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Indian brutalities in Occupied Kashmir: A failure of the UN

Pakistan has always pursued the matter at the UN. Kashmir issue was raised at international level five times in 10 days preceding the Black Day. Human Rights violations of the Kashmiri people have been repeatedly documented by independent human rights observers, the most significant among them being the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who issued a report in June on the situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IoK). Pakistan has endorsed the Report’s recommendations. And has renewed its call for the UN to set up a ‘Commission of Inquiry’ (COI) to investigate the grave human rights violations in IoK, as recommended by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “We endorse the report’s recommendations that a UN Inquiry Commission be constituted to investigate and redress the gross violations of the human rights of the Kashmiri people,” Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi recently told the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural questions. British Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Julie Ward has said human rights violations in IoK are a matter of great concern for the British people as well as the whole world. Ward said the occupied valley is the most militarized area in the world where human rights violations by the occupying forces happen on a daily basis and have sadly become part of the local population’s day-to-day life. “Pellet guns are used indiscriminately against protesters and bystanders during street demonstrations. The Indian army appears to be particularly targeting the eyes of the victims, which ends up in blindness in many cases”. Ward has raised the issue of human rights violations many a time. “I have also spoken twice in the UN Human Rights Council on the issue of women victims of violence in Kashmir. The latest developments in the valley are of particular concern for those who are worried about women rights,” she said. The Kashmir issue is very much alive at the UN and will remain alive until it is resolved according to the wishes of the people of Kashmir and UN Resolutions. Though the BJP government is ready to go to any lengths to suppress the popular uprising for freedom. However, it would never succeed in suppressing the Kashmiri freedom. The dark night that began on 27 October 1947, with India sending occupation forces continues; but while India could physically and illegally occupy territory it could not occupy hearts and minds. Brave people of Kashmir have resisted occupation for over 70 years and continue to do so. Pakistan has reaffirmed that the Jammu and Kashmir dispute will remain on the UN agenda until the Kashmiri people are allowed to exercise their will, according to the agreed method prescribed by the Security Council. Right to self-determination is sanctified in the very foundations of the United Nations. Yet, for countless people, the promise of freedom remains elusive. Three principles circumscribe the methodology for expression of right of self-determination: the right must be exercised freely and without the threat or use of coercion or repression; the right must not and cannot lapse with the passage of time; and, the legitimate struggle of peoples to self-determination must not be obfuscated or eclipsed by efforts to conflate it with terrorism.

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What is India hiding in Kashmir?

“Human rights violations in Kashmir perpetrated by Indian army with legal immunity dwarf in scale the violations that provoked international humanitarian action in other international disputes. Human rights violations in Kashmir have been documented by all international and neutral human rights organization. Very recently, it was also documented in the United Nations report issued by the High Commissioner on Human Rights. The High Commissioner urged India to allow the United Nations delegation to visit Kashmir to asses the situation. But India does not allow such a delegation to visit Kashmir. It clearly shows that India has something to hide. May be, India does not want the world powers to know the following: tens of thousands indiscriminately slaughtered and countless rapes, abductions, custodial disappearances, arbitrary detentions, arsons, and brutal suppression of peaceful political protest,” this was conveyed in a message to the conference attendees of Pakistani American Society of New York (PASNY) by Syed Ali Geelani, Chairman, All Parties Hurriyet Conference, Jammu & Kashmir. The Indian army is involved in serious war crimes. They open fire on unarmed civilians at their will because they have been given immunity under draconian laws, like Armed Forces Special Powers Act. (AFSPA). We demand an inquiry into these war crimes by a neutral agency, like the United Nations, Mr. Geelani added. He insisted that the movement in Kashmir is indigenous, popular and people’s movement and rejected the notion that it is Pakistan sponsored. Speaking as a guest speaker, Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness Forum reminded the audience of the injustice, tyranny and inhumanity of the Indian military as it occupies Kashmir. He cautioned that at this moment in our historic struggle for self-determination, the Kashmiri people with poise, confidence and unity are taking their inalienable struggle in a new direction of non-violence and peaceful agitation.

