Transcript of the lecture delivered in March 2017 at the UN Security Council session at a conference on “Human Rights in South Asia”. (Photo source: India TV News)

Nearly half the world’s population today is a refugee – each affected by conflict in some form or the other. We dream of a better world everyday yet the world continues to go from bad to worse – conflict is becoming the norm for many.

I am a Kashmiri and was born in adversity, in exile. I grew up disconnected from my roots as my family had been ousted before my birth. The next exodus came to my knowledge when I was a young child living in Srinagar in 1988-89 – in January 1990 our entire community was asked to “Die, Convert or Leave” at the behest of Jehadee slogans shouted from the local mosques – overnight everyone had to leave to save their families’, their children’s lives. In the darkness of that night, many were raped, looted, killed brutally – but the world remained silent!

From Qazigund to Baramulla, the spread of a particular form of Islam supported by an armed militia movement funded by Pakistan has created massive unrest in last three decades – there has been ethnic extermination and the only voice that is allowed to come out is the voice of propaganda.

The so called ‘Azadi’ movement has No support from Hindus, Dogras, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Gujjars, Bakarwals, majority of Shia Muslim community and moderate Muslims.  Inspite of continuous unrest, people go about their daily lives, they participate in state elections – their own people have been running government machinery for majority of these 70 years. The disgruntled lot is misused by state machinery; is armed with guns and slogans of Intifada and made scape goats to the idea of azadi.

For around 3 decades now, children of Kashmir valley continue to be radicalised and subject to gross human rights violations. There are 8 and 9 year old Mohalla Commanders and many other younger children instigated to pelt stones at the establishment in the state. Last year when the poster boy of Jehaad, Burhan Wani was killed, it led to the eruption of unrest in the valley with hundreds taking to the streets in protest asking for Azadi. Many of these were children.

I would like to  quote the words of Burhan Wani’s father after he was killed to know how children are brainwashed:

“A Muslim has his faith in God. He knows if he dies in the path of God, he goes to God. In our religion, whosoever dies because of the oppression from India, or by an Indian bullet, doesn’t die. He goes from this world to the other world (as promised in the Quran)”

I would like to remind you of what the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict listed as one of the 6 grave violations of child rights:

“Hundreds of thousands of children are used as soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. Many children are abducted and beaten into submission, others join military groups to escape poverty, to defend their communities, out of a feeling of revenge or for other reasons.”

There is an established case of religious indoctrination at many Madrasas in Kashmir that follow hardliner view of Jihad similar to what is followed in Syria, Iraq and other conflict zones. The use of kids and susceptible families in Jihad follows the global pattern of recruitment of kids as Jihadi volunteers at paltry sums, using them as scape goats in front of the security personnel.

Mr Chairman, I would like to ask what these 8, 9 and 10 year old paid children were doing throwing (not stones) but rocks at armed police pickets?

The human rights violations of those kids and youngsters who are indoctrinated to jihadi ideology is not questioned? Burhan Wani is a case in point. Those kids who should be spending their growing up years to educate themselves are brain washed to pick up guns at early ages and taught to spread fear and hatred.

The youth who have taken to stone pelting and other forms of violence due to misguidance and because of this idea of extreme religious doctrine being imbibed in them is only harming them and future generations.

The fine crafts of Papier Mache, Handicrafts, Art, Music, Literature and the region’s history and heritage is disappearing slowly – the only mark of recognition of the region has unfortunately become conflict and terrorism! The once booming tourism has come to a grinding halt. How can a religious doctrine bring peace and tranquility to a region when the day to day lives of the people are held ransom to this idea? All of this because of the state sponsorship of terrorism from across the border – the UN, the world remains silent? Why?

The human rights violations of religious minorities of the region are never raised. The half a million KP’s who were exterminated overnight from their centuries old habitat is a non-issue. Every time efforts are made to try and do justice to their cause, all the jihadi groups get up in arms in unison to resist any attempts from the KP’s safe and sustained return to their homeland, Kashmir.

The call of Kashmiri Pandits to be recognised as Internally Displaced Person has fallen on deaf years, thus far!

The Sindhis, Balochis, people residing in abysmal conditions in Pakistan Occupied Jammu Kashmir region have tasted ‘Azadi’ – the same call for Azadi that a few Kashmiris in the valley are shouting for!

Gilgit Baltistan is the latest to be arbitrarily swallowed as the 5th frontier by Pakistan – the world community continues to be silent?

The human rights violations of those young children, who are focibly made human shields in front of police during strikes and protests are ignored by their handlers and the rights watch groups.

The human rights violations of a lone soldier in a police picket, who is only fulfilling his duty to keep the vigil and is mobbed by stone pelters and subjected to arson are never accounted for. 

The human rights violations of the poor residents of the border villages especially in the Jammu and Ladakh region, who face exodus every month due to cross border firing and shelling is never considered.

Jammu has become a refugee capital of India – Rohingyas from Myanmar and Bangladeshi refugees reside in large numbers in the city adding to the already burdened part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Despite India and Pakistan fighting 3 wars over Kashmir, the majority community in Kashmir never supported the nefarious designs of Pakistan to annex Kashmir. The locals of Kashmir strongly resisted the Kabali raids in 1947.It was only after 1989 that the gun-culture infested the Kashmir valley, due to mass infiltration of foreign trained gurreila terrorists from pakistan into Kashmir. Some locals were also radicalised in the name of Jihad and inducted into the killing factory named ‘Azadi’.

India has had no choice but to increase presence of military and para military forces to maintain law and order and more so in border areas to quell any cross border terrorism and infiltration from Pakistan.

Collateral damage in cross firings and terrorist incidents is unfortunate and over the years of militancy in the valley a no of innocent people have lost their lives to the gun.

During the last 12 months, there have been 50 plus incidents of schools being burnt in the valley by miscreants. Who in their right minds destroy the very fundamentals of a society.

Mr Chairman, the schools are the pillars of our future generations and only the twisted minds and ideologies will target education and well being of children in the name of Jihad. What makes matters worse is the so called leaders of some of these Jihadi outfits send all their sons and daughters to leading institutions in the West for higher studies to secure a better future far away from the war cries of Jihad. None of these so called ‘Azadi’ proponents have their kith and kin involved in any shape or form in leading the blood shed.

The West is slowly waking up to the propaganda and dangers of supporting this movement of bloodshed. I bring to your attention the recent bill proposed by a US Congressman, Ted Poe, the Chair of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism saying: 

“Not only is Pakistan an untrustworthy ally, Islamabad has also aided and abetted enemies of the United States for years.”

“From harboring Osama bin Laden to its cozy relationship with the Haqqani network, there is more than enough evidence to determine whose side Pakistan is on in the War on Terror. And it’s not America’s. It is time we stop paying Pakistan for its betrayal and designate it for what it is: a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” Poe said while introducing the bill, the Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Act of 2015, in Congress 5 days back.

I as a parent, as a human being and as a responsible citizen of the world support Senator Poe in his call for declaring Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism and urge the UN and the entire International fraternity to support this call and put an end to the decades of bloodshed, killings and radicalisation.

Speech at the UN Security Council Fringe event on Human Rights in South Asia; March 2017

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