Kashmir scholars seek immediate intervention of the United Nations to end hostilities between India and Pakistan on the Line of Control

To                                                                                       April 13, 2020

His Excellency

Antonio Gueterres,

Secretary-General, United Nations

CC: All members of the United Nations Security Council,

Robert Mardini, Permanent Observer of the International Committee of the Red Cross to the United Nations

Re: Open letter to the UN Secretary General and the UN Security Council 

Request Urgent Action on the fighting on the Line of Control between India and Pakistan

We, the Kashmir Scholars Consultative Action Group, are an interdisciplinary group of scholars of various nationalities engaged in research on the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. We write to seek your immediate intervention in the  escalation and expansion of devastating hostilities  in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. On Saturday, April 11 2020, amidst escalating hostilities across the Line of Control (LoC), the Indian Army set up artillery weapons in civilian populated villages as  far as 60 kms by road from the LoC and began indiscriminately targeting civilians in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The shifting of artillery guns into civilian areas was met with protests by locals fearing retaliatory fire and civilian casualties. In response, Indian authorities shut down the Internet in the district of Kupwara, in north Kashmir, disabling access to vital news, information, and emergency services in the midst of armed hostilities and the ongoing pandemic. India has shown a reckless disregard for Kashmiri lives, and is effectively using civilian populations as a human shield in the event of retaliatory fire.  The almost unprecedented shelling in these areas has led to widespread panic and displacement. While the world is trying to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Indian army is engaging in acts of aggression and belligerence, including targeting Kashmiri civilians, and placing them in the direct line of retaliatory fire. In the past 24  hours alone, these events have cost the lives of 3 Kashmiri civilians, including a woman aged 37, and two minors aged 8 and 16, in Indian administered Kashmir. A man, frightened by shelling, also succumbed to a heart attack. At least two  civilians have been wounded in Azad Jammu and Kashmir,  and a four year  old boy killed after he was hit by mortar bombardment.  The numbers of civilians killed  and injured are increasing on both sides of the LoC. In addition, property and livestock are being damaged and homes burnt. 

Over the years frequent hostilities between India and Pakistan disrupt and devastate the lives and livelihoods of  communities living along the frontier, who have repeatedly called for the complete demilitarization of the region. The loss of life  and property alongside the LoC is a constant nightmare that residents live with. Currently, unprovoked firing on civilians is also potentially interrupting efforts to contain COVID-19.  During shelling, which is routine in areas proximate to the LoC, civilians take shelter in community bunkers. These shared bunkers are small enclosed spaces (of approximately 10 x12 ft) where several families squeeze together for the duration of the firing, in violation of WHO guidelines on social distancing, significantly increasing their risk of exposure to COVID-19. People fleeing bombardment from the areas where the Indian artillery has been recently deployed, stated that they were prevented from leaving by police personnel citing COVID-19 related restrictions on mobility. Pandemic advisories have limited people’s access to safer communities and homes of relatives, exacerbating their suffering. 

These hostilities refute the principles invoked by the UN Secretary-General Dr. Antonio Guterres, who  has called for a global ceasefire in armed conflicts so that the world can focus on the global pandemic.  In defiance of UN Security Council Resolutions, India continues to deny the United Nations Military Observers Group (UNMOGIP) access to areas on its side of the LoC  to monitor and report on Ceasefire Violations. The current hostilities are in clear violation of international and bilateral agreements, besides being violations of human rights and humanitarian law principles.

We recently brought to your attention the illegal and unilateral policy changes carried out by the Indian government during this pandemic by introducing a new domicile law. This followed the unilateral abrogation of Article 370 which established the nominal relationship between India and the State of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019. Scholars have openly called the introduction of this new law as  Israeli-style settler colonialism as it paves the way for deliberate demographic change in the region. 

The increasing hostilities and the unprecedented extension of the battlefront into civilian communities, should be seen as part of the continuum of India’s belligerent annexation tactics. It is high time that the international conscience reins in the aggressive and violent ethno nationalist government at the helm of India today. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) must not fail to uphold its principled commitments regarding Jammu and Kashmir at this critical time. The UNSC must reiterate its position and remind the relevant state parties of their commitments and obligations towards Jammu and Kashmir. 

The peoples of Jammu and Kashmir face grave and immediate threats after decades of state violence, denial of rights, massive human rights violations, and the silence and inaction of the international community.  That tragedy is now fast-moving towards a situation of forced demographic change and a threat of another war in the region.  In the absence of international attention and action, it is of grave concern that the role of the Indian military will further  expand during the COVID-19 emergency, and in the enforcement of the new domicile law. 

In the interests of the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir, world peace and stability, you must act now.

Sincerely,

Kashmir Scholars Consultative and Action Network (KSCAN) 

Dean Accardi, Assistant Professor of History, Connecticut College, USA

Raja Qaiser Ahmad, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan

Binish Ahmed, Ph.D. Candidate, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

Omer Aijazi, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Toronto, Canada

Dibyesh Anand, Professor of International Relations, University of Westminster, UK

Mirza Saaib Beg, Lawyer, London, UK

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

Emma Brännlund, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), UK

Farhan Mujahid Chak, Associate Professor, Qatar University, Qatar

Angana Chatterji, Center for Race and Gender, University of California, Berkeley

Huma Dar, Adjunct Professor, California College of the Arts, USA

Haley Duschinski, Associate Professor, Ohio University, USA

Iffat Fatima, Filmmaker, India

Mohammed Tahir Ganie, Assistant Professor, School of Law and Government, Dublin City University, Ireland

Javaid Hayat Khan, Ph. D. Independent Researcher and Analyst, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 

Serena Hussain, Associate Professor, Coventry University, UK

Khushdeep Kaur, Ph.D. Candidate, Temple University, USA

Shrimoyee Nandini Ghosh, Lawyer and Legal Researcher, India

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

Hafsa Kanjwal, Assistant Professor of History, Lafayette College, USA

Mir Fatimah Kanth, Ph.D. Student, University of California, San Diego, USA

Ain Ul Khair, Ph.D. Candidate, International Relations, Central European University, Hungary

Nitasha Kaul, Associate Professor, University of Westminster, UK

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

Zunaira Komal, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California, Davis, USA

Fozia Nazir Lone, Associate Professor of International Law, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Laura Lucia Notaro, Consultant, Sustainable Development, Milan, Italy 

Inshah Malik, Assistant Professor, Kardan University, Kabul, Afghanistan 

Umar Lateef Misgar, Freelance journalist, Ph.D. candidate, University of Westminster, UK

Deepti Misri, Associate Professor, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA 

Preetika Nanda, Research Scholar, India

Immad Nazir, Research Scholar, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany 

Goldie Osuri, Associate Professor, University of Warwick, UK

Idrisa Pandit, Independent Scholar, Waterloo, Canada

Samina Raja, Professor, University of Buffalo, USA

Iffat Rashid, Ph.D. candidate, University of  Oxford, UK

Torrun Arnsten Sajjad, Department of Community Medicine and Global Health, University of Oslo, Norway

Mehroosh Tak, Lecturer, Royal Veterinary College, London, UK

Nishita Trisal, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA

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

Vincent Wong, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, Canada

Waseem Yaqoob, Lecturer, School of History, Queen Mary, University of London, UK

Anam Zakaria, Author and Oral historian, University of Toronto, Canada

Haris Zargar, Ph.D. Candidate, International Institute of Social Sciences, The Hague, Netherlands

Ather Zia, Assistant Professor, University of Northern Colorado, USA