UN Report, a window of opportunity for Kashmiris – Faizah Gilani

The recent report on human rights violations in Kashmir has ruffled many feathers within India. As expected, New Delhi has rejected the report and unsurprisingly the Indian media – mostly serving as New Delhi’s apologist – has been ranting and raving over its contents. This is the first ever report released by the UN on Kashmir. The statement by the Human Rights Chief referred to alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region, which need to be investigated. According to the 49-page report, Indian Security Forces have used excessive force in Kashmir and killed and wounded numerous civilians since 2016. India has rubbished all claims, but Human Rights activists have welcomed the report and labelled it as a small step in the right direction. Many are seeing it as a small window of opportunity to hold India accountable for the gross Human Rights violations that have been carried out against the people of Kashmir.

Although the report discusses facts that Human Rights activists and Kashmiris have been crying over for years, this is a real chance for Kashmiris to push forward their case on the International stage. The realities of Kashmir have not been able to find their way to the outside world, and India has exploited this by pushing its narrative forward instead. The Indian media has always defended the heavy-handed tactics of the security forces by making excuses to sway the arguments away from Human Rights violations. So, their reaction over this comes as no real surprise. Journalists and news anchors since the release of the report have been cribbing on news channels, like their protest on ABC’s controversial Quantico episode. In that case, India managed to force an apology out of the ABC. But the Human Rights violations in Kashmir are real. The report on Kashmir is not a work of fiction. The plight of Kashmiris is no episode of Quantico.

India’s issue is that its media is controlled. News coming through are filtered and majority of the reporting is incredibly biased and painted in either black or white, especially wrapped in nationalism. It may be the world’s largest democracy, but when it comes to Kashmir, India’s double standards are deeply exposed. Even the ‘credible’ journalists have audaciously found a way to justify India’s excessive use of force and the shocking use of pellet guns, despite the concerns of Amnesty International. India will whine and sulk like a spoilt child over the findings of the report. But for Kashmiris, especially those abroad, this is a golden opportunity that they must seize. They can use this report as a starting point, a reference to show the rest of the world the sad reality of Kashmir. Up until now, Kashmir has been presented through the eyes of the Indian Media. Facts distorted. A twisted picture given to suit their own agenda. But here we have a report based on facts that are presented by a neutral party. India is crying foul because it knows that it has been exposed.

And now Kashmiris need to take advantage of this by using the report to keep the International focus on Kashmir. The big players in the International arena, especially in the West, need to be pressed over the issue of Kashmir. But we also need to remain realistic. This will not change the plight of Kashmiris overnight and hence no dramatic change will be seen. And let us face it, the West has not really shown much interest over Kashmir. We have not seen world leaders call out India over its treatment of Kashmiris. However, this will get people talking. This will highlight the Kashmir issue internationally, only if the right people take advantage of this. Human Rights activists, NGOs and overseas Kashmiris need to start exerting pressure on the right people. This can be done in many ways such as lobbying, engaging with local members of Parliament in countries such as the United Kingdom, which is home to a large Kashmiri community. When we speak of the Kashmir cause, it is impossible not to mention the tragic loss that it has recently suffered. The brutal and senseless killing of Rising Kashmir’s editor Shujaat Bukhari has left a huge void within the Kashmiri struggle. His car was attacked by gunmen as he left his office, the same day UN released its report. He had been active on social media covering the report. Shujaat Bukhari was an honest and hardworking gentleman who cared deeply for his Motherland. It is heart-breaking that another voice for the unheard has been silenced. Intelligent and thoughtful individuals are deliberately being targeted, and this is detrimental to the Kashmir cause.

India must be held accountable for the atrocities that have been carried out. The beautiful green valley has turned red with bloodshed. Big guns, huge tanks and heavy boots a regular feature of the quiet roads during times of curfew. It is now time for India to face up to home truths – what it calls atoot ang (its unbreakable part) is occupied territory. India has overstayed its welcome. Of course, a lot of work needs to be done. One report alone cannot change the situation within Kashmir. But this could also be a new beginning. A beginning of the end to brutality and force. This report is a ray of hope for the hopeless.

The writer has studied History and Politics at Queen Mary, University of London and Middle East Studies at SOAS, University of London.

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