Open Letter to the United Nations Secretary General, March 2019: The UN must live up to its responsibility to mediate a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir conflict

March 18, 2019

H.E. Mr. António Guterres

Secretary-General of the United Nations

Executive Office of the Secretary-General

S-3800, United Nations Secretariat Building

New York, NY 10017

Re: The UN must live up to its responsibility to mediate a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir conflict

Your Excellency,

We are writing in the wake of the crisis created by the suicide bombing of an Indian paramilitary convoy in Pulwama District in south Kashmir on February 14, 2019, and the ensuing military hostilities between India and Pakistan, to ask you to urgently intervene in order to prevent further conflict and the endangerment and loss of life. This requires that you recognize the responsibility of the United Nations to act as an impartial mediator to negotiate a peaceful and just settlement of the Kashmir conflict and to initiate such negotiations on an urgent basis.

We regret the loss of life of the Indian paramilitary soldiers and sympathize with their families, as we regret the loss of lives and the disruption of communities in Kashmir caused by the long-standing conflict. As scholars of Kashmir, we believe that this attack was the direct outcome of the continuing cycles of violence perpetuated by the policies followed by successive Indian governments in Kashmir. Governance in Indian-administered Kashmir routinely combines severe political repression and continuing military impunity and violence against the population with a refusal to negotiate a just and peaceful settlement.

The incident has created a dangerous mood of war hysteria in India, leading to a military confrontation with Pakistan.  Equally alarming are the continuing attacks on Kashmiris, especially students and traders, living in Indian cities. Kashmiri travelers have been attacked, shops and property burned and vehicles destroyed in Jammu, Dehradun, and other Indian cities.

The de-escalation of the military stand-off has not been accompanied by an easing of Indian repression in Kashmir. Instead, this has been stepped up and the Indian government has carried out mass arrests, detained political leaders, censored media, limited internet access, and banned a leading religious and charitable organization, the Jamaat-i-Islami. This has caused the closing of thousands of schools and social service institutions that are essential for the welfare of the poor in the Kashmir valley. We urge you to intervene in ending these repressive efforts that will have a direct effect on the education of thousands of children.

As the international community urges India and Pakistan to resolve all issues through negotiation, we must emphasize that the central cause of the conflict is the unresolved and disputed status of Kashmir. Given the dire situation facing Kashmir and Kashmiris, who live in daily fear for their lives and the lives of those dearest to them, as also the potential for a renewal of armed conflict between India and Pakistan, we urge you to take immediate action through the relevant provisions available to you, including the UNSC and the UN Special Rapporteurs, to end the violence and to ensure that it does not happen again.

The urgent need for UN intervention and mediation

We would like to underscore 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, and not only because they have failed to do so for over seventy years. Kashmiri people have continued a longstanding resistance and for the conflict to be resolved, it is imperative that their wishes be determined, through direct and ethical means such as the referendum promised by UN Security Council resolutions in 1948, the conditions of which both Pakistan and India have failed to fulfill.

The demand for self-determination, though denied for decades, has historically kept resurfacing in the region. The militarized Line of Control (L.O.C) compounds the economic, social, cultural, and political alienation of many communities and divides peoples on both sides of Kashmir. Furthermore, each state has strengthened the detachment between the sub-regions; Kashmir, Ladakh, Jammu on the Indian side, and Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan on the Pakistani side, through the continued use of ‘divide and rule’ policies and propagandist use of mass media. This has further obscured the political demands of the people. However, a number of polls routinely affirm the demand for an end to Indian rule in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

It is therefore the responsibility of the United Nations to initiate and monitor the processes that would lead to a resolution of the issue. The 2018 report on human rights in Kashmir by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights outlines the scale of human rights abuses in Kashmir. In its report, the UN OHCHR issues important recommendations including, among others, the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the amendment of the J&K Public Safety Act 1978, the establishment of a UN-sponsored Commission of Inquiry, and recognition of Kashmir’s right to self-determination.

Recommendations for action towards a peaceful and just resolution of the conflict in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people

We recommend that United Nations bodies work urgently towards the following goals:

1) Immediate cessation of Indian violence against Kashmiri civilians.

