves in Indian Administered Kashmir, Adopted 10 July 2008 Ibid Arundhati Roy, Land and Freedom, Manchester Guardian UK, 22 August 2008. Fareed Zakaria, The Fire Needs to Be Put Out, Newsweek, 8 December 2008.