According to Amnesty International on July 1, 2015, “India has martyred one lakh (100,000) people in Kashmir. More than 8,000 disappeared (while) in the custody of army and state police. No one has returned so far.”

Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) has been in the news off and on since Indian soldiers invaded the valley in 1947, marking the beginning of an era of injustice, oppression and cruelty. ‘Millions killed’, ‘thousands disappeared’, and ‘hundreds tortured’ has become the recurrent mantra in headlines on both sides of the border as well as in international media; in fact such phrases have become something of a trademark feature in any accurate representation of Indian ruthlessness in IOK.

In what is part of the foundation stone of modern civil society - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Article 3 categorically states, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. Clearly the sorry state of affairs in IOK stands in clear violation of this declaration. Oppression, loss, fear, injustice and struggle are rampant in the region. In fact, it would not be inappropriate to say that the human rights crisis which exists in the valley has only intensified since the disputed elections of 1987, following which and the series of demonstrations and strikes against the Indian Government on the continued deprivation and grievances of the citizens of Kashmir, the Indian military unleashed a new wave of torture upon the citizens of the valley that has lasted from 1989 to date, and looks set to continue unabated indefinitely.

These violations of basic human rights were possible as the result of a very special law that passed through the Indian Parliament; the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) enacted by the Government of India in September 1990, which granted special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in Kashmir. The AFSPA has been criticised heavily since the start of its implementation, as its provisions entail permissions for Indian forces to kill, shoot or destroy any building in IOK on mere suspicion. This draconian law also allows a non-commissioned officer or an individual of equivalent rank to use force and exercise the power of arrest without warrant. Furthermore, under section 7, forces can even commit extrajudicial killings without the fear of prosecution.

AFSPA has continued to come under heavy criticism from international organisations such as the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other non-governmental organisations. Navanethem Pillay, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights in 2009 asked India to repeal the AFSPA, stating the law breached human rights standards.

2015 marks 25 years of the use of this draconian law; a law which essentially protects Indian forces from any consequences for their brutality and savagery against innocent, unarmed Kashmiris. To date, not a single member of the security forces has been put to trial in a civilian court for the human rights violations in IOK.

To paint a clearer picture of the extent of the atrocities; in 2011, India’s Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission released a report stating that a three-year investigation had uncovered 2,156 unidentified bodies in 38 sites in the region. These unmarked graves confirm allegations of just how big a role the Indian forces have played in the disappearance and extra-judicial killings of the Kashmiri people.

In 2010, a new generation of young Kashmiri protesters was forced to take to the streets after a local youth was illegally killed by security personnel. The unarmed, peaceful protesters faced the iron hand of Indian security forces, but Indian brutality failed, as it always has, to dampen the spirits of the youth who had nothing more than stones in their hands to fight off the modern, heavy, state of the art Indian military machinery.

Despite acknowledging Indian atrocities, unfortunately, the cries of the Kashmiri people and their peaceful struggle for freedom has not been able to garner any decisive movement by international bodies for the resolution of this dispute. Indians have tried, time and again, to sabotage the Kashmiri cause and struggle for freedom by attempting to link it with militancy and terrorism. It is only the continued resistance of the valiant people of Kashmir, who have not let such malicious agenda deter them from their quest for peace that has prevented heinous Indian designs from succeeding.

Indian deniability of its role in IOK becomes even more questionable given their reaction to the attempts of any independent body to look into the issue. Anyone who tries to expose the Indian atrocities in IOK, Indian officials instead of answering or denying the ‘allegations’, take extreme measures to either prevent access to the information and to Kashmir, or simply silence the query and remove the questioner from the equation altogether. The most recent example of this behaviour is the American researcher Christine Mehta, who was working for Amnesty International and got deported from India for investigating the alleged human rights abuses for Amnesty International.

Pakistan has always been a vocal moral supporter and sympathiser of the Kashmiri’s right to self-determination, often facing the brunt of malicious Indian retaliation and slanderous agenda, but never ceasing to raise its voice against the imperialistic behaviour in Kashmir.

The people of Pakistan have deep national, historical, religious and cultural bonds with the people of Kashmir. This affinity is often depicted in the supportive protest rallies for Indian Occupied Kashmir in Pakistan, and the reciprocal slogans of ‘Long Live Pakistan’ with the raised Pakistani flag under the shadows of Indian guns in IOK. Pakistan and Kashmir are one soul in two bodies.

It goes without saying that all roads to peace and prosperity in South Asia go through Kashmir. The shadows of oppression and deprivation have loomed for far too long in IOK, and it is high time that international bodies take notice of India’s draconian laws in the Kashmir valley, particularly as it tries to wear its mask of respectability to gain access to institutions whose basic charter premises it does not respect. A ‘rising and shining’ India, prospectively seeking membership of United Nations Security Council currently being in blatant violation of UNSC resolutions, must settle the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UNSC resolutions.

If India truly wishes to reach great power status, it should seek an early resolution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people; allow an independent investigation into the Human Rights violations and comply with its international multilateral responsibilities. Or else its feet would keep dragging in the South Asian region, because of its policy of retaining regional disputes. The right to self-determination belongs to the people of Kashmir, and it is one that they will get eventually - if not today then tomorrow.