South Africa marks Black Kashmir Day
By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG-More than 100 South Africans gathered in Johannesburg this weekend to mark “Black Kashmir Day”, referring to the day in 1947 when Indian troops invaded Jammu and Kashmir. “Since 1947, the Indian government has continued to illegally occupy the lands of Jammu and Kashmir, despite the people’s demands for independence,” Salman Khan of the South African Kashmir Action Group told guests at the function held in Fordsburg.
Khan urged the South African government to intervene in the Kashmir crisis by sending an immediate fact finding mission to probe the cases of extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, rape and the inhumane treatment of women and children. “If South Africa sends a team to probe these atrocities, this could be an initial step towards ending the reign of terror and impunity in the Indian occupied Kashmir,” he stated, adding that this would help deter the widespread, systematic human rights abuses against ethnic Kashmir civilians.
“Human life is totally disregarded in Indian Kashmir as its forces occupy Jammu and Kashmir against the will of the people,” another Kashmir national living in South Africa revealed on condition of anonymity. He claimed that Indian troops were killing at least five Kashmir nationals every week. “I used to attend several burials of Kashmir activists killed by the Indian police nearly every day, so I know the pain that our people are going through,” he said.
Meanwhile, the first secretary of the Pakistani embassy in South Africa, Hassan Afzel Khan, said his government was committed to helping the people of Kashmir in their fight for freedom. The diplomat also called upon the international community to intervene in the Kashmir crisis. “It is important for civil society organisations to continue speaking about the human rights violations and other injustices in Kashmir. I believe efforts (like the Black Kashmir Day commemoration) will compel the international community to intervene,” he said.
In August 1947 when the Indian subcontinent became independent from Britain, all the rulers of the 565 princely states, whose lands comprised two-fifths of India and a population of 99 million, had to decide which of the two new dominions to join – India or Pakistan. The ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, whose state was situated between the two new countries, could not decide which country to join. He was Hindu, but his population was predominantly Muslim. He therefore did nothing.
Instead he signed a “standstill” agreement with Pakistan in order that services such as trade travel and communication would be uninterrupted. India did not sign a similar agreement. In October 1947, Pashtun tribesmen from Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province invaded Kashmir. There had been persistent reports of communal violence against Muslims in the state and, supported by the Pakistani government, who was eager to precipitate its accession to Pakistan. Troubled by the increasing deterioration in law and order and by earlier raids, culminating in the invasion of the tribesmen, the ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, requested armed assistance from India.
The then Governor-General, Lord Mountbatten, believed the developing situation would be less explosive if the state were to accede to India, on the understanding that this would only be temporary prior to “a referendum, plebiscite, election”. According to the terms of the Instrument of Accession, India’s jurisdiction was to extend to external affairs, defence and communications. On the morning of 27 October, Indian troops were airlifted into Srinagar.
Recent research from British sources indicate that Hari Singh did not reach Jammu until the evening of 26 October and that, due to poor flying conditions, V P Menon was unable to get to Jammu until the next morning, by which time Indian troops had already arrived in Srinagar. In order to support the thesis that the Maharaja acceded before Indian troops landed, Indian sources have now suggested that Hari Singh signed an Instrument of Accession before he left Srinagar but that it was not made public until later.
This was because Hari Singh had not yet agreed to include the Kashmiri leader, Sheikh Abdullah, in his future government. To date no authentic original document has been made available. Pakistan immediately contested the accession, suggesting that it was fraudulent, that the Maharaja acted under duress and that he had no right to sign an agreement with India when the standstill agreement with Pakistan was still in force. Pakistanis also argued that because Hari Singh fled from the valley of Kashmir, he was not in control of his state and therefore not in a position to take a decision on behalf of his people. Historical information was obtained from Wikipedia. This piece first appeared on the voc website. All rights reserved.