It is ironical, that as India celebrates the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of modern India, who had instilled the respect for life and all human beings, Pakistan’s establishment led by its Prime Minister Imran Khan has chosen to blame New Delhi for alleged human rights restrictions in the Kashmir Valley, after Article 370 was set aside. But he has found few takers outside the usual supporters of Pakistan. Not only is their little merit in his claims - since the restrictions on Internet users cannot be termed as a human rights abuse, per se - but on the contrary, the removal of Article 35A has now given equal rights to many marginalised communities in Jammu and Kashmir.
In fact, India’s Constitution, a document that remains central to the approach of successive Indian governments in dealing with its citizens, guarantees human rights and equality to all regardless of caste, creed and religion. This remains so even today. It drew its inspiration from - amongst others - the beliefs of Mahatama Gandhi. The Indian state inspired by Gandhian ideals of non-violence and the respect for the rights of individuals has successfully produced several heads of state within India and other eminences, who were either from the minority community or from what was earlier seen as untouchables.
Modern-day India has thus believed in equal rights and the respect for individual merit and gone beyond the historical hangovers. And it was with this in mind that Mr Modi’s government had decided to remove the clauses in Article 370 and 35A. It was a privilege enjoyed by only Kashmiri Muslims. Thus the Indian government choose to set these aside, by the same methods and the same process of legislation, that it had been implemented several decades ago.
India’s insistence that what it has done in J&K, is an internal matter, had received much greater support than Pakistan’s anti- India drum beating the world over.
The most recent initiative by Pakistan which was openly supported by China (which has military, economic and strategic interests in Pakistan) to accuse India of abusing human rights in Jammu and Kashmir smacks of hypocrisy and double standards. This leads them to push for a closed-door UNSC meeting on the Kashmir issue recently, which eventually had at least 13 out of the 15 members standing in India’s support in a proceeding that was meant to have no official record nor a press statement thereafter. However, in breaking with the UN tradition the Chinese representative spoke to the press in what was clearly a statement to please the Pakistanis.
However, there has been little mention of the human rights of those parts of Jammu and Kashmir that are under Pakistani occupation nor the abuses of life and liberty in Balochistan and its tribal areas by Pakistan’s Army, as well as the high-handed behaviour of the Chinese government on its Uighur Muslims. It has received little mention internationally. Besides Pakistan’s enforced demographic changes in Gilgit-Baltistan and the control Pakistan exercises of the two parts of what India calls the PoK has until recently been ignored by New Delhi too, in deference to Pakistan’s desire to keep it an internal matter.
Pakistan’s establishment has, however, tried to ‘liberate’ Kashmir from India, to do a ‘Bangladesh on India’ to get even for the fall of Dhaka in December of 1971. They are loath to admit though, that the Indian intervention in East Pakistan in 1971 had come about after the widespread genocide by Pakistan Army, and was, therefore, was for a humanitarian purpose and at the invitation of the Bengali people. But it was not seen as such in the 1970s when there was no Western precedence in the post World War 2 era for having done so, which only America argued for in the 1980s when it sent troops into Grenada.
Pakistan has, in fact, never adopted either high moral principles in dealing with its citizens other than its Punjabi population, nor has it fulfilled the demands of the international convention of the human rights that requires protection to its minorities, equal rights to women, etc. Thus Pakistan’s support for an armed and indoctrinated terrorist movement in support of those in Kashmir who had in the beginning only wanted a non-violent approach has led to a violent 30-year insurgency where thousands have lost their lives and many more their near family members.
However, Pakistan pursues unchecked the use of terror as the extension of its foreign policy on the battlefields of Kashmir against the very same people they claim to stand for. Unlike Pakistan, India is a country that has respect for international norms and respect for the regional status-quo, and therefore it enjoys support and respect today across the world in recognition of the Indian way of life.
Since the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, western democracies choose to make human rights a stick to beat developing countries with, in the aftermath of the Cold War, as they sought for new ideals and new enemies. Ironically it was many of these countries that had in the past and more recently after the 9/11 attacks, used methods and punishments against the locals which totally go against the charter of human rights and the respect for life and liberty. These measures were justified as essential steps to fulfil a security requirement, but no one challenged them because of their positions in the existing systems.