Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has sought the intervention of the United Nations and the heads of several Western and Muslim countries in the wake of “a new wave of state terror unleashed by the Indian armed forces” in Jammu and Kashmir.
Geelani said he wrote the letter “on behalf of the oppressed and besieged people to draw the attention of the world community”, as curfew continued in the region for the ninth day following the death of dozens of protestors in retaliatory firing by government forces.
Kashmir has been on the boil since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter on July 8.
Geelani has alleged that “India continues to institutionally perpetrate violence in Jammu and Kashmir, and has ensured so far that no armed forces personnel involved in heinous war crimes to be prosecuted by its own judicial mechanism”.
“...therefore we urge the international community to pave way for an international inquiry led by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR),” the letter reads. “This inquiry is not unprecedented. Recently, the OHCHR instituted an inquiry into the crimes perpetrated by the Sri Lankan government.”
‘New wave of terror’
The veteran separatist leader has also accused the Indian Army of “unleashing a new wave of terror, killing dozens and maiming hundreds of unarmed protesters, utilizing bullets and lethal pellet-guns aimed to kill and maim”.
At least 41 people have been killed in the ongoing turmoil, mostly due to bullet injuries, and over 1,800 have been injured.
“Curfew and severe restrictions have been imposed, besieging the already imprisoned population further. Pro-freedom leadership has been either imprisoned or placed under house arrest. The killing spree continues and an enraged population is getting desperate,” the letter states.
He adds that “influential states”, such as the members of the UNSC, EU and OIC, have a “special responsibility” to challenge the behaviour of the Indian state to “stop this reign of terror”.
Earlier this week, the UN had expressed regret over the loss of lives and injuries in the clashes in Kashmir. UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on all parties to exercise “maximum restraint” to avoid further violence and hoped that all concerns would be addressed through peaceful means. And the US has called for dialogue between India, Pakistan and Kashmir to resolve the conflict in the Valley.
Along these lines, Geelani wants the world community to “take measures to build confidence among the people of the occupied Jammu and Kashmir and to create an atmosphere conducive for the resolution of the dispute... as per the principle of Right to Self Determination and as enshrined in the various UN Resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir”.
Among his other requests, the separatist leader has also asked world leaders to push India to accept the disputed nature of the state, rapidly demilitarise the region, repeal “draconian laws like AFSPA and the Public Safety Act” and release all political prisoners.
‘Free political space for all parties’
Geelani also wants India to allow UN Special Rapporteurs and all international human rights and humanitarian organisations to work in the region and ensure free political space for all parties, particularly those advocating the right to self-determination.
“These steps, if taken with a sense of urgency and responsibility, can help restore calm and peace in an agitated population and pave way for the processes required for the final and just resolution of the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir, thereby disperse the perpetual clouds of war and conflict that threatens global peace,” Geelani writes.
The letter has been sent to the United Nations Security Council; the heads of UNSC permanent members (US, UK, China, France and Russia), members of the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), the South Asian Association of Regional Countries (SAARC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and Turkey; the King of Saudi Arabia; and the Presidents of China and Iran.
Days earlier, Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria too claimed to have informed the international community about the “human rights violations in Kashmir”, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif urged India to “fulfil its human rights obligations and commitments under UN Security Council Resolutions.”
The Indian government’s response was sharp. External affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “Pakistan is advised to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbours.”
Islamabad has long been insisting on a plebiscite in Kashmir, and sees a role for the UN. However, India maintains that there is a democratically elected government in place in Jammu and Kashmir, and has rejected the possibility of UN or international intervention in settling the Kashmir issue.