Posted on Mar 29, 2019
The international community, including the EU, has been urged to intervene in the “rapidly deteriorating” situation in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Speaking at a news briefing in Brussels on Thursday, Masood Iqbal Mir, general secretary of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (Europe), said “urgent action” was needed to prevent a recent upsurge in violence from “spiralling out of control.”
Antwerp-based Mir was particularly critical of the recent imposition of “draconian bans” on political parties in the region, including JKLF. He also said innocent civilians, including children, were being “targeted” by Indian forces in the occupied territory.
He said, “This has no place in civilised societies.”
Relations between India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed South Asian countries, have nose-dived of late and Mir said it was “in the interests” of the EU and rest of the world to find a solution to the 71-year-old Kashmir problem, which is said to be the world’s longest running human rights crisis.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule.
Both claim the Himalayan territory in full and have fought two wars over it.
Tensions are highest in the Indian-occupied part, the larger of the two with about 7m Kashmiris.
Mir said that Indian soldiers had stepped up attacks on Kashmiri civilians, including the use of pellet guns against children. In the latest attack, earlier this week, several civilians were injured.
Mir, in a briefing for Brussels-based reporters, said he wanted to highlight particular concerns, including:
- The banning the JKLF in Indian occupied Kashmir and the forcible closure of all party offices; - The arbitrary detention of political activists including JKLF chairman Muhammad Yaseen Malik; - Continued imposition of the Public Safety Act (PSA) which he said gives soldiers effective immunity and allows them to commit extreme human rights violations including murder, torture, rape and abduction without fear of prosecution; - Heavy firing on both sides of the Line of control, or border between the two divided territories and - The opening of new route from Azad Kashmir (Sharda Neelum valley) for Kashmiri Pandats.
His party is a political organisation active in both Pakistan-administered and Indian-administered Kashmir. A peaceful and non violent group, it has run a concerted campaign for independence, which has been tacit support in two UN resolutions saying the Kashmiri people should have the right to choose their own destiny, via an independence referendum.
Mir said the Indian government had recently decided to shut down parties like JKLF, had targeted civilians who had been “raped, tortured and killed.”
While the country may appear a long way away, there is a large Kashmir community in Europe, particularly in the West Midlands of England and including about 500 in Belgium.
As Kashmir is located on the new Chinese Silk Road, China, as well as the EU and others, has a keen stake in the future of the region, he said.
He told reporters, “The imposition of draconian bans which have no place in civilised societies on political parties in Jammu Kashmir highlights the state of desperation of the current Indian government. This also could be said about its failure to convince the people of Jammu Kashmir to submit to Indian rule.”
Mir, who is self employed and has been based in Belgium for 20 years, said the human rights situation in the region is deteriorating rapidly.
Some 6,000 civilians, he said, had been killed or injured by Indian soldiers in the Indian occupied part of his country, underlining “the urgent need” for an independence referendum.
This, he argued, is the only viable solution to the historic problem.
“The international community has to step in and do something because the two powers, India and Pakistan, have both failed.
His comments were echoed by Tanveer Choudhry, a senior JKLF leader, who commented, “As far as the people of Jammu Kashmir and our indigenous movement for right of self-determination and reunification of the state are concerned, India is an occupying force and peaceful movements do not require an occupier's permission to raise their voices against its atrocities and barbarism.”
He added, “The JKLF is a pioneer of the current movement towards self-determination, and we will carry on leading this movement until achieving our ultimate goal of an independent Jammu Kashmir.”
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