Category Archives: Article

Article: Plight of Kashmir’s forgotten refugees

An article by Laura Schuurmans:

Thursday, May 15, 2014 – In January 1948, the then Indian Premier Jawahar Lal Nehru brought the Kashmir question to the United Nations Security Council. The resolution by the Security Counci l bound both India and Pakistan to grant the people of Jammu and Kashmir a plebiscite for determining the future of their disputed territory.

A month later, UN proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating that all citizens of the world uphold the inalienable right to freedom, justice and peace. More than sixty years later and in spite of UN resolutions, Kashmiris in the Indian occupied territory have not been granted the right to vote in a referendum.

Ironically, international community’s commitment to the people of Kashmir has also waned over the decades. The dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir has not only jeopardized regional peace and security, the Kashmiris per se have become the core victim of the conflict and they have mostly been forgotten.

Few people around the world are aware of the suffering of Kashmiri refugees who fled from Indian Occupied Kashmir around the globe during late 1980s and early 1990s. To date, Pakistan is has been offering refuge to more than 7,000 families roughly comprising 35,000persons in and around Muzaffarabad. Those Kashmiris mostly arrived from Kupwara and Baramulla district and they fled in fears of persecution by Indian security forces after allegedly being accused of siding with the “militants.”

Kashmiri families were often left with no choice but to abandon their farmhouses, livestock and to leave behind close relatives in search for safety and survival. Many of the refugees including women and children became the subject of beatings, torture and even sexual assault by Indian occupying forces.

In the midst of the night, families fled bare feet through dense forests, over land mine fields crossing the Line of Control towards Pakistan. Some escapes only lasted a few hours but others took days to reaching Pakistan. There have been accounts of some young women who left their family homes at night alone, to be reunited with their husband who had earlier escaped persecution. Although some families have settled down and have fully integrated into mainstream society, the majority continues to live under harsh conditions in refugee camps. Many of the refugees including a new generation of children have been dealing with serious psychological disorders, traumas and also physical disability.

While the local government has made efforts to alleviate some of the suffering of the Kashmiri refugees, financial restraints have caused some obstacles in achieving their objectives. Today, many of the refugees are yearning to go home to the other side of the Line of Control for re-uniting with relatives whom they have not seen for decades. Others are looking for improved living conditions. Unanimously all Kashmiri refugees are still waiting for the UN sponsored plebiscite.

The international community has not hesitated to condemn the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, or to point a finger at the occupying forces that have forced the Palestinians out of their ancestral homeland. Presently, the predicament of the Syrian refugees has been the prime focus of international media attention. These are great human tragedies but these pale in comparison to the loss of humanity in Kashmir at the hands of proclaimed largest democracy on earth.

Having said this, be it politicians, international aid organizations, or U.N. sponsored agencies, hardly anyone has taken serious interest into the plight of the Kashmiris to alleviate some of their suffering and to improve the overall living conditions of the Kashmiri refugees in and around Muzaffarabad.

While the international community has not only turned a blind eye to Indian human rights abuses in the occupied territories of the disputed Kashmir region, it has entirely disregarded the implementation of the basic UN Resolutions for a referendum in Kashmir.

Moreover, if the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states “everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country” why the Kashmiri refugees cannot go home? Indian authorities even blocked the telephone lines from Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian side of the Line of Control. The people of Kashmir evidently need help, and they need large scale assistance be it on the humanitarian front, to receive political and diplomatic support, or be it financial assistance to building schools, health centers, housing and basic infrastructure.

There is a long road towards Azadi (liberation) in Kashmir, and that ultimately road of Kashmiri freedom cannot be accomplished alone without support of the international community.

As long as the West continues to neglect the plight of the Kashmiri refugees including all Kashmiri citizens and those scattered elsewhere in this world, their long road to Azadi will continue to be faced with numerous of hurdles that will prevent their dreams from coming true. Kashmir’s plight could have been avoided if the international community had been committed in taking serious interest in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region just like they did in East Timor, Sudan and other conflict ridden regions.After all, it was the UN that approved both the resolutions on Kashmir and also the Universal Declaration on Human Rights to make this world a more peaceful place. Regretfully, those who have been advocating freedom, justice and peace are also the ones who have silently closed their eyes, who have looked the other way, and who shamelessly have distanced themselves from the beautiful people of Kashmir.

