Bilateral

No freedom

Aug 18, 2017
As India and Pakistan celebrated 70 years of freedom from British rule, we must remember that freedom did not come for all the people of South Asia in 1947. One of the most heart-wrenching tales has been of the people of Kashmir – who were denied the right to choose their homeland when India and Pakistan were being granted freedom to chart their destiny. The destiny of the people of Kashmir became intertwined in the enmity between the two nascent states. By 1948, Kashmir had become occupied territory. Today, the bulk of Kashmiri territory remains under Indian occupation. Over 70,000 Indian troops patrol it as Kashmiri continue to be denied basic democratic freedoms. In response, the people of Kashmir mark India’s Independence Day as a ‘Black Day.’ The government machinery is shut while businesses are closed to observe a strike. The Indian government responds by imposing a curfew to stop protests from taking place. Despite the protests – silent and obvious – the international community does not hear the voice of the people of Kashmir.
 
The UN resolution granting the people of Kashmir the right to self-determination via a referendum has never been implemented. Over the last year, abuse and atrocities by the Indian forces on Kashmiri soil has become more intense – leading to a much more resilient response by the Kashmiris as well. Under Modi’s right-wing government, the silencing of Kashmiris has taken newer, scarier forms. The Indian soldier who tied a Kashmiri man to a jeep and drove him around as a human shield was awarded a medal for bravery. Hundreds of Kashmiris have been left blinded by pellet fire on protesters. All of this has brought little to no international condemnation. Pakistan has been the only country to have raised the voice of the Kashmiris on international platforms. Ina step that is seen as against international law, India has now been trying to remove the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir in its constitution. Speaking on India’s Independence Day at the Red Fort in Delhi, Modi admitted that bullets or abuse could not solve the Kashmir issue and that it would instead it require embracing its people. But this is contradictory to what Modi has done in Kashmir. The resilience of the Kashmir people has continued for 70 years and could go on for a much longer period if their voice is not heard. They do not want to be embraced. They want to be allowed the right to choose their own future. This sad legacy of ‘unfreedom’ in our independence story must be changed.
 
The News, August 18, 2017

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