By Embreen Hashmi
August 16th 2012
Pakistan can commonly be associated with many positive attributes, from the diverse colourful communities of the Sindh and Balochistan regions, the mini-metropolises of Punjab, the huge shopping and leisure developments in Mirpur, the surreal snow capped mountains of Murree, and the stark architecture of Islamabad, the list of poignant growth is endless. However there is one part of west and northwest Pakistan administered territories called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit–Baltistan, which borders the northernmost state of India called Jammu and Kashmir, commonly referred to as the disputed land, which does not share the calm and serenity of its neighbours.
It is situated mostly in the breathtaking Himalayan Mountains. Jammu and Kashmir shares a border with the states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab to the south and internationally with the People’s Republic of China. This territory is disputed among China, India and Pakistan. Some international agencies such as the United Nations call it Indian-administered Kashmir. The regions under the control of Pakistan are referred to as Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Kashmir is home to approximately 12,548,925 million people, 43.7% making up the population of Jummu, of which is 30.69% are Muslim, 65.23% Hindu, 3.57% are Sikh and 0.51% are made up of Buddhist and other groups, making a total population of 4,430,191 million residents.
Srinagar is the summer capital, and Jammu is the winter capital. While the Kashmir valley is famous for its beautiful mountainous landscape, Jammu’s numerous shrines attract tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims every year. Ladakh, also known as; “Little Tibet“, renowned for its remote mountain beauty and Buddhist culture.
The deeply significant religious shrines and stunning backdrop of Jummu and Kashmir lies arguably one of the most dangerous borders in the world, the inhabitants are peaceful loving people, of diverse communities such as Sikh, Muslims and Christians living together in harmony, however they’re land dubbed as paradise on earth by many including a Persian Emperor and in books depicting the same slogan, is far from the reality which can only be described as a deadly war zone, a toxic and destitute region, a place where residents fear for their lives, where children are torched where justice seems to be a dirty word amongst the powerful, a feared land
Recorded Statistics from June 1989 to July 2011
93,644 total killings
22,757 woman widowed
107, 423 children orphaned /10,009 woman gang raped/ molested
6987 custodial killings
Amnesty International – A Lawless law first published in 2011 reported:
Claims that thousands have been detained, without charge or trial, under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, which breaches India’s international human rights obligations.
The conclusions of Amnesty International‘s report: A Lawless Law: for the detentions under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act; “We urge the British Government to press in the strongest diplomatic terms for immediate action from all interested parties to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict and support the progress in Kashmir towards fundamental rights and self determination for the people of Kashmir”.
Birmingham is said to have the highest population density of Pakistani Kashmiri’s in the world outside of Kashmir. Many Birmingham Kashmir citizens are concerned about the grave situation in Jummu Kashmir. So much so many have formed pressure groups, to lobby their local government, this strategy proved successful when in 2011 a unanimous motion on the human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir was passed in Birmingham City Council who then urged her Majesty’s Government to engage with the Indian Government to put a stop the violations and supporting some of the following;
The recent Amnesty International report in March 2011 has highlighted and recorded a lot of the issues of Rape, Sexual Violence, Torture, Starvation, Disappearances against Kashmiri men, women and children by Indian forces, as a deliberate strategy in counterinsurgency since 1989 in Indian held Kashmir.
* Human Rights Abuse, through the “Unlawful Acts” – Public Safety Act and Special Armed Forces Act, which need to be repealed.
One such organisation formed by second generation British Born Kashmiri woman the B.K.W.C, where never complacent in highlighting the destitute situation, and the effect it has had on the woman of that region, they attended meetings in the House of Commons, where parliamentary group is set up specifically to highlight and promote the dire situation in Jummu and Kashmir chaired by Lord Nazir.
The group members collate stories from other visiting participants of the meetings, such as this one elderly Sikh lady who wanted to remain anonymous to secure the safety of her and her family some of whom still live in Jummu Kashmir. The distraught woman told the group how she was sexually abused in front of her son, how the army brutally cut her mother’s breasts off in front of her eyes and how’s she and her family live in constant fear. The woman’s group have organised charity dinners to raise awareness and much needed aid for the woman and children.
Rana Nazir the chair of B.K.W.C, said “it’s high time the British government urgently intervened and help to stop the increasing violence, it has been going on to long”. B.K.W.C Mission Statement is:
‘Through increased awareness of the Human Rights abuses in Kashmir, create a path of dialogue and reconciliation that will enable the right to self determination for the people of Kashmir’.
After more than sixty-four years of constantly lobbying and politicise the Kashmir issue amongst the British Government, a debate was held in the British house of parliament, to openly discuss the many issues faced by people living in Jummu and Kashmir. The right honourable Shabana Mahmood MP stated clearly that this was an important and an urgent issue that needed the intervention of the British government and the UN to push for a peaceful resolution.
A follow up debate was formally recommended, however no date set as yet.
Slowly but surely the Jummu and Kashmir human rights violations are being recognised as an international issue that needs urgent intervention, however it still fails to command awareness in international media circles, even though it has a higher illegal death rate then Gaza. A recent Chanel 4 documentary Kashmir’s Torture Trail’ did highlight some personal stories from the region.
Amongst the many organisations, charities and specialists involved in trying to bring about a peaceful resolution to the human rights violations in Jummu Kashmir, the main theme is to engage people to take action, to bring the perpetrators to account and to eliminate the unlawful black laws.
About the Author: Embreen Hashmi is a freelance journalist. She is working with BBC WM and worked for Asian Focus Media Group She is working with several charities and community organisations.