By Sophia Javed, Media Review Network Research Unit
As Gazan residents watch the rockets and missiles that light up their sky, Kashmiris are facing the light at the end of the tunnel after decades of searching for missing loved ones. Their stories of anguish and hope have now ended on a gruesome note as a three-year enquiry into disappearances in the region uncovers dozens of mass graves along the Indian border. Some 2100 corpses were discovered with experts estimating that some had been buried more than 40 years ago. For the families left behind by the victims, this marks not only the end of their endless search but confirmation of their initial suspicions that their loved ones were abducted and killed allegedly at the hands of the Indian army.
Kashmir and Gaza have very similar stories to tell. Both have suffered under a brutal occupation that has engulfed its regions into endless war, conflict and death. Whilst Israel used its zeal for Zionist expansion and legal systems to endure its Apartheid system and occupation, India chose to use violence and human rights violations of the worst form to sustain its power over Kashmir. In addition Israel has offered India advice on how to handle the “troubled” region of Kashmir just as it has dealt with Gaza. In the end both nations have transformed what was initially a territorial dispute into one of religion and hatred.
Kashmir has often been dubbed as the “forgotten conflict” a name given to it due to the fact that the UN, the USA, the EU and the global civil society has ignored the conflict allowing the Indian forces to deploy such brutal measures against innocent civilians for decades.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict whilst 10,000 remain missing. Given the length of the conflict and the psychological effect it has had, Kashmiri mental institutions are now overflowing with widows, torture victims and child rape victims who have been subjected to an atmosphere of human devastation. Human rights organizations have received information of gang rapes occurring either by Indian soldiers or with their knowledge, with their victims ranging from the age of 3 to 90.
What is this? This is human nature at its lowest point. This is human nature so severe that the perpetrators are not scared of the consequences derived from committing such crimes and the victims see no use in even reporting the crimes as the authorities will never ensure justice.
In light of this, the findings of this enquiry, is a milestone in the history of the region. It now confirms that the assertions made by humanrights organizations for years that innocent civilians had been habitually abducted, tortured and killed by Indian soldiers now holds true. And given the fact that the enquiry was sanctioned by the Indian government human rights commission is of even more significance, as the Indian government has always denied such crimes and failed to respond toreports of the same.
What remains to be seen however is the action that is going to be taken by the Indian government to ensure that the offenders of such crimes arebrought to justice. This is the most difficult dimension of this conflict – culpability. And it is this dimension that lies in the hands of civil society and the world at large.
The government has already assured that it shall use DNA testing to investigate the identities of the victims. But despite the necessity forthis for the grieving families left behind, this gruesome revelation should not be left at that. The Indian government are in dire need for redirection when it comes to the Kashmir conflict. They have to understand that Kashmir as a region is burning, its natural beauty has been overshadowed by the human rights violations it has borne witness toand the confidence of the Kashmiris themselves has burnt with it. This is where the Indian government should start – win back the confidence ofthe widows, orphans, handicapped and raped victims of this barbaric conflict. Hold those accountable for the complete and utter disregard ofhuman life, responsible for stealing the husbands, brothers, sons and fathers of so many generations.
The findings of this enquiry tell a story about this conflict that most of us shut out of our daily lives. Just as the Apartheid in Israel is sustained by our silence, the Kashmiri conflict has been allowed to fester due to the world’s inaction. This enquiry reveals what most of usdon’t want to know and what the Indian government has been denying for over 60 years. But let not this discovery be in vain, let the deaths of all those victims discovered in shallow graves be for something, for thedignity of their countrymen and for the universal dignity that we all share as humans.