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History should not imprison the future of Kashmir

Human rights work in tandem with Kashmir peace initiatives. The two do not war with one another. The idea that suppression of human rights promotes peace is discredited by all history, including that of Kashmir. The denial of freedom of speech, association, religion, due process, equal justice, and self-determination in Kashmir has sabotaged peace, not boosted its chances. Ditto in the past for East Timor, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Southern Sudan and etc. The people of Kashmir no less demand dignity and respect than do other peoples. History should not imprison the future, but neither can it be ignored in assessing the justice and morality of aspirations. A brief chronicling of Kashmir’s history will enlighten understanding of its current plight and viable solutions.India’s so-called “democracy” in Kashmir resembles Myanmar’s patently bogus democracy. The recent nationwide Panchayat (local bodies) elections are emblematic. Let me review the stunning voter boycott statistics from Srinagar and its surroundings on October 15, 2018. The Economic Times reported on October 18, 2018 that when the time for voting had ended, the turnout for the final phase of elections, which was held only for two municipal bodies in Kashmir, remained low as usual at 4.2 per cent. These boycott figures are not aberrational but typical. They represent a stunning vote of no confidence by the Kashmiri people in their current illegal governance by India. The peace process and human rights in Kashmir cannot be separated. They will succeed or fail together. We hope we can count on the moral suasion and conscience of the world leaders to push success forward.

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Talks Can Diffuse the Tension Between India & Pakistan

There was a high level of optimism when India and Pakistan announced on September 20, 2018 to meet in New York on the sidelines of the current session of the United Nations General Assembly. But the dreams were shattered when Government of India unexpectedly announced the cancellation of these talks. Major international and neutral human rights agencies have documented harrowing human rights violations committed by Indian military and paramilitary forces. The draconian laws, like ‘Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) grants virtual legal immunity to any type of war crimes against humanity perpetrated in Kashmir. Human rights atrocities committed against civilian population are commonplace, world powers need to endorse the recommendations of the report submitted by the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights for an impartial investigation about the situation in Kashmir.

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Statement by Foreign Minister at the 73rd Session of the UNGA

Statement by Foreign Minister  at the General Debate of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly: 29 September 2018 Madam President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, May I begin by felicitating Madam Maria Fernanda Espinosa Graces upon her election as President of the General Assembly.  The stewardship of this session by an accomplished leader of her ranking and stature,would undoubtedly …

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War of words must stop between New Delhi & Islamabad

Mail From Dusseldorf, Germany: by Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai The history affirms that almost all international conflicts were resolved not in the battlefield but on the negotiating table. The people of Kashmir were heartened to know that foreign ministers of India & Pakistan have shown their willingness to meet in New York during the current session of the United Nations General Assembly. But their dreams were shattered when Government of India unexpectedly announced the cancellation of talks. The leadership of both India and Pakistan must show their statesmanship for the sake of peace and security of the region and beyond. The reckless statement of Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, “We need to take stern action to avenge the barbarism that terrorists and the Pakistan Army have been carrying out. Yes, it is time to give it back to them in the same coin…But I think the other side must also feel the same pain” was immature and will not pave the way for a better understanding between these two neighboring countries. Such rhetoric needs to stop. We are mindful that the United Nations as well as the world powers urge both India and Pakistan to initiate talks to resolve their differences. But if there is no change in the mindset, outlook and thought processes, then to expect breakthrough in talks is to ask for a miracle.

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UN Can Stop Carnage in Kashmir

