On 5th January 1949, the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan adopted a resolution that guaranteed Kashmir’s right to self-determination through an impartial plebiscite. However, despite the UN guarantees, India has not carried out free and fair plebiscite in Kashmir even after 75 years, which is an utter violation of international law. Instead, people of Kashmir are suffering systematic persecution at the hands of Indian occupational forces for demanding right to self-determination. While the international community, especially the UN, has failed to implement its resolutions. The world community must stand up against Indian tyranny and fulfill its promises made to the people of Kashmir.
The State of Jammu and Kashmir has historically remained independent, except in the anarchical conditions of the late 18th and first half of the 19th century, or when incorporated in the vast empires set up by the Mauryas (3rd century BC), the Mughals (16th to 18th century) and the British (mid-19th to mid-20th century).
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All these empires included not only present-day Pakistan and India but some other countries of the region as well.ii
Until 1846, Kashmir was part of the Sikh empire. In that year, the British defeated the Sikhs and sold Kashmir to Gulab Singh of Jammu for Rs. 7.5 million under the Treaty of Amritsar.
Gulab Singh, the Maharaja, signed a separate treaty with the British which gave him the status of an independent princely ruler of Kashmir. Gulab Singh died in 1857 and was replaced by Rambir Singh (1857-1885). Two other Marajas, Partab Singh (1885-1925) and Hari Singh (1925-1949) ruled in succession. Gulab Singh and his successors ruled Kashmir in a tyrannical and repressive way. The people of Kashmir, nearly 80 per cent of who were Muslims, rose against Maharaja Hari Singh’s rule. He ruthlessly crushed a mass uprising in 1931.
In 1932, Sheikh Abdullah formed Kashmir’s first political party, the All Jammu & Kashmir Muslim Conference (renamed as National Conference in 1939). In 1934, the Maharaja gave way and allowed limited democracy in the form of a Legislative Assembly. However, unease with the Maharaja’s rule continued.
According to the instruments of partition of India, the rulers of princely states were given the choice to freely accede to either India or Pakistan, or to remain independent. They were, however, advised to accede to the contiguous dominion, taking into consideration the geographical and ethnic issues.
In Kashmir, however, the Maharaja hesitated. The principally Muslim population, having seen the early and covert arrival of Indian troops, rebelled and things got out of the Maharaja’s hands. The people of Kashmir were demanding to join Pakistan. The Maharaja, fearing tribal warfare, eventually gave way to the Indian pressure and agreed to join India by, as India claims, signing’ the controversial Instrument of Accession on 26 October 1947.
Kashmir was provisionally accepted into the Indian Union pending a free and impartial plebiscite.
This was spelled out in a letter from the Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten, to the Maharaja on 27 October 1947. In the letter, accepting the accession, Mountbatten made it clear that the State would only be incorporated into the Indian Union after a reference had been made to the people of Kashmir. Having accepted the principle of a plebiscite, India has since obstructed all attempts at holding a plebiscite.iv
In 1947, India and Pakistan went to war over Kashmir. During the war, it was India which first took the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations on 1 January 1948.
The following year, on 1 January 1949, the UN helped enforce ceasefire between the two countries. The ceasefire line is called the Line of Control. It was an outcome of a mutual consent by India and Pakistan that the UN Security Council (UNSC) and UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) passed several resolutions in years following the 1947-48 war.
The UNSC Resolution of 21 April 1948 – one of the principal UN resolutions on Kashmir stated that both India and Pakistan desire that the question of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite.
Subsequent UNSC Resolutions reiterated the same stand. UNCIP Resolutions of 3 August 1948 and 5 January 1949 reinforced UNSC resolutions.
The right of self-determination is a basic norm of democratic society which is recognized universally and it provides choice to the certain individuals to decide about their future according to their own wishes. But this right is completely denied by the so claimed largest democratic country India, in the South Asia.
Denial of this right is casus belli of Kashmiri freedom struggle. Since Kashmiris are suppressed through harsh tactics for demanding right to self-determination, it leads to armed struggle against the occupiers i.e. India. India labels this indigenous freedom struggle as terrorism to deceive the world.
The Indian state is bound to observe the international norms as referred by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Article 27 of this convention declares that a party cannot invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty. This article shows that the state cannot back out from the international commitment on the ground that it is the violation of its national law.vii
New Delhi’s allegation of assistance to the Kashmiri people from the Pakistan side is unfounded. Objective reports in foreign media testify that the Kashmiri agitation is indigenous.
Pakistan upholds the right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to self-determination in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. These resolutions of 1948 and 1949 provide for the holding of a free and impartial plebiscite for the determination of the future of the state by the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Despite suffering for 75 years under illegal Indian occupation, Kashmiri people remain committed to their demand for right to self-determination. Pakistan stands with the people of Kashmir unequivocally in their rightful struggle for freedom from tyranny and repression.
To end Kashmir dispute, the only way forward is giving people of Kashmir free will to decide their future, as guaranteed by the UNSC resolutions. International community, especially the West, must rise above their economic and strategic interests and put pressure on the Indian government to withdraw its illegal forces from IIOJ&K and give the people their right to self- determination.