Feminists from Asia Pacific Concerned at the Situation in Kashmir
03 September, 2019
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) notes with growing concern the abrogation of human rights and manipulation of the constitution in the name of democracy in India, specifically with regard to the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir, without giving the people of Kashmir any say to make decisions over their own lives and future.
Kashmir has faced the brunt of human rights violation particularly at the hands of the armed Indian forces for at least 30 years–a fact that is well documented in reports by international human rights mechanisms, including the latest report by the UN Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in July 2019. India has consistently denied the truth in these reports and refused access to the UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteurs and other international human rights bodies in Kashmir.
On 5th August 2019, the Government of India took the extreme step of stripping the state of Jammu and Kashmir of its autonomy, splitting the state into two union territories to be centrally administered. This was done by merging Kashmir with the Hindu majority region of Jammu at a time when Jammu and Kashmir state assembly was nonfunctional since its dissolution in November 2018. Before the declaration, additional paramilitary forces were deployed in thousands while all Indians and tourists, including the Hindu pilgrims to the Amarnath shrine in Kashmir were pressured to depart the valley under an unconfirmed, and since disproved, terror attack warning. An indefinite curfew was declared and all channels of communications blocked out on 5th August as the Home Minister announced the dissolution of Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution that granted Kashmir special protections under the Instrument of Accession signed in 1947.
India’s attempt to revoke Article 370 is illegal and in direct violation of the right of the elected assembly of Jammu and Kashmir to decide any and all matters related to the autonomy and self determination of the Kashmiri people. Further in the days preceding the decision, 320 activists and political leaders, including two former chief ministers were placed under arrest. The present BJP-led government has long promised the revocation of Article 370 and special status for Kashmir, including in their 2019 election manifesto. Given that many such similar provisions exist in guaranteeing the rights of marginalised populations and ethnic minorities in multiple other states, this is a blatant display of anti-Kashmir sentiments and a unilateral reframing of territorial configurations that is sure to escalate tensions between India, Pakistan and China.
Reports from humanitarian fact finding missions and international media indicate that the revocation of the Constitution Article 370 is a planned attempt for further extension of India’s settler-colonial project in the valley. Government propaganda that the people of Kashmir are happy with the decision is stridently reiterated by Indian news channels, while the reality looks grim. Children, 11 and under, are being held in detention camps; while it is reported that over 4,000 people, many of them young boys, have been arrested so far, private residences are being turned into detention centres as prisons are overcrowded, and the communication blockade and restriction of movement continue with little or no respite for nearly a month since it began. The blocking of communications, including the 176th internet shutdown, since the present Hindu nationalist party came into power is a violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There are reports of starving families, pregnant women and people being denied access to medical care. Protesting people have been blinded by pellet guns wielded as ‘non-lethal weapons’ by the armed forces. Reports show protestors being shot at with live ammunition and tear gas. The Indian government’s only response, unfortunately, has been to try and discredit international media and deny the truth.
The women of Kashmir have been objectified by members of the ruling national party revealing how patriarchal forces seek to control their narratives. Women have faced the harshest brunt of India’s ongoing brutalities in Kashmir and still continue to be marked as ‘territory’ for Hindu men to ‘conquer’, revealing once more the true colonial nature of India’s occupation in Kashmir.
It is an urgent concern that the fate of the Kashmiri people is under siege. With all the internet, mobile and most landline communications being suspended, little news is coming out of the Kashmir valley. The alarming reports filtering out from Kashmir reveal an unrelenting and violent siege on eight million citizens in violation of all human rights principles and also the UNSC Resolution 47 on Kashmir .
We condemn this systematic and gross human rights violations, direct attack on democracy and heightened militarisation in Kashmir. We call for international solidarity with the people of Kashmir and for an immediate investigation and action by the United Nations to hold the government of India accountable for its unconstitutional bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is also in violation of its international obligations as a UN member state.
We demand that the Government of India to:
- Respect, protect and fulfill the right of the Kashmiri people to self-determination through plebiscite promised in UNSC Resolution 47;
- Remove with immediate effect the communications embargo and indefinite curfew in Kashmir;
- Recognise and ensure that the Kashmiri people, especially women and other marginalised groups, are the ultimate decision makers regarding the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A and division of the state into two Union Territories;
- Ensure people from Kashmir are not targeted or legally harassed in other parts of India on the basis of their actual or presumed identity;
- Remove the embargo on the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures and other mandate holders from visiting and investigating in Kashmir;
- Repeal draconian laws, particularly the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Public Safeties Act;
- Immediately conduct an independent investigation and prosecutions in all cases of human rights violations, including loss of lives, enforced disappearances or sexual violence by state and non-state actors in Kashmir;
- End the misuse of anti-terrorism laws to stifle civilian dissent in Kashmir.
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) is a leading network of feminist organisations and grassroots activists in Asia Pacific. Our 248 members represent groups of diverse women from 27 countries in Asia Pacific. Over the past 32 years, APWLD has actively worked towards advancing women’s human rights and Development Justice. We are an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organisation and hold consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
For Further Information Please Contact
Languages: English, Tagalog
Languages: English, Hindi