Dr. Ghulam N. Mir, President, World Kashmir Awareness Forum expressed his anguish and grief over the continued killing by Indian forces in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. He lamented the passive role of the United Nations towards the loss of human life in Kashmir, and urged both the world body and the United States Administration to help stop the carnage in Kashmir. He said that a just and lasting settlement of the dispute is possible only through tripartite negotiations between the Governments of India and Pakistan and the legitimate leadership of the people of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Dr. Mir was speaking on the subject of, “Kashmir: tale of Subjugation & Resistance” during the 55th Convention of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), that was held in Houston, Texas.Dr. Mir underscored that the scale of the popular uprising in Kashmir can be judged from the established fact, that on many occasions during the month of July-August 2018, virtually the entire population of Srinagar came out on the streets in an unparalleled demonstrations to protest the attempt by the Government of India to scrap the Article 35 A of the Indian constitution which gives the special rights and privileges to the state subject of Jammu and Kashmir. He said that the abrogation of this constitutional provision is a conspiracy to change the demographic composition of the state. However, the Supreme Court of India adjourned the hearting of Article 35-A till January 2019. Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness Forum said, “Could there be any tragedy more despicable for a people than to see their homeland, once known as paradise on earth, turn into hell? Where peace once reigned and communal harmony prevailed. The once evergreen valleys and snow-capped mountains have been marred by blood. How long will India be allowed to go on killing the people of Kashmir and denying them their fundamental right of self-determination is a question which the international community has to address?” Ms. Hedaya Saadi, of Seattle, Washington said the people of Kashmir have suffered long and needlessly because of this brutal conflict. They demand and they deserve peace. Peace in the region of South Asia remains elusive because of the Kashmir dispute. The inalienable right to self-determination enshrined in the United Nations Charter and promised to the people of Kashmir by the international community, continues to be denied. She said that the whole world knows the magnitude of carnages committed by Indian army in Kashmir but they have yet to utter a word of condemnation.

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The UN should not remain passive in the face of human wrongs in Kashmir

Mail from Washington: by Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai Kashmir is one of the most idyllic setting in the world. A picturesque valley located between Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, China and with a small strip of 27 miles with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Kashmir is a natural paradise. The history of the freedom of Kashmir dates back 1931 when the people of Kashmir, both Hindus and Muslims initiated a freedom movement against the then Maharaja (Ruler) to have their own indigenous rule in Kashmir. The resentment of the people led to the ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign against the Maharaja in 1946. Faced with the insurgency of his people, the Maharaja fled the capitol, Srinagar, on October 25, 1947 and arranged that India send its army to help him crush the rebellion. India, coveting the territory, set the condition that Maharaja must sign an ‘Instrument of Accession’ to India. At the same time, India had to attach another condition that accession was made subject to ‘reference to the people.’ On India’s showing, therefore, the accession has a provisional character. Then India brought the dispute to the United Nations where the Security Council discussed the question exhaustively from January to April 1948. It was agreed upon by the Governments of India and Pakistan and approved by the international community that the dispute over the status of Jammu & Kashmir can be settled only in accordance with the will of the people which can be ascertained through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite By adopting a number of resolutions from 1948 to 1962 reaffirming the principle of free choice for the people of Kashmir, the Security Council – and, therefore the United Nations – has assumed a moral responsibility to ensure that conditions in Kashmir will permit the exercise of that choice. To disown that responsibility would expose the world organization to the charge of making hollow promises and, indeed, deceiving a population which is larger than that of many Members of the United Nations individually. The people of Kashmir never lost hope either in the United Nations as the custodian of human rights, or in their demand to exercise the right of self-determination. The scale of the popular backing of the uprising in Kashmir can be judged from the established fact, that on many occasions during the month of July-August 2018, virtually the entire population of Srinagar and major towns in the Valley came out on the streets in an unparalleled demonstrations to protest the attempt by the Government of India to scrap the Article 35 A of the Indian constitution which gives the special rights and privileges to the state subject of Jammu and Kashmir. Article 35 A also bars foreigners to buy the land or to acquire immovable property, etc. in the State. The Joint Resistance Leadership and other legal, religious and business fraternities believe that the abrogation of this constitutional provision is a conspiracy to change the demographic composition of the state. However, the Supreme Court of India adjourned the hearting of Article 35-A till August 27, 2018. In response to the peaceful and massive demonstrations, much inhumanity, continuous violations of basic rights, frequent massacres, constant fear, hunger and misery – these are the gifts of Indian occupation to the people of Kashmir. For the populous South Asian subcontinent, the Kashmir situation entails recurrent possibility of disaster and nuclear war. There is a way to bring these atrocities to an end. The way is that the Secretary General of the United Nations uses its moral and legal authority to reinvoke peaceful dialogue between the Governments of India & Pakistan along with the legitimate representatives of the people of Kashmir for the final settlement of the dispute. The Charter of the United Nations empowers the Secretary General of the United Nations to bring any matter which may threaten the maintenance of internal peace and security to the attention of the Security Council. In consistence with the universally accepted principle that no situation should be allowed to escalate to a point of no return and that the United Nations should not remain passive in the face of human wrongs being committed on a vast scale, the people of Kashmir expect the Secretary General will not hesitate to exercise his discretion and put the Kashmir issue on the active international agenda. Should the Secretary General feel that the factual data at his disposal does not justify the use of his power under Article 99 of the UN Charter, we respectfully propose that the Secretary General urgently dispatch a special representative of high international standing to India and Pakistan who should visit both parts of Kashmir and report back to the Security Council the facts of the situation. In fact, ‘United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights’ has also recommended to send a fact-finding mission to Kashmir to assess the situation there. If India feels that it has nothing to hide, it should welcome such action. We feel confident that the Secretary General of the United Nations will not encourage any party to an international dispute which has been taken cognizance of by the United Nations to circumvent and rebuff the world organization. It should be one thing for the United Nations to remain inactive if an alternative and credible peace process were in motion. It is another when not even the beginning of an effort towards arriving at a settlement bilaterally between the parties or through mediation by friendly governments is visible. To put it plainly, the present situation is that the United Nations is allowing its resolutions to be dishonored and the people of Kashmir to be condemned to systematic destruction. The people of Kashmir deserve better.