Article: Extremism in Kashmir and elsewhere

Taliban-killed-in-Afghan-operationsAn article by Laura Schuurmans:

Thursday, July 24, 2014 – AFTER Iraq and Syria slid into a civil war, a vacuum has been created and these regions have become a safe haven for extremist forces, including foreign militants who are a sham for the true meaning of the Islamic term mujahideen – fighters for a just cause. These so-called jihadists are from predominantly Sunni Muslim countries, Uighurs from West China, and even include Europeans. On their return home to roost, these militants not only became increasingly radicalized, but also established an extensive network for further assistance, training and logistics for expanding militant activities in their countries and elsewhere. This pattern holds true for Kashmir and elsewhere.

Besides the ongoing battlefield in Afghanistan, a fresh wave of extremist groups has firmly established in Syria and Iraq in recent years. The potential dangers and the impact this will have on global security issues remains yet to be seen. After all, there is no denying that the aspirations of the militant ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) which finds its roots in Iraq, and which has extended its activities to Syria, has gradually been expanding into the region to establish an Islamic Caliphate throughout the wider Middle East. ISIS, however, is not the only extremist threat the world has to deal with. There is also second security vacuum that is being created. This year, US forces have planned its withdrawal from Afghanistan, of which the faith and future battlegrounds of the Afghan extremist forces has also been a focal point of discussion.

Against this backdrop, could we speak of a déjà vu? Could we rightfully speak of a repetition of the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989) when Muslims from all over the world were recruited to join hands and fight ‘in the name of God’ against the infidels and occupying forces just like what has been happening in Syria and Iraq today? In 1989 when this war ended and the mujahedeen returned home, Muslim fellows from around the globe declared them heroes for defeating the Red Army. Many so-called mujahedeen felt empowered as such that they continued searching for new and fresh battle grounds ranging from Algeria, to Kashmir and the Philippines, and which ultimately also resulted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Recently Al-Qaida uploaded a video “New Afghanistan being created in Syria” in which it urges Muslims to fight against Indian occupation in the disputed Kashmir Region. It also invites Kashmiri Muslims to join the global jihad. This is the first time in recent years that Islamic extremist forces have directly aimed at Kashmir. In 1989 a similar scenario was put in place when the Afghan-Soviet War ended and the Islamic mercenaries and vigilantes expanded their activities into Jammu and Kashmir where earlier an indigenous uprising against Indian occupation had set the disputed region on fire. The possible arrival of foreign extremist groups into Kashmir, however, is a threat that could have been tackled much earlier. For more than six decades, the Kashmir dispute has been left unresolved with no vision of a resolution to the conflict in sight. Human rights against innocent civilians have been violated on gross scale. In other words, Kashmir has reached a deadlock.

Recently, the Srinagar based “Rising Kashmir” published “A Stark Reality” in which was emphasized on the increasingly dissatisfied youth in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region who could be ready to support an indigenous armed uprising against Indian occupation. This is a third potential threat that could jeopardize peace and security in the region and beyond. Although the Kashmiris are peaceful by nature, the people of Kashmir have been living under the shadow of the gun in what is often considered “the world’s most beautiful prison”. Oppression, systematic torture, and even extra-judicial killings do occur regularly. This has left the people of Kashmir often disillusioned with no hopes for a prosperous future, and which, in recent years, has increasingly led to dissatisfaction among the Kashmiri youth, including the elders, who have started to sympathize, once again, with the armed militants who have been active in the region for the past few decades.

This is an alarming situation. Moreover, this danger, together with the possible arrival of extremist forces from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, could ultimately stir an armed uprising against Indian occupation in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region. Therefore, it may be time that the newly elected Indian P.M. Narendra Modi, together with his Pakistani counter part Nawaz Sharif should go one step beyond shaking hands and smiles in front of the camera. They should start taking firm action, act jointly, and move one concrete step ahead into resolving the Kashmir conflict. Both leaders should make use of this narrow window of opportunity to engage with the Kashmiris and alleviate some of their suffering to reduce the possibility of militant forces entering and settling down in the disputed region.