This year, on February 5, the world will once again experience the unyielding courage and perseverance of over 9 million Kashmiris fighting for their undeniable right of self-determination and freedom.
The Kashmir Solidarity Day itself holds the significance of highlighting the entrenched and inspirational stories of Kashmiris followed by intensified and untold events of continued human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir IIOJK.
Understanding what “solidarity with Kashmir” actually means is important. At first place it emphasizes upon respecting the just rights of a community (Kashmiris) seeking self-determination. Secondly, it holds the significance of acknowledging and addressing the gross human rights violations in IIOJK. Thirdly, it reaffirms that the Kashmiri struggle for freedom is indeed a struggle against tyranny, surveillance, media blackouts, land dispossession and at large against the ongoing settler colonialism. Lastly, it calls upon the United Nations and international community to reiterate upon stopping Indian authorities and security forces undergoing genocide of Kashmiris since 1947.
Kashmir, a place of infinite beauty, but a disputed territory, is in a state of constant bloodshed, fear and destruction. With over millions of Kashmiris killed, women raped, children wounded and various properties damaged, the valley has turned in to a nightmare for over thousands of Kashmiris suffering from extra judicial killings, illegal imprisonments, detentions and forced disappearances.
The Kashmiri freedom struggle never died. With forced arrival of Indian troops on October 27, 1947, the Kashmiris went under the non ending cycle of gore and trauma. The fake promises of conducting a free plebiscite under Nehru’s government following the declaration of UN resolution 47, the Kashmiri freedom movement intensified in the early 90’s and 2000’s when the Indian security forces brutally killed Burhan Wani resulting in the further escalation of the conflict.
The major factor behind the manifestation of human rights violations in IIOJK has been and remains the extremist, far right Hindutva ideology of India’s ruling party the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). With its objective to Hinduize the IIOJK, the BJP being the political wing and under the influence of RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) carried out mass blinding and killings of Kashmiri freedom fighters. The atrocities could not be broadcasted to the world as Modi placed curfew and media blackout in the valley.
Since 2019, the voices of Kashmiris for the freedom have been silenced, following the abrogation of Kashmir’s special status by the unlawful actions of BJP under Modi’s government. Moreover, the extension of unlawful draconian laws (notably AFSPA, PSA and UAPA) gives Indian security forces and police personnel a free pass to kill innocent Kashmiris. These laws grant the brutal security forces impunity from civil persecution. The Sopore massacre, Gawkadal massacre and the Bijbehara massacre reflect the manifestation of such laws following BJP’s extremist ideologies.
As of the BJP’s recent attempt to erase the Muslim identity in the IIOJK, the Modi administration has ordered renaming of approximately 33 educational institutions and numerous roads after various Indian military personnel and other Hindu victims killed during various incidents in the disputed territory. The change in curriculum is followed by introducing Ramayana studies in schools and colleges of IIOJK. This unjust move of RSS is a proof that Kashmiris freedom struggle is just and is indeed a proof that Muslims needed a separate homeland based on principles of Islam.
Disrespected in their own homes, killed on their own land, left wounded, beaten, slaughtered and destroyed, the Kashmiris are still fighting for their rights and just freedom. Unfortunately, the Kashmir conflict has been a protracted unresolved agenda of the United Nations, fueling the animosity between Indian forces and the freedom fighters with the former using heavy weapons against innocent Kashmiris, and the latter relying on stone pelting.
Divided by borders, united by faith the Muslims in IIOJK, Pakistan and worldwide seek for the peaceful settlement of the Kashmir Conflict. Tied with strong bonds of history, culture and religion, the Pakistanis and Kashmiris share mutual support and trust for the Kashmir cause. Respecting the faith of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan reiterates the significance of Kashmir being “Jugular Vein” of Pakistan.
Due to sustained Indian oppression and the ongoing curfew, it is evident that the world now sympathizes with the Kashmiris struggle. Today the world sees hundreds of thousands of people n the streets shouting against Indian authority and at most hurling stones against soldiers equipped with shotguns and teargas. The world therefore sees an imbalance: the stone versus the gun, the oppressed versus the oppressor. The world acknowledges that someone does not have to be a Muslim, a Kashmiri or a Pakistani to support the freedom struggle of Kashmiris but, to be a HUMAN for protesting against the massive human rights violations in IIOJK.
So let 2024 be the year of alleviating human suffering wherever it may be found. Let’s sympathize with the Kashmir cause and express our solidarity with Kashmiris. Let’s make the world know once again that Kashmiris are not alone in their freedom struggle, every Pakistani is with them. Let’s stand together in the pursuit of peace in IIOJK, today and forever.
(The writer is a student of Peace & Conflict Studies at National Defense University, Islamabad and is currently serving as an intern at Kashmir Institute of International Relations.)