The international press keeps referring to the crisis in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, as only a political crisis, it is not just a political crisis it is primarily a human rights crisis, just as it has been for the past seven decades.

The people of J&K are forced to live under the rule of BJP, a tyrannical Hindu supremacist political party, a party whose leader, Narendra Modi is called the butcher of Gujarat for his direct role in the vicious massacre of over 2,000 Muslim men, women, and children. As the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002, Modi ordered his police not to stop the attacks on Muslims, and to not offer any medical assistance to those injured.

Instead of being punished for his part, Modi was re-elected the Chief Minister of Gujarat following the butchery. In 2005, after denying Modi a visa to the United States, the American State Department issued a statement stating that Modi was not eligible for a visa because of his role in the Gujarat massacre, which they considered to be a severe violation of human rights and religious freedom.

The media is doing a tremendous amount of damage by classifying the current human rights crisis in J&K as only a political conflict between rivals, India and Pakistan. This wrongful categorisation of the crisis is shifting the focus away from the real issue, which is that millions of people are being oppressed and are forced to live in fear because of their Muslim faith. They are being denied basic human rights , their lives are being threatened, they’re being killed, their homes destroyed, and this is what the media should focus on and this is what the international community should be addressing.

Time and time again since 1947, the people of J&K have risen up against the Indian occupation of their homeland. Each time this happens, India responds with brutal violence, and taking away the local population’s civil liberties.

For example, India abuses local laws in an effort to suppress the freedom movement in J&K. The Indian army targets community leaders, and young students in particular by imposing strict sanctions on their movements and activities.

Leaders of The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, which is an alliance of 26 political, social and religious organisations formed on March 9, 1993 as a political front to raise the cause of Kashmiri independence are forced to live under house arrest, and are denied the freedom of movement in their own country.

It is not surprising that Kashmiri’s have begun taking up arms against their tormentors. It is not just the civilian population, but also those who hold political office that have started to revolt against illegal Indian occupation. As the Indian military continues to use force to subjugate the local population, the president of the Kashmir High Court Bar Association has said that taking up arms as a response is an option for the Kashmiri youth.

The human rights abuses by Indian security forces reported by more than a dozen international human rights organisations include extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, long detention without charge or trial, rape, and destruction of property.

By turning it into a political issue and blocking independent media access, the Indian government is able to successfully distract the international community from the human rights violations being committed. It is not just that media is prohibited; any cell phone or Internet usage in J&K is also outlawed, making it difficult for those whose rights are being abused to communicate the tragedies they are forced to endure to the outside world.

The only way to improve the situation in J&K is to give the people the right to determine their own fate through a referendum, a solution that the United Nations proposed in Resolution 47, immediately after India illegally occupied J&K in 1948. The resolution recommended a plebiscite in order to ensure peace in the region.

If the Indian government wants to avoid any further bloodshed in J&K, then it must not deny the people of J&K a vote, and needs to put an end to the restrictions on their fundamental human rights or else prepare for more mayhem.

The media should stop making it about Pakistan or India, and start making it about the people being directly affected by the cruelty and brutality of the Indian armed forces. That is the only way the world will begin to pay attention to the human rights crisis in Jammu and Kashmir.

India does not have to be the villain of this story it can be the hero by restoring the civil liberties that it took away so long ago, stopping its use of military force, and giving the people of Jammu and Kashmir the right to determine their own future through a free and fair vote.

The writer is an Assistant Professor at NUST.

@umarwrites.