2) Recognize the right of the Kashmiri people to determine their own political future, and mediate a just settlement based on the right to self-determination. In this process, international monitors must ensure that there is no government reprisal or intimidation against the people of Kashmir as they discuss future arrangements and express their political aspirations.

3) Work urgently to demilitarize both sides of the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. Further, to demilitarize all of Kashmir and immediately revoke Indian impunity laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

4) Create mechanisms and procedures that will allow Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control to meet freely and discuss their political futures.

5) Create a Special Rapporteur with the mandate to investigate and report on crimes against humanity in Kashmir. This would be the first step in setting up credible mechanisms for documentation, accountability  and justice, (such as an international criminal tribunal) for human rights abuses in Kashmir over the past three decades, including extrajudicial executions, torture, gendered and sexualized violence, enforced disappearances, and unknown, unmarked and mass graves.

6) Create a UN Commission of Inquiry with the mandate to investigate all instances of human rights violations, which will be the first step in seeking accountability and justice for these crimes.

We, the Kashmir Scholars Consultative and Action Network (KSCAN), are an interdisciplinary group of scholars from various countries and regions engaged in research on the region of Kashmir. Each of us has written about Kashmiri history, society, culture, and politics, and their relation to the protracted  conflict; and we are particularly concerned about the present conditions of violence. Our research on the Kashmir conflict addresses its history, its consequences for the region and beyond, and its possible resolution. It has implications for an internationally mediated political solution and is of relevance to policy makers. Based on our long and active engagement with civil society groups in Indian-controlled Kashmir, we have undertaken to document and call attention to the situation on the ground since the Indian state’s violence against civilians has continued to escalate.

We can be contacted via email at kashmirscholars@yahoo.com. Updates and relevant information will be posted at kashmirscholars.wordpress.com.

Thank you,

Sincerely,

Kashmir Scholars Consultative and Action Network (KSCAN)

Dibyesh Anand, Professor of International Relations, University of Westminster

Mona Bhan, Associate Professor of Anthropology, DePauw University

Dr. Emma Brännlund, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relation and Co-lead, Global Security Human Rights (GSHR), a research theme of Social Science Research Group (SSRG), University of the West of England (UWE Bristol)

Angana Chatterji, Feminist Scholar

Haley Duschinski, Associate Professor, Ohio University

Iffat Fatima, Filmmaker

Shrimoyee Nandini Ghosh, Lawyer and Legal researcher

Hafsa Kanjwal, Assistant Professor of History, Lafayette College

Nitasha Kaul, Associate Professor, University of Westminster, UK

Suvir Kaul, A M Rosenthal Professor, Department of English, University of Pennsylvania

Inshah Malik, Independent Researcher

Shubh Mathur, Independent Scholar

Deepti Misri, Associate Professor, University of Colorado, Boulder

Goldie Osuri, Associate Professor, University of Warwick

Idrisa Pandit, Independent scholar

Saiba Varma, University of California, San Diego

Ather Zia, Assistant Professor, University of Northern Colorado

cc.

Ms. Michelle Bachelet

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Ms. Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women

Prof. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues

Mr. Fabian Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence

Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Clément Nyaletsossi VOULE, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

Endorsed by: 

Parveena Ahangar, Rafto Laureate 2017 and Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, Srinagar, Kashmir 

Binish Ahmed, Research scholar, Ryerson University, Ontario, Canada

Omer Aijazi, University of Toronto and University of British Columbia

Sriram Ananth, Author, blogger and activist, United States 

Paola Bacchetta, Professor, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, University of California, Berkeley

Annelie Persson Bäck, Peace activist & teacher – Sweden

Dag Erik Berg, independent scholar

Somak Biswas, Phd Candidate, Department of History, University of Warwick, UK 

Dr. Claire Blencowe, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick

Fiona Bolger, Writer and poet, Dublin

M. Darrol Bryant, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Waterloo, Canada

Farhan Mujahid Chak, PhD, Associate Professor of Political Science, Gulf Studies, Qatar University

Shefali Chandra, Associate Professor, South Asian History, Washington State University, St. Louis, USA

Shahid Chaudhry, Pakistani Community in Italy, Lombardy Region

Roger Clark, Former Secretary General of Amnesty International (Canada), Order of Canada

