By Abdul Akbar, First Secretary, Embassy of Pakistan Ankara
“This will be the fate of the stone-pelters!” shouted an Indian military official on a megaphone, as a military convoy drove past shell-shocked bystanders on 9 April 2017, in Utligam village in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir.
At the head of the military convoy was an Indian military jeep - with a young Kashmiri man tied with ropes to its front, writhing in agony and pain. That’s the “fate” that the Indian military official was warning about.
For nearly four hours the convoy was paraded through village after village, instilling terror in the hearts of men, women and children alike, repeatedly announcing: “This will be the fate of the stone-pelters!”
The brutal demonstration of power, instead of terrorising the masses, resulted in protests erupting all across Jammu and Kashmir. As the video of the incident went viral on social media, believers in basic values of human dignity and respect called for holding those responsible accountable.
The response to the wide spread outrage was, however, characteristic of the decades-long Indian policy in the region - adding insult to the injury. The individual responsible for parading the young Kashmiri as ‘human shield’ was not only awarded the Indian Chief of Army Staff’s Commendation card, but his shameful act was praised by the Indian Government for “boosting the morale of soldiers”.
Standing among the shell-shocked bystanders watching the ‘human shield’ parade, the Stone Pelter, a young Kashmiri boy- still hiding a stone in his hand – felt shivers of fear go down his spine. Will this also be my fate one day, the thought froze his heart with foreboding. “I cannot bear this inhuman treatment, torture and humiliation” he murmured to himself.
As he walked back from the “human shield” parade, he questioned why he could not live a normal life like all other human beings? Why his heavenly hometown had been turned into a dreadful prison by 700,000 Indian troops, making it one of the most heavily militarized zones in the world. He felt that his life was worse than a caged animal’s. Why was it that he was being denied rights that most other human beings took for granted? Why must he live with the pain of not being able to help his sister who was brutally raped by soldiers of the occupation army? Why did he have to bury a brother, the dead body riddled with countless pellet marks? Why does his mother stand by the door of their house waiting for a husband who left for his daily work one morning and never made it safely back in the evening ?
But the teachers in his school also say that there is a brighter world outside, the world whose conscience is still alive; there are people who still value human life and dignity; who still listen to the inner voices of their hearts; and who have yet not sold their humanity to pragmatic materialism.
The young stone-pelter cannot reconcile that image with the grim reality he experiences everyday in Indian Occupied Kashmir. In the world he knows of, all his friends and their families share similar stories. Every house is in perpetual mourning in this man-made hell in God-made heaven. Scenes of horrific brutalities are his only childhood memories. His half-widow mother tells him 94,000 Kashmiris have laid down their lives in this just struggle for self-determination. Hundreds perished in the custody of the Indian security forces. Thousands of women have been raped and molested. Every other day a new mass grave, now in hundreds, is discovered.
She tells him that after the extrajudicial killing of a young, charismatic Kashmiri leader, Burhan Muzaffar Wani on 8th July 2016, spontaneous protests erupted all across Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. Indian occupation forces resorted to indiscriminate force and brutality to suppress these protests. The occupation army killed more than 170 Kashmiris of all ages with their dreaded pellet guns – if the gun did not kill you, it maimed you horribly, taking your eye-sight, crippling you, killing you while you still live.
His mother also says that India’s own leadership had not only promised an end to its occupation to the people of Jammu & Kashmir, but also to Pakistan and the international community. On 31 October 1947, Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru wrote “… that we shall withdraw our troops from Kashmir as soon as peace and order is restored and leave the decision regarding the future of the State (of Jammu & Kashmir) to the people of the State is not merely a promise to your government but also to the people of Kashmir, and to the world.”
The young stone pelter’s mind is baffled by what he hears and what he sees. He is startled how easily India forgot its promise and at the blatant audacity of the Indian Government to deny access to human rights organizations to the weeping valley of Kashmir. He knows, despite all international condemnation and calls for investigations into decades of atrocities against Kashmiris, no one has been held accountable so far.
His mother tells him that losing hope is not in the blood of Kashmiris. She says that there are still people with conscience alive. There are world leaders who speak for them. There are countries that stand-by them. There are NGOs and other organizations that feel their pain and raise their voices for them. There are documented reports by different institutions, including the Independent Permanent Human rights Commission (IPHRC) of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) highlighting the continuous violation of fundamental human rights in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. The reports highlight the increase in the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force against unarmed and innocent civilians and human rights activists by the Indian forces with impunity; torture; extrajudicial killings; rape; and mass blinding through use of pellets. Above all, the reports chronicle the denial of the Kashmiri’s inalienable right of self determination.
The young mind cannot fathom that India that brutalizes him, denies him his rights, wishes to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, an organization whose resolutions it has mockingly flouted for seven decades.
His young mind questions why the Pakistani Prime Minister’s demand at the United Nations General Assembly on 21 September 2017 to appoint a Special Envoy on Kashmir to ensure the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions has not yielded any results. Are all the calls made to halt pellet gun attacks and other violence against unarmed demonstrators in Jammu & Kashmir; stop the use of rape as an instrument of state policy by Indian security forces; end media blackouts; rescind draconian “laws” encouraging impunity; and free all Kashmiri political leaders under detention, unreasonable and illegitimate?
Frightened, baffled and heartbroken, the young stone-pelter questions himself how many more nights of oppression, rapes, torture and killings would it take to jolt the conscience of the international community? How many more Kashmiris must lose their eyes to pellet-guns before the world opens its eyes to this oppression? How long will the Kashmiris be used as human shields, like in Utligam village, before the international community stands up to shield them?
The stone-pelter finds no satisfactory answers to his questions. He traces his steps back to join his other young class fellows who stand fearlessly in front of the Indian troops with stones in their hands and the belief in their hearts that no occupation force in this world is powerful enough to stamp out what people truly believe in. The stone-pelters are real-life Davids against power drunk Goliaths. They know that in the end they will prevail, but they ask why the world must take so long to say, “Enough” to India.
It is time that the stone-pelter gets an honest answer.