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The Aaland Islands Model and Kashmir

Post from the US: Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, July 29, 2018 There are some disputes in modern history that one might take lessons from in understanding the wisest course to take in resolving the Kashmiri dispute. The Aaland Islands is a case in point, as are South Tyrol, Trieste, Andorra, and Northern Ireland, each of which was contested by neighboring countries. Finland and Sweden both coveted The Aaland Islands; South Tyrol was in dispute between Austria and Italy; Trieste was divided between Italy and Yugoslavia; Andorra is a small principality. Virtually all of these cases, the country in question was seized or split in two in the course of war between neighboring countries. Understanding the Aaland Islands means seeing its problems in the larger context of Finland, Sweden and their political and social milieu. Finland had been an integral part of the Kingdom of Sweden for six centuries. They had shared a common culture together, Finns spoke Swedish and Swedes spoke Finnish. But the Finns and the Swedes were different. The Swedes were of Germanic origin, of Viking stock, as were the Norwegians and Danes, imposing as they did one of the earliest empires in history on Northern Europe, and dominating other cultures in the region. They were agrarian, settled and lived from what they grew, not from what they found or captured. But despite having a common monarch, Sweden was Sweden and Finland was Finland. Finnish people are often called the white Eskimos. They have a nomadic oriental heritage (by some historians regarded as "the lost tribe of the Mongols). They shared common heritage with other people who had settled around the Baltic Sea, including Estonia and Hungary, known as the Finn-Urgics, whose origins were rooted in the Ural Mountains of Russia in a marriage, literally, by Ghengis Khan, leader of the Mongols, to a young teenage Hun bride. The Ural Mountains had been settled by the Mongols during the rein of Ghengis Khan, occupied then by the Huns, a people who had migrated north from the Middle East, a people said to have originated in one of the Abrahamic tribes. The languages of Sweden, Norway and Denmark are of Indo-European origin. However, they have virtually nothing in common etiologically with the language of the Finns. The Finns were mystical, pantheistic, with shamanistic practices. The Swedes followed the Pope. In 1808, things changed. After six centuries of Swedish rule, Finland was invaded by Russia in a war against Sweden, seeking greater access to the Baltic for greater military and economic strength. Finland's eastern border is shared by Russia. Its western border was primarily the Gulf of Bothnia, gateway by way of the Aaland Islands to the Baltic Sea. A little more than a year later, Russia forced Sweden to secede Finland on September 2, 1809 in the Treaty of Fredrikshamn. Under the Russians, Finland became the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, allowing them a certain amount of political power in return for the advantages of access to the sea. The Aaland Islands, occupied by Swedish people, was severed from its ties to family and relatives, and made a part of the duchy. However, such a deal could not have anticipated the overthrow of the Russian monarchy and the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, when Finland declared independence. Under the Swedes, Finland had also enjoyed some autonomy, so her independence with the downfall of the Tsar and major upheaval going on in Russia was a default instinct. That declaration created then a new power struggle and civil war in Finland to fill the vacuum between conservative pro-Finnish "Whites" and a communist faction in the labor movement that was pro-Bolshevik and pro-Russian who were known as "Reds." Aside from such political differences, independence had also been spurred by Russian Tsar Nicolas II's plan for the "Russification" of Finland, which imposed serious cultural, language and religious restrictions on Finnish traditions from 1905 on. Russia's attitude toward the Finns was identical to current Indian attitudes toward Kashmir. The tsar intended to abrogate their autonomous status and incorporated them fully into the Russian state. Finland's resistance led finally to full independence from Russia. But it was not through war. With the Tsar overthrown, the new government already had its hands full, and the Bolsheviks had already announced that any ethnic groups that were not Russian were free to choose their own course through self-determination. Finland chose to do just that. The Aaland Islands had already petitioned the Russians to secede from Finland and join Sweden. The cry for independence in Finland set in motion Swedish aspirations to be among their own, to secede from Finland and join Sweden as they had been little more than a century earlier. By means of a petition and supported by more than 96% of the population, they then petitioned the new government of Finland and proposed seceding from Finland, joining Sweden, to come under Swedish government control. The Swedish government, however, was not uniformly excited by the prospect or concerned about the Aaland Islanders or their interests for reasons having to do with internal politics more than anything else. The ideological struggles taking place in Russia and Finland were causing disarray in execution of policy in Sweden as well. As such their support for the petition was weak, and as a result it was less of a dispute between Sweden and Finland than a dispute between the Aaland Islands and Finland. Britain had submitted the Aaland Islands issue to the League of Nations rather than either Sweden or Finland. Britain believed that international peace was at stake in a matter that was seen by Finland as an internal dispute. (Sounds familiar: “Let me state unequivocally that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and will always remain so.” Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs of India. September 26, 2016). The Aaland Islands had been the subject of numerous international disputes over the issue of keeping it demilitarized due to its strategic location in the mouth of the Gulf of Bothnia, the large body of water separating Sweden and Finland. When the League agreed to consider the dispute, Finland immediately declared that the matter was outside the scope of the authority of the League of Nations since it was a matter to be resolved internally by the country itself. Procedurally, the League would then have submitted the matter to the Permanent Court of International Justice for review to determine the legality of Finland's claim over the Aaland Islands, but since the Court was just then in the process of formation, a panel of three jurists, the Aaland Commission of Jurists, having international repute was selected to adjudicate. The Commission consisted of Ferdinand Larnaude, Dean of the Law Faculty of Paris and president of the Commission, Max Huber, a University of Zurich professor of international law, and A. Struycken, a Dutch politician and councilor of the Netherlands’ government. The panel determined that, given the nature of Finland's recent independence from Russia and questions remaining regarding its legal statehood, and the separate struggle of the Aaland Islands in respect to both Russia and Finland, Finland's sovereignty over the Islands was not set in stone and therefore subject to consideration by the League. "The Aaland question is one that extends beyond the sphere of domestic policy," they said. Following the report of the Commission of Jurists on the question of jurisdiction, the Council appointed a second commission, known as the Commission of Rapporteurs, to advise the Council further on the merits of the dispute. Their decision is quite significant in understanding the issue of how and when, in the international community, self-determination is regarded as a legitimate demand. One would think that the autonomy the Aaland Islands had enjoyed under the Grand Duchy of Finland would have been substantial reason alone to have granted them their wish to join Sweden. They needed autonomy under Finland because they wanted to be ruled by Swedes and Swedish laws in a culture of a Swedish making. The overwhelming opinion by a 95 percent majority expressing such a will was another factor that should have been given more weight. The notion that Finland had been a state for a century, to be treated as any other sovereign state, was a useful distortion of fact and legal trickery, clearly challenged by the Commission of Jurists, particularly since sovereign control of both Finland and the Aaland Islands had not been held by Finland but by Russia. The Commission of Rapporteurs obviously ignored the facts and chose to parade the views of tyrants whose positions in power were used to advance a narrow agenda not of the people but of state largesse. State, to them, was land, not people. The people were victims of whatever ambitions and greed provoked the state. Upon receiving the news of the report, Karl Hjalmar Branting, the prime minister of Sweden from 1920 through 1925, read the following declaration: "On behalf of the Swedish Government I have the honour to make the following statement: –" "It is with a feeling of profound disappointment that the Swedish nation will learn of the Resolution of the Council of the League of Nations". "In supporting the cause of the people of the Aaland Islands before Europe and the League of nations, Sweden was not influenced by the desire to increase her territory. She only wished to support noble and just aspirations and to defend the right of an absolutely homogenous island population to reunite itself to its mother-country, from which it had been detached by force, but to which it is still united by the ties of a common origin, a common history, and a common national spirit. This population has declared to the whole world its unanimous wish not to be bound to a country to which it had been joined by force of arms alone. ”The Swedish Government had hoped that an institution, which was established to assist in the realisation of right in international relationships, would have favoured a solution of the Aaland question in conformity with the principle of self-determination, which, although not recognised as a part of international law, has received so wide an application in the formation of the New Europe. It had hoped that the Aalanders would not be refused the rights, which have been recognised in respect of their Slesvig brothers, who belong, as do the Aalanders, to the Scandinavian race. It had hoped that, in the very special case under consideration, in which right appears so evident, and in which the wishes of the population have been expressed with such unusual unanimity, the League of Nations would have filled, at least on this occasion the role of the champion and defender of right, and thus, by its first decision, would have proclaimed the dawn of a new international order. ”To-day, when the decision of the Council has frustrated that hope, the Swedish Government is obliged to express the fear that the Council has grievously shaken the confidence that the peoples, particularly those who, like Sweden, have long been striving to accomplish international law, have had in the League of nations – an institution great task entrusted