On India’s Republic Day, a powerful joint appeal to the international community by key Kashmiri, Naga and Sikh leaders has highlighted the fundamental conflicts and contradictions at the heart of the Indian state, as well as the unwavering intent of their nations to secure freedom in accordance with their right to self-determination as enshrined in international law.
They issued a call to the international community to play a constructive role in dismantling India’s unlawful hold on their territories, which has been maintained purely by military means at the cost of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives since 1947, and to restore fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law in the most volatile region of the world. The leaders included Syed Ali Shah Gilani, Chair of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference in Kashmir, Naga leader Th. Muivah, General Secretary of the NSCN-IM and Kanwarpal Singh of Dal Khalsa in Punjab. Their message was endorsed by leading organisations based in the respective Diaspora communities which are today holding demonstrations outside the Indian High Commission in London and elsewhere to once again publicly reject the Indian constitution as being applicable to their territories (India’s annual Republic Day marks the imposition of that constitution in 1950).
Rubbishing India’s claims to be a democratic, secular, peaceable state which complies with its international obligations, they pointed to the reality of a belligerent, militaristic state which