Lift Kashmir lockdown, world leaders implored

New York: Pakistan’s Prime Imran Khan addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. AP/PTI
New York: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. AP/PTI(AP9_27_2019_000250B)


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By Vijaylakshmi Nadar, TIO.New York, 9-27-2019. One man, Amit Shah and his foolhardiness, by virtue of him being the home minister, continues to prevail over the will of eight million Kashmiri’s, who have been placed under an inhuman lockdown, cut off from the rest of the world, for 55 days now.  With questions raised on the constitutional validity of such an action, being stymied in the country, it was a blessing in disguise when the prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan chose to raise the issue of the lockdown, at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), last week.

The Kashmir issue needs immediate international intervention, when even the Supreme Court, the very last stop for justice in India, has busied itself with the decade’s old title suit relating to the Ayodhya dispute, rather than focusing on even habeaus corpus writs filed to draw attention to the brewing humanitarian crisis in Kashmir.  One of the writ petitions ignored by the Supreme Court deals with 13,000 missing children, demanding that it be probed!

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Though Amit Shah keeps chanting that whatever is being done in the valley is being done for the welfare of the citizens there and that it will be one of the most developed regions, in the next 6-7 years, not a single affidavit has been produced by the government, in any of the related matters being heard by the SC. The SC has often said that “we live in a culture of justification, where the acts of State must be explained and justified to citizens, and especially to those whose lives they impact”, which is what needs to be established in the affidavits.

The situation was therefore rife for Imran Khan, who is also directly affected by any crisis in the valley, to make himself heard at UNGA. The reason he stated he was there in the assembly, despite the fact that he was needed back home is because, “for the first time since the Cuban crisis, two nuclear powers are face to face, and if war breaks out between the two countries, it will spill out of the borders, over which I then would have no control”.

In an impassioned plea, he expressed concerns about the rise of the influence of Rashtriya Swayam Sewak (RSS) in India, how they emulate the Nazi’s, exhibit racial supremacy, have a similar destructive agenda of ethnic cleansing, and how the present political dispensation in India, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) derives its strength from it. He pointed out how much the country’s secular and plural identity, epitomized by Nehru and Gandhi has changed since the BJP come to power in 2014.

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Imran Khan had the attention of the assembly and the world when he pointed out that there are 900,000 troops in Kashmir today, to control, humiliate and subjugate the muslim population in the valley, under the pretext of controlling terrorism. He scoffed at India’s claim that 500 Pakistani terrorists were lined up the border, waiting to jump the borders. “Why would we do this, at a time, when the area was so heavily militarized and gives India a reason to go on the offensive against us?”, he asked.

He pointed out how Kashmiri’s have lost about 100,000 men and women in their fight for self- determination, over the last thirty years and if the government thinks that they will quietly accept the abrogation of Article 370, then they are sadly mistaken. He pointed out how Modi had boxed himself in a corner with this issue, with no clues on how to handle the issue further. “At some point the lockdown will have to be lifted and then with the presence of the heavy military, I fear there will be blood-shed,”, he said.

Imran Khan’s concerns were not just limited to just India’s takeover of the Kashmir valley, which according to him was a violation for the fourth Geneva convention. He pointed out that Kashmir is suffering today because as many as 11 UN conventions gave Kashmiri’s the right to self-determination through plebiscite, but which wasn’t carried through.

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He questioned the lukewarm response of the west claiming that if a similar number of animals were locked up in Britain, the RSPCA would have swung into action. Similarly, even if eight Americans, leave alone eight million Americans were locked up, there would have been an outrage. “So why are we being treated as children of a lesser god”, he asked.

He insisted that the least the western world can do now is to demand that the lockdown be lifted immediately in the interest of humanity. He raised pertinent questions on how humanity and climate change has taken a back seat over business interests, and which was well-received by members of the council.

In contrast, for Indians back home, it was a tad disappointing at the insipid response that Narendra Modi’s speech, shortlisting his government’s achievements got. Interestingly, almost all the achievements mentioned by Modi, have been torn apart by concerned media in the recent past. Whether it’s the 110 Million toilets built, for which there is no photographic evidence, the Jan Dhan yojana, where 370 million bank accounts for the poor were opened, with false promises of deposits to be made in them by the government or its ambitious Ayushman yojana, which had more to do with lining the pockets of crony capitalists with insurance money, than actually fulfilling the health needs of the poor.

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     The school essayist speech, which lasted 16 minutes, the impact of which was further lost in translation seemed more like yet another election campaign for viewers back home than a serious desire to make an impact with other world leaders.

On the other hand, not just UNGA, but the internet buzzed with Imran Khan’s speech, his press conference before his speech and his interview with veteran journalist Christiane Amanpour. Narendra Modi’s consistent refusal to face the media back home and abroad should be a serious cause for concern for a country like India. Assumptions that the Kashmir issue had been successfully capped from world attention, by not speaking about it at all, can prove to be detrimental.

It was, therefore, no surprise that the Indian media deliberately tried to run down Khan’s speech by insisting that it is Imran Khan who was threatening India with nuclear war when he actually claimed that Pakistan had so many issues to contend with, that war was the last thing on their mind. “But if India instigates the way they did during the Phulwama attack in February this year, where a local Kashmiri lad had blown up an Indian convoy of armed forces, giving India an excuse to attack Pakistan, forcing a military reaction from us, then surrender would not be an option”, he stated as a matter of fact.

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His warnings of possible bloodshed in the valley after the lockdown is lifted, too was deliberately misconstrued as Imran Khan desiring bloodshed in the valley.

His candid description of his country as being seven times smaller than India, and therefore no competition to it, also showed India’s obsession with Pakistan in poor light.

His sarcasm leveled at Indian media, “who’s scripting skills could put any Bollywood B grade film writer to shame, by claiming that 300-400 Pakistani terrorists were killed, following India’s retaliation to the Pulwama attack, had the audience clapping for him.

Khan went on warn the leaders, that the damage would not be limited to Muslims in Kashmir alone, but would impact 1.3 billion Muslims around the world. He insisted that the only way to stop crimes being committed by flashing the Islamic terrorist card is by sending neutral observers to Kashmir, to get firsthand information about what’s going on there.

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“Countries like India are being seen as a 1.4 billion dollar market and finances are taking precedence over humanity”, he said as he tried to explain the insipid response of the western world to the Kashmir crisis.

India’s track record with peace in the past besides Pakistan’s history with terrorism too seems to have played a huge role in the lack of outrage.

Imran Khan seems to have come in with all guns blazing, knowing fully well that Narendra Modi’s ultra-nationalistic agenda, will not permit him from engaging in peace talks with Pakistan when the entire RSS politics revolves around hate for Pakistan and Muslims.

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By choosing to speak at the UN, Imran Khan had a clear agenda for himself and his country, while Modi had a single point agenda of whitewashing his government’s governance model, hiding the hate crimes, unleashed by his government on not just Muslims, but Dalits, and women as well, by emphasizing that India is the land of Buddha and Gandhi.

Imran Khan scoffed at India’s stance of Kashmir is being a bilateral issue, with deadly precision. He insisted that where it comes to just India and Pakistan, then Kashmir becomes a unilateral issue for India. Considering the human rights violations going on in Kashmir now, India can no longer stake such a claim, he said.

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Since Imran Khan spoke, Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Muhammad and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan too spoke in favour of the lockdown being lifted.

Canadian MP, democrat Jagmeet Singh, too stated at a public meet that “where telephones and cellphone communication is shut down, and media is blocked, I can assure you there is human rights violations going on”.

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Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi

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