Huma Dar, Adjunct Professor, Program of Critical Studies, California College of the Arts

Marlene Epp, Professor, History and Peace & Conflict Studies, Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo, Canada 

Robert Fantina, Author and journalist, Ontario, Canada

Gowhar Fazili, Ambedkar University Delhi 

Giulia Beatrice Filpi, journalist, Italy 

Mohd Tahir Ganie, Dublin City University

Dr. Priyamvada Gopal, Reader, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge

Laura Guidi, feminist scholar, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II 

Dr. Katy Harsant, Department of Sociology, University Warwick, UK 

Pervez Hoodbhoy, Physicist and Peace activist 

Parvez Imroz, President, Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, Srinagar 

Sundas Ismaeel, Trainee, CSEM Swiss center for electronics and microtechnology

Foad Izadi, University of Tehran

Chinnaiah Jangam, Carleton University, Ottawa 

Abdul JanMohamed, Professor, Department of English, University of California, Berkeley

Tony Jenkins, Georgetown University and Education Coordinator, World Beyond War

Rev. Susan C. Johnson, National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

Mohamad Junaid, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Ananya Jahanara Kabir, Professor, King’s College London 

Professor Virinder Kalra, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, UK

Azeezah Kanji, independent legal academic and journalist, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Nisha Kapoor, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, UK

Bhavneet Kaur, Researcher, Delhi University

Mallika Kaur, Law Lecturer, UC Berkeley

Seema Kazi, Researcher and writer, New Delhi 

Prof Arfa Khan, Emeritus Professor of Radiology Zucker School of Medicine, Hofstra University, New York

Prof Faroque A Khan, Chairman Interfaith Institute of Islamic Center of Long Island, New York.

Mr Wajid Khan, Member of the European Parliament 

Rev. Nancy Kelly, Retired Pastor, Ontario, Canada 

Mary Lou Klassen, Adjunct Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo

Domenico Letizia, Presidente Istituto di Ricerca di Economia e Politica Internazionale (Irepi) 

Rev. John Lougheed, retired Chaplain, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada 

Dr. Marjan Lucas, Independent researcher, conflict & human rights violations, The Netherlands

Dr. Sumi Madhok, Associate Professor, Department of Gender Studies, London School of Economics

Freny Manecksha, Writer 

Rahat Mansud, Artist, Lahore

Samuela Marconcini, independent researcher, Italy  

Judith Miller, Retired Academic and concerned citizen, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 

Gautam Navalakha, Civil Liberties & Democratic Rights activist

Muhammed Nawaz, Entrepreneur, Pakistani Community in Italy, Tirano (SO), Lombardy region

Laura Lucia Notaro, Peace Activist, Milan, Italy 

Prof. Henry Paetkau. Retired Pastor, College and Church Administrator, Winnipeg, Canada 

Samanta Pe, Peace activist, Cologne, Germany

Mary (Joy) Philip, Theologian, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Nanky Rai, MD MPH, Physician and Independent Scholar, Adjunct Clinical faculty, University of Toronto

Prof. Samina Raja, Independent Scholar, United States

Valentina Ripa, Researcher, University of Salerno, Italy

Cabeiri Robinson, Associate Professor of International Studies, University of Washington

Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Chair in Global Law, Queen Mary, University of London

Sarbani Sharma, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Jesus and Mary College, University of Delhi

Dina Siddiqui, Clinical Associate Professor, Liberal Studies, New York University

Gar Smith, Environmentalists Against War

Italo Spinelli, Asiatica Film Festival Director, Rome, Italy 

Dwyer Sullivan, Retired Teacher of World Religions

David Swanson, Executive Director, World Beyond War 

Iram Tahir, District “Porta Milano” Council Member, City of Brescia, Pakistani community in Italy, Lombardy Region

Dr. Teodora Todorova, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, UK

Nishant Upadhyay, Assistant Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Sandeep Vaidya, Activist PUCL 

Dr. Sivamohan Valluvan, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, UK

Yasir Waqas, Visual Artist and art teacher, Lahore

Thomas Wilkinson, PhD Candidate, International History, London School of Economics

Dr. Kalpana Wilson, Department of Geography, Birkbeck, University of London