Sunday, September 04, 2016

As Rajnath reaches Srinagar, scholars' group asks UN for "internationally mediated" Kashmir solution

By Our Representative
Amidst Union home minister Rajnath Singh along with a group of senior leaders belonging to opposition parties reaching Srinagar for “healing touch”, the Kashmir Scholars' Action Group (KSAG) has asked the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to work for “internationally mediated political solution” to the Kashmir problem.
The letter to Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also comes close on the heels of the Government of India reportedly downplaying the offer of a UN fact-finding mission  to monitor the situation in Kashmir.
Calling itself an interdisciplinary group of scholars of various nationalities engaged in research on the Kashmir, KSAG in its letter insists that there there is a need for the civil society groups to provide him with “regular updates on the situation.” The names of the signatories to the letter, however, have not been revealed.
Claiming to be actively engaged with civil society groups in Kashmir, KSAG says, “We have undertaken to document and communicate the situation on ground since the Indian state’s violence against civilians has continued to mount from July 7, 2016 onwards.”
Expressing “particular concern” about the present conditions of violence, the letter clarifies, “We are calling not only for the resumption of basic civil services, the rule of law, and the restoration of human rights in Kashmir, but, most importantly, for an internationally mediated political solution.”
“We believe”, the letter sates, “that the Kashmir conflict is not an internal matter for India to resolve on its own terms. Neither is it a matter to be resolved bilaterally by negotiations between India and Pakistan.”
The letter insists, “The conflict cannot be resolved without determining the wishes of the Kashmiri people, through direct means such as the referendum promised by UN Security Council resolutions in 1948, the conditions of which both Pakistan and India have failed to comply.”
It notes, “The militarized Line of Control adds to the economic, social and political alienation of many communities and divides the people on both sides of Kashmir”, blaming what it calls “divide and rule policies and propagandist use of mass media” for “obfuscating the political demands of the people.”
Giving “details” of violence, the letter says, in the Kashmir valley, over the last three months, “nearly 70 people have been killed, over 500 blinded by pellet-shotguns, and over 6000 maimed and wounded. There were extensive communication blockades; phones and the Internet were routinely suspended.”
Alleging blockade of Kashmir, the letter says, “On August 20, the Jammu Transporters’ Union and Oil Tanker Owners’ Association has formally refused to supply petrol and cooking gas to the Kashmir valley”, at a time when “the only access road to Kashmir since 1947 runs through Jammu.”
It adds, “The elected government and civil administration more broadly has been missing through this period, with all decisions seemingly in the hands of Indian security personnel. Nor is there any attempt being made to return to civilian authority.”
Asking the OHCHR does “not shelve its plans for a fact-finding mission”, the letter says, till then, it should invite “representatives of civil society to visit Geneva to testify” before it, such as “the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, the Srinagar High Court Bar Association, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society , as well as members of the doctors, journalists, photographers and traders associations.”
Saying that it would facilitate such visits, KSAG says, the UN and the international community, meanwhile, should take steps to end “violence against Kashmiri civilians”, set up a “UN Commission of Inquiry that investigates all incidents of firing on unarmed protesters”, and “work forcefully to demilitarize both sides of the Line of Control between India and Pakistan.”
Copies of the letter have been forwarded to Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Juan Mendez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, among others.

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