Open letter to the UN Security Council – Take urgent action to end Indian military blockade of Kashmir and begin a process of resolution of the Kashmir conflict in accordance with the right to self-determination

August 15, 2019

H.E. Ms Joanna Wronecka

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Poland to the United Nations

cc. Ambassadors of China, France, UK, USA, Russia, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Germany, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Kuwait, Peru and South Africa 

Re: Open letter to the UN Security Council – Take urgent action to end Indian military blockade of Kashmir and begin a process of resolution of the Kashmir conflict in accordance with the right to self-determination 

Excellencies,

We are writing as you meet to discuss the situation in Kashmir, where Indian actions and a military blockade have created a humanitarian and human rights crisis of catastrophic proportions, one that poses a grave threat to international peace and security in the region. As of today, the 11th day of the Indian military siege of Kashmir, all communications including internet and phone lines remain suspended, hospitals and emergency services continue to struggle with lack of personnel and adequate supplies, over 1,300 people have been arbitrarily detained without charges, and stringent curfew has severely restricted the free movement of the civilian population including doctors and patients trying to reach hospitals. 

The August 5, 2019 decision of the Indian Parliament to dismantle Jammu and Kashmir’s “special status” under Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian Constitution is an act of aggression amounting to an illegal annexation of the UN-recognised disputed territory. It enacts a unilateral change in the legal, constitutional, and political status and rights of residents of the disputed territory. These rights arise from State Subject laws enacted by the erstwhile Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir, which extend to and are shared by all subjects of the territory presently divided between China, Pakistan, and India. The constitutional changes announced by the Indian government have been accompanied by political statements by the highest Indian state functionaries and legal manoeuvres such as the official dissolution of Jammu and Kashmir state, which display an intention to carry out far reaching changes to demographic and land holding patterns, threatening the future existence of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. These actions jeopardize the rights of all Kashmiris, especially a large number of refugees and displaced persons, including the minority Kashmiri Pandit (Hindu) population who either continue to live in the region or desire to return to their homes in the Kashmir Valley. Such a wide-ranging decision, affecting the internationally recognised rights of parties in a multilateral dispute, cannot be glossed as an “internal matter” for India.

Furthermore, the Indian government’s decision is in serious violation of past United Nations Security Council resolutions. UNSC Resolution No. 91 of March 3, 1951 (S/RES/91(1951) specifically affirmed that the convening of a constituent assembly for the Indian held territory was in violation of the terms of the UN resolutions to resolve the dispute in accordance with the will of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the principle of self determination. This decision enacts further irreversible changes in the same direction by erasing the limited legal recognition and protection of self governance, legal autonomy, and citizenship rights for Kashmiris within the territory under Indian control. 

The unilateral abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A is also, importantly, a violation of the 1972 Shimla Agreement between India and Pakistan which resolved to use peaceful and bilateral means in keeping with principles of the UN Charter to settle differences. The language of the Indian President’s declaration through Constitutional Order (CO 273) issued on August 6, 2019 overrules the application of any “instrument, treaty or agreement as envisaged under Article 363 (of the Indian Constitution) or otherwise,” demonstrating a flagrant disregard for the binding nature of its international obligations and respect for international human rights and humanitarian laws. 

India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir, and there is immediate risk of the escalation of the conflict into a nuclear exchange between the two countries. The deterioration of diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan, the escalating tensions along the Line of Control, including the reported killings of eight soldiers in cease-and fire violations today, combined with the volatile and inhumane conditions created by India in Indian-Administered Jammu and Kashmir, lead to serious apprehensions about the outbreak of war, unless the international community recognises the gravity of the present circumstances and responds with the greatest possible urgency and vigor.

The UN Security Council has a grave responsibility at this juncture to act swiftly to end this stage of siege and to ameliorate the sufferings and hardships undergone by the people of Kashmir. It is equally urgent that the UNSC takes immediate steps to initiate a peaceful and just resolution of the conflict in accordance with its primary responsibility towards the maintenance of international peace and security and in keeping with the right of the Kashmiri people to self-determination, as resolved by multiple past resolutions of the UN. We therefore urge you to act urgently in accordance with the  responsibilities of your mandate, the UN Charter and the dictates of humanity. 

The Kashmir Scholars Consultative and Action Network (KSCAN) is 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 kashmirscholarsnetwork.org and via Twitter @KashmirScholars. A useful collection of resources on the aftermath of the revocation of Article 370 from Critical Kashmir Studies can be found here.

Current situation 

On August 5, 2019, India unilaterally revoked Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. The reorganized state of Jammu and Kashmir is now divided into two union territories, ruled directly from New Delhi. This announcement by the Indian Government, led by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), opens up Kashmir to settlement by outsiders, who were previously restricted from purchasing land in the region. This raises fears of a rush of Indian settlers into Kashmir and corporate buyouts of land, leading to demographic changes in the region.

However, this unilateral Indian action does not change the status of Kashmir as a disputed territory, to be resolved in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions on the basis of the principle of self-determination. 

The revocation of Article 370 was preceded by a massive troop buildup. As many as 40,000 additional Indian troops from military and paramilitary units have joined the approximately 750,000 troops already stationed in the region. Laws such as the Public Safety Act (1978) and Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1990) give Indian security forces permission to shoot, arrest, or raid the home of anyone that is seen as a potential security threat, without a court decision. In reality, this gives army personnel impunity; not one army personnel has been prosecuted in Kashmir since 1989.

Background 

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 (LOC) 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, as well as the 2019 follow-up report, outline the scale of human rights abuses by Indian forces 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. The continuing human rights abuses have been extensively documented by the UN’s own agencies and mandate holders, as well as Kashmiri and international human rights organizations. For your reference, here is a link to some of the recent human rights reports.

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 and restoration of all civil and political rights

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) Demilitarize both sides of the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. Further, to demilitarize all of Kashmir and immediately revoke Indian emergency 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 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.

Sincerely,

Kashmir Scholars Consultative and Action Network KSCAN

Dibyesh Anand, Professor of International Relations, University of Westminster

Mona Bhan, Associate Professor of Anthropology and the Ford Maxwell Professor of South Asian Studies, Syracuse University 

Emma Brännlund, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, 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

Omaid Nazir, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

Goldie Osuri, Associate Professor, University of Warwick

Idrisa Pandit, Independent Scholar

Nishita Trisal, PhD Candidate, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 

Saiba Varma, Assistant Professor, University of California, San Diego

Ather Zia, Assistant Professor, University of Northern Colorado

For all other KSCAN actions please click here

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