More than 8 million Kashmiris have suffered under the heavy boot of Indian military occupation for seven decades.
February 5 is designated as Kashmir Solidarity Day.
To express solidarity with the long-oppressed people of Kashmir, webinars, seminars and rallies are held worldwide, including in Toronto, Canada.
The Toronto webinar conducted by Mr. Abdul Hamid, Consul General of Pakistan, included Mr Aizaz Chaudhry, Director General Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad and former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan.
Other panelists included Ms. Karen Rodman, Director Just Peace Advocates, Zafar Bangash, Director Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, Phil Taylor, host of the popular Taylor Report, and Robert Fantina, author and journalist.
Panelists drew attention to Indian army brutalities against innocent Kashmiris, including torture, rape, imprisonment and extrajudicial executions.
Since 1989, more than 95,000 Kashmiris have been murdered.
Indian occupation troops also use rape as an instrument of oppression and terror.
One of the most horrific cases of gang rapes occurred on the night of February 23, 1991.
Members of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), an unruly mob of Hindu fanatics in uniform, raided the twin villages of Kunan and Pushpora in the remote Kapwara district of Kashmir.
The heavily armed soldiers took all the men and boys out into the freezing cold and held them at gunpoint while they went from house to house, searching allegedly for “militants” but in actual fact, committed gang rapes.
Girls as young as seven years old and women as old as 70 were raped.
One woman, in an advanced stage of pregnancy was also gang-raped.
She gave birth to a baby with a broken arm four days later.
Despite repeated calls for an investigation, the matter was dismissed and no one has been charged with this heinous crime to date.
Not surprisingly, there have been more than 11,000 registered cases of rape.
The actual number is definitely much higher since in the deeply conservative Kashmiri society, many girls and women simply do not report such cases fearing the shame it would bring to the family.
Why is it essential to express solidarity with the people of Jammu & Kashmir?
They have endured decades of oppression at the hands of India’s illegal military occupation.
The Kashmiris refuse to give up their quest for self-determination despite living under intolerably difficult conditions.
Life for the Kashmiris is characterized by prolonged lockdowns, breaking into their homes for illegal searches, arrest of people on mere suspicion, torture in prisons and deaths.
India maintains more than 900,000 heavily-armed occupation troops in Kashmir.
In the capital city, Srinagar, that has a population of one million, India has deployed 300,000 troops.
That is one soldier for every three Kashmiri civilians.
Every street corner is a bunker; every locality has become a graveyard.
While the Kashmiris’ voices are stifled, people of conscience, especially human rights activists, must raise theirs on behalf of the Kashmiris.
The Kashmiris have the legal and political right to wage their struggle despite suffering massive human rights abuses.
Seven decades of India’s illegal occupation have negatively impacted the Kashmiris economically, socially and culturally.
At the root lies India’s refusal, despite public pledges in the past to the Kashmiris and to the international community, and enshrined in at least 12 Security Council resolutions, to hold a referendum to allow the people to determine their own future.
As recently as December 17, 2021, the UN General Assembly unanimously reaffirmed the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.
Proposed by Pakistan, the resolution was sponsored by 72 countries before being presented for the General Assembly vote.
Instead of abiding by its international obligations, India is involved in a policy of brutal suppression, genocide and ethnic cleansing.
People outside Kashmir can help the Kashmiris’ cause by using every social media platform to highlight the suffering of the Kashmiris and expose India’s brutal nature.
The Kashmiris’ legitimate struggle must be supported intellectually as well as politically.
Regrettably, many governments around the world while fully aware of India’s egregious crimes because these have been fully documented, remain disinterested.
Economic interests trump human rights and principles.
This, however, does not mean that civil society groups should abandon the Kashmiris.
Many around the world are already doing so, as is evident from the webinars, seminars and rallies held today (February 5).
India’s supremacist ideology of Hindutva must also be exposed as it poses a serious threat to world peace.
On February 1, Amnesty International published a 280-page report exposing Israel’s crimes of apartheid against the Palestinian people.
Amnesty should follow this up by a similar report on India’s genocidal policies in Occupied Kashmir.
In doing so, Amnesty will have ready access to the two reports published by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2018 and 2019.