Councillors’ Virtual Conference: Covid-19 and Humanitarian Crisis in Jammu & Kashmir: Covid-19 and Humanitarian Crisis in Jammu & Kashmir
A Virtual Conference of Mayors, Deputy Mayors and Councilors of the United Kingdom was held to deliberate on Covid-19 and the ongoing yearlong Humanitarian Crisis in Jammu & Kashmir on 28 July 2020.
The event was organised in the lead up to unilateral and illegal measures taken by India in occupied Kashmir a year ago on 5 August 2019. The purpose was to apprise the international community of the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the lives of the besieged Kashmiris in Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK).
The Conference was attended by as many as 60 Mayors, Deputy Mayors, Councillors and community leaders from across the length and breadth of the UK. They condemned the inhuman treatment and atrocious attitude towards the Kashmiri people living under Indian military siege during the worst pandemic. The focus of discussion was on ending the human rights violations and bringing the perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice.
In his remarks on the occasion, the High Commissioner termed the situation in IoK catastrophic. He said the Kashmiri people were already suffering from the year-long Indian military siege but denial of access to medical facilities has compounded their sufferings and devastated the lives of many families. He hoped that expression of concern at such an important gathering would send a reminder to the world and defenders of human rights to address the plight of the voiceless and defenceless Kashmiris who are enduring unspeakable sufferings at the hands of Indian occupation forces. Mr Zakaria said during the unprecedented and difficult times of pandemic, the Kashmiris look up to the world to end their decades-long sufferings which have been aggravated since 5 August 2019 and the pandemic.
Mr Zakaria referred to available documentary evidence published by the UN and other international human rights organisations pertaining to the crimes against humanity committed by Indian occupation forces. In this regard, he mentioned the Reports by the UN Rapporteurs on Extra-Judicial & Custodial Executions, Arbitrary Detentions, Torture, and other inhuman treatment; UNOHCHR Reports of 2018 &2019; Int’l People’s Tribunal Report; Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons Report on discovery of mass graves entitled: Buried Evidence; Amnesty International Report on mass blinding: Losing Sight in Kashmir; and a number of other documented accounts. He said evidence on Mass Graves, Mass Blinding, Mass Rapes, numerous Massacres since 1989, Genocide of 1947, Custodial & Extra-Judicial Killings and Torture is enough for the international community to take action against the perpetrators.
The participants related their experiences of living under recent lockdown in the UK due to pandemic with those of Kashmiri people living under Indian military siege during the pandemic. The Kashmiri diaspora in the UK have strong ties with IoK as their extended families and close relatives are living there. They expressed deep anguish at the inhuman treatment being meted out to the Kashmiris in IoK. They said access to medical facilities is a basic human right of the Kashmiris and denial of this right merits immediate international intervention.
The speakers said India blatantly violated all the conventions and international laws on human rights with impunity and defied UN Charter and UNSC Resolutions on Kashmir. After enforcing illegal J&K Reorganisation Order 2020 followed by ‘new domicile’ issuance procedures, it has expedited the demographic change in contravention of UNSC Resolutions on Kashmir to convert Kashmiris into a minority from majority in their own land, they expressed. The participants said that Kashmiri population in IOK has been on steady decline since 1947. They noted with concern that India has been systematically changing the demography through initially the genocide in Jammu in 1947, perpetual genocide over time, forced expulsion of indigenous Kashmiris and illegal settlements of non-Kashmiris.
Besides the human rights aspect of the Kashmir dispute, the speakers also deliberated on the dangers Indian belligerence at LoC has posed to the regional security and the economic toll it is taking on the lives of 1.4 billion people in the region, many of whom are living in abject poverty. They appreciated Pakistan’s full moral, diplomatic and political support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination.
While appreciating the British Parliamentarians for their support and solidarity with the Kashmiris, the speakers urged the UK Parliament to raise a collective voice for the helpless Kashmiris. They also called upon the UK Government to play its due role in ending the human rights abuses in Kashmir.
The participants resolved to continue their unflinching support to the Kashmirs until they get their right to self-determination as promised to them by the UN in its Security Council resolutions on Kashmir.