This past month, the Government of India has escalated military presence in Jammu and Kashmir, already perhaps the densest in the world, enforced curfews, a media blackout, blocked all communications and arrested Kashmiri politicians without issuing warrants under a draconian law. Reports of torture of civilians are now coming through the BBC.
This comes accompanying the Government of India’s attempt to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in violation of the conditions of it joining India after India became independent.
Civilian casualties over the past 12 months were already at a decade high, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as of April 2019 who found in his 2018 report the Indian state to be guilty of ‘excessive force that […] led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries’, and to be guilty of denying access to justice to Kashmiris. The report recommended measures to eliminate the impunity with which security forces were able to act and improve accountability for human rights violations of the state, as well as for the self-determination of Kashmiris in both Pakistan and Indian administered Kashmir. Instead of adopting its recommendations, the Government of India’s recent actions will worsen the situation.
Being committed to fair, free and open societies, British liberals will be itching to intervene. However, British involvement in the bilateral (but asymmetric) issue between Jammu and Kashmir and India could reek of colonialism.
The best outcome would be for the Indian Supreme Court to find the Government of India’s attempt to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status to be illegal given that the Government of India did not do so with the agreement of the state government of Jammu and Kashmir, per the terms of agreement of Jammu and Kashmir joining India.
Given that the Supreme Court’s intervention can be expected to take a while and that with media blackouts, India’s security forces are able to – as it seems they are – acting with impunity, British liberals should agitate for the UK government to work multilaterally within the European Union, United Nations and Commonwealth of Nations.
The first priority should be for the comity of nations to reset affairs to the status quo as of 4th August, and to use instruments at their disposal to achieve this outcome. First, the media and communications blackouts in Jammu and Kashmir must be lifted and those detained without warrants must be released. Second, the original conditions of accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India should be recognised internationally.
The secondary priority should be to improve upon the 4th August human rights conditions for Kashmiris, per the recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Chief amongst these recommendations should be an end to the legal use of lethal and arbitrary force by Indian security forces and improved accountability of the security forces’ use of force.
* Imad blogs at imadahmed.com. He is a member of Camden Lib Dems, Lib Dems in International Development, Liberal International and advises three Lib Dem spokespeople.