to it by the Covenant, it is absolute necessary that it should possess that confidence. ”The Swedish Government is not of opinion that the settlement of the Aaland question which is suggested by the Council is likely to confer upon the Baltic area the peace that is desired. Nor yet is it of opinion that a population as homogenous as that of the Aaland Islands, of whose wishes so little account has been taken, can add to the strength of a country to which it is attached against its unanimous desire. ”Sweden is ready loyally to recognise that the decision of the Council has the force given to it by the Covenant. But Sweden will not abandon the hope that the day will come when the idea of justice shall have so permeated the conscience of the peoples, that the claims inspired by such noble motives and a national feeling as deep as that of the population of the Aaland Isles will be triumphally vindicated. Thus it will make its voice heard, and will at last have justice done to it.” The view that power originates, proceeds from, and is vested in government over and above the wishes of the people, whether minority or majority, is deeply flawed. There would be no government without individuals who form compacts with others around them for common defense, for a means of establishing mechanisms and networks for producing and exchanging goods to better livelihood, and for maintaining peace and order. We are not bound to such social contracts by the will of the government we have created. The government serves at the pleasure of those who have created it. Only individuals make contracts, not groups. There is no legal entity called "we" or some collective consciousness that usurps my individual will to be taken over by the state or some private society. My Facebook friends have not committed me to any agenda simply by virtue of being in an association with them, nor has society. Government has no mind of its own, no will of its own, no power of its own. It exists for me solely because I acknowledge it in my affairs and consent to its decrees. It has no intrinsic need for self-preservation over the wishes of the people it serves. It is we who preserve it. Does it make sense to build a computer that takes over our lives, or should the computer serve simply as a tool to be used for a narrow set of needs? As James Madison wrote, "the people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of government hold their power, is derived. Federalist No. 49 (February 2, 1788). Sweden's handling of the matter and its decision to abide by the League Covenant left a sour taste in the mouths of the islanders, but to their good credit, Finland has cultivated excellent relations with them since. It exemplifies greatly the point that communal differences need not be barriers to good governance, and that different cultures can live in peace side by side when they are treated equally by the political and administrative processes, as Finland has shown to have done. In South Asia, the conflict here too is primarily between Kashmir and its occupying power. There are three parties to the dispute - India and Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. But Kashmiris are the principal party to the dispute. While Pakistan has supported UN resolutions which call for a plebiscite to be held to determine the wishes of the people. India, of course, will have nothing to do with it. India takes the view that the state is something tangible to be defended for its own sake, which includes land as well as people. State boundaries are merely fictitious and imaginary lines drawn on a map. The real state boundaries include only a coalition of the willing. The Aaland Islands and Kashmir share a common challenge drawn along similar lines, where a culture whose language and traditions differ from those of a particular group of people insists upon maintaining possession of their land and their politics and will not observe the wishes of the people or accede to the territory having a greater affinity for its traditions and which might propose to have a claim as well. There are similarities as well as significant differences between the Aaland Islands and Kashmir dispute. Both issues were taken to the world body, Aaland Islands before the League of Nations and Kashmir dispute before the United Nations. When the League of Nations agreed to consider the Aaland Islands dispute, Finland immediately declared that the matter was outside the scope of the authority of the League since it was a matter to be resolved internally by the country itself. But when Kashmir dispute was brought before the United Nations, both India and Pakistan agreed to give the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir. Second, the situation in Kashmir prevails in what is recognized - under international law and by the United States - as a disputed territory. According to the international agreements between India and Pakistan, negotiated by the United Nations and endorsed by the Security Council, Kashmir’s status is to be determined by the free vote of its people under U.N. supervision. Third, Kashmir situation represents a Government's repression not of a secessionist or separatist movement but of an uprising against foreign occupation, an occupation that was expected to end under determinations made by the United Nations. The Kashmiris are not and cannot be called separatists because they cannot secede from a country to which they have never acceded to in the first place. Lastly, the most ideal government is that which was envisioned by Abraham Lincoln when he spoke of a "government of the people, by the people, for the people", in his address at the Gettysburg battlefield. Anything else is tyranny.

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India Should Not Reject UN Report on Kashmir

[Special Pick, Courtesy Human Rights Watch: by Meeankshi Ganguly, HRW South Asia Director] India’s government dismissed the first-ever United Nations report on human rights in Kashmir as “fallacious, tendentious, and motivated,” saying the findings are “overtly prejudiced” and seek to “build a false narrative.” India can – and should – do better in confronting its own human rights failures. While the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) acknowledged the “political dimensions” of the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, its report sought to highlight the decades of suffering by millions of Kashmiris. These human rights concerns have been well documented. Cross-border shelling by Indian and Pakistani troops have killed and injured hundreds. Tens of thousands of indigenous Kashmiri Hindus remain displaced after being forced to flee the valley. Thousands have been forcibly disappeared, their wives described as “half widows.” More than 50,000 people have died since the insurgency broke out in 1989. Kashmiris have been tortured or summarily executed by state security forces and threatened or killed by militants. There are serious allegations of sexual violence by all forces. Now, hardly a day goes by without violent protests, even as scores of young Kashmiris are signing up for militancy. India’s kneejerk, bombastic statement is hardly the response of a government intent on a seat at the UN Security Council and other global decision-making bodies. Indian authorities, in official statements, have acknowledged the increasing violence in Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, the government called a ceasefire during Ramadan in the hope of calming the fury stemming from ongoing abuses and failure of accountability, and is now considering an extension. India should welcome the UN report, and commit to act on its findings, including providing access to the UN human rights office. As a first step it should seek a repeal of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, as has been recommended by several international and Indian experts. It should order an investigation into alleged violations by the security forces and prosecute those found responsible, instead of rewarding abusive soldiers. Addressing grievances is what responsible governments are supposed to do. They don’t deny and blame the messenger. And they certainly don’t accuse the UN high commissioner for human rights of prejudice.

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