It is necessary to recall these words, when our ministers, diplomats and politicians are today dismissing as `fake news’ the international media’s visual exposure of the public demonstrations of protest in the Valley, and of the victims of the Indian security forces who fired pellets on them. The global body , Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) came out with a statement on August 21, asking the Indian government to stop harassment of journalists working in Jammu and Kashmir, referring in particular to the detention of two reporters, Irfan Malik and Haziq Qadri. It is not only journalists, but the entire population of the territory which had been subjected to state repression during the last several years, that had drawn sharp criticism from the UN. Its Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has come out with two devastating reports, shaming the Indian government for violation of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir - the first entitled ‘Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir : Developments in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018; ’ and the second entitled: ‘Update of the situation of Human Rights in the India Administered Kashmir and Pakistan Administered Kashmir, from May 2018 to April 2019.’
Both the reports highlight incidents of excessive use of force by the Indian army against protestors, and its indiscriminate firing of pellet bullets that led to blinding of a large number of citizens. The Indian government dismissed the first report as `fallacious,’ and the latest report as biased, alleging that it was not based on direct ground level evidence collected by the OHCHR. But ironically, it is the Indian government itself which had been denying the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights - despite its repeated requests all these years - unrestricted access to Kashmir to investigate into allegations of human rights violation. Given this restriction, the OHCHR naturally had to depend on reports of local Kashmiri human rights activists and reporters, and Indian civil liberties organizations (which enjoy international reputation) for the preparation of its reports.
The Modi government’s domestic policy
In a demonstration of defiance of the above-mentioned revelations by the UN, the Modi government on August 5 , 2019, announced its decision to scrap Articles 370 and 35-A, thus gerrymandering the UN-guaranteed constitutional geography of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and robbing it of its autonomous rights. Following this announcement, the Indian government is not only barring foreign observers (from the UN), but even Indian Opposition politicians from visiting the Valley. It prevented a team led by the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, CPI leader Mr. Raja and others from stepping out from the Srinagar airport in August. Later that month, it made an exception in the case of Yechury, who was allowed to meet his sick party colleague, M.Y. Tarigami (in house-arrest), but on the condition that he would not open his mouth to the media, or the public, during his stay in Kashmir !
The central government is keeping the citizens of the newly trifurcated Jammu and Kashmir region incommunicado from the rest of India and the world . Any criticism of these measures from abroad is immediately denounced as `intervention in our internal affairs.’ Domestic critics of these measures inside India are branded as `anti-nationalists,’ `secessionists,’ and `Pakistani agents.’ These terms are used by the ruling party at the Centre to stifle all criticism against its plan to impose a centralized unitary system of governance to replace the federal system. As it is, it is alienated from the local people in Kashmir in the north-west, and Nagaland and Manipur in the north-east. It also faces opposition from the regional parties in the south, which protest against increasing central encroachment on their autonomy. The Modi government has not only failed to sort out these `internal affairs,’ but has further created a mess by the abrogation of Section 370, as a result of which there is sure to be exacerbation of violence in the volatile Valley, where street protests are already breaking out.
But apart from further antagonizing the people of the Valley, by taking this rash step, Modi has virtually handed the tangled up issue of Kashmir to his counterpart in Pakistan on a platter. Imran Khan has jumped on this as an opportunity to fish again in the troubled waters of Kashmir. While shedding crocodile tears over the plight of the Kashmiris, pledging support to their `freedom fight’, and appealing to the conscience of the UN and the international public opinion about the human rights violation by the Indian security forces, Imran Khan is canny enough (as he is advised by his bosses in the Pakistan army headquarters and the ISIS) to use this opportunity to his best advantage. There is wide-spread disgruntlement among the public in the Valley against the continuing curfew and occupation by security forces, who are raiding homes and indiscriminately picking up young Kashmiri Muslims and torturing them in their custody. Although suppressed by the Indian media, their voices are being heard all over the world through the international media like the BBC, Washington Post, New York Times, and other means. (Re: Washington Post video of a Kashmiri father breaking down after his minor son was taken away by the security forces - https:www.telegraph.ndid.com>shock-torture-to-kashmiris>cid).
It is this mood of public anger that is providing the Pakistani military establishment with an excellent chance to send its terrorist infiltrators into the Valley to recruit the disgruntled youth there, and expand its base in a movement which originally began as `azadi’ (an independent Kashmir - free from both Indian and Pakistan administration), and disorient it towards a pro-Pak direction. Ominous signs are already being seen in pictures of some protestors waving Pakistan flags in street demonstrations.
Modi’s image abroad versus the ground reality in India
Narendra Modi has managed to shake hands with Trump, his political twin , at the G 7 summit - a scene celebrated as some sort of a historical event by the Indian media, trumping it as US approval of the Indian government’s latest policy on Kashmir. But given Trump’s opportunist mercurial temperament, one never knows how he will greet Imran Khan the next time he meets him - and may shake hands with him (in a replica of the Modi-Trump handshake) promising to mediate in the Kashmir dispute ! After all, Trump needs Imran Khan and his army to extricate the US from the mess that both had created in Afghanistan.
Trump’s certificate to Modi that he speaks `good English’, has elevated his position among the English-speaking Indian elite - both within India and among the expatriates abroad. But if we turn our attention to the other part of the picture, we find that Narendra Modi has made the Indian state stink in world public opinion. He has managed to reduce India’s position to that of a skunk that is abhorred by the UN Human Rights Commission, which has repeatedly come out with reports exposing the violation of human rights by his soldiers in Kashmir, as well as other parts of India. Under his stewardship, the Indian media owners have been turned into his stooges - threatened by the rats of CBI, ED and other agencies. The international body of journalists, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in its latest statement issued on August 23, 2019 expressed concerns over the situation (in Kashmir) and demanded immediate steps to restore communications.
The ugly smell emanating from the Valley - from pellet-blinded youngsters, curfew-bound citizens deprived of medical needs, enforced silence on house-arrest bound politicians - is spreading a foul miasma in other parts of India. The Centre’s policy of clamping down on Kashmir (spreading even to extent of preventing Indian national Opposition party leaders to enter Srinagar) is a premonition of what is awaiting the rest of India, and the fate of regional and national political parties. Under Modi’s governance, with the dissemination of the Opposition (whose leaders and members are joining the ruling party in droves - indicating the totally a-political and opportunist instincts of the MLAs and MPs who were nominated by the Congress, CPI, CPI(M) and other secular parties during all these years), we may soon have a Latin-America type `banana republic,’ under the rule of a single party and its mafia.
Responsibility of the UN and international agencies
In such a situation, it is necessary for the UN to step in - as it had done on similar occasions of civil strife in other parts of the world. It has to persuade the Indian state to desist from further exacerbating the civil strife in Kashmir (which had been going on for the last several decades - and is likely to increase due to the further alienation of the people in the Valley because of the Modi government’s recent decision to revoke Article 370 ). It has also to persuade the neighbouring state of Pakistan state to desist from provocative statements and actions (like infiltration of terrorists), that inflame such strife in the Valley.
As far as the Indian government is concerned, it cannot kick off the Kashmir problem under the carpet of `internal affairs.’ It had always been internationally described as a controversial issue of unresolved aspirations and rights of a people inhabiting a divided territory. Even the UN recognizes it as a `disputed territory’ by officially describing the Indian part as `Indian-administered Kashmir,’ and the other part as `Pakistan-administered Kashmir’ - since it involves two hostile states with a history of wars. Both India and Pakistan are bound by the agreements that the UN had formalized to settle disputes between the two. Any disruption of the status quo - agreed upon by the two states under UN supervision at different stages of the conflicts - threatens to jeopardize regional stability in the sub-continent. Under its Charter, the UN is responsible for both preventing such a catastrophe, and protecting the people of Kashmir from the violation of human rights.
The UN Charter gives the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. In fulfilling the responsibility, the Council can introduce operations for establishing peace. Chapter VII of the Charter authorizes the UN to deploy peace operations in `volatile post-conflict’ situations where the “ state is unable to maintain security and public order”. Explaining the mandate of such missions, the UN Security Council in its resolution 1674, in 2006, said that it included “(i) the protection of civilians… (ii) facilitation of the provision of humanitarian assistance…(iii) protection of citizens is given priority in decisions about the use of available capacity and resources, including information and intelligence resources…”
On each of the above counts, Kashmir today deserves the deployment of UN peace operations in a situation where the Indian state has been “ unable to maintain security and public order.”
UN presence in Kashmir
It is not that UN had never intervened in what India calls its `internal affairs’ today. The United Nations Military Observer Group (UNMOG) was set up for both India and Pakistan in January, 1949, its members deployed in its respective headquarters in the `Indian-administered Kashmir’, and the `Pakistan- administered Kashmir’. Its mandate was to conduct field trips and area recce along the Line of Official Control (that divides the two parts of Kashmir) to investigate into allegations of ceasefire violations by either of the two states, and then to submit its findings to the UN Secretary General.
In complete violation of this UN mandate, the Modi-led BJP government in 2014 asked the UNMOG, based in Srinagar to wind up its work, and in 2017 its External Affairs Ministry reiterated that it had no mandate to monitor the situation in Kashmir. Curiously enough, the Pakistan government continues to host the UNMOG on its territory without curbing its activities. According to the then UN Secretary General’s 1949 decision to deploy the UNMOG in Kashmir, its mandate could only be terminated by the UN Security Council.
For taking a unilateral decision to curb the role of the UNMOG, the Indian government should have been summoned and reprimanded by the UN much earlier. But the UN can still make amends for its past acts of negligence by being pro-active in Kashmir today by deploying its Peace-Keeping forces.
Need for UN Peace-keeping Operations in Kashmir
As explained earlier, the Indian government has not been able to meet the standards required according to the mandate of UN peace-keeping to protect the rights of citizens of the part of Kashmir that it administers - as evident from the successive damning reports by both Indian and international human rights groups, and more importantly by UN investigative reports that highlighted acts of violation of human rights.
In such a situation, the UN is entitled to intervene in a territory of its member state where its people are devastated by civil conflicts. In such circumstances, the UN had in the past, deployed its peace-keeping forces in strife-ridden states like Cyprus, Afghanistan, Golan Heights, Congo and many other states.
Under the UN mandate of peace-keeping, “Peace-enforcement involves the application, with the authorization of the Security Council, of a range of coercive measures, including the use of military force….Such actions are authorized to restore international peace and security in situations where the Security Council has determined the existence of a threat to peace, or act of aggression..” (Re: United Nations Peace Keeping Operations: Principles and Guidelines. 2008)
We are still awaiting the final decision of the UN Security Council on the dispute over Kashmir. But it is highly recommended that the territory is put under the UN peace-keeping forces, which are authorized to use “coercive measures,” that will thankfully oust the much maligned Indian security forces from the Valley, and replace them with a UN-monitored international peace-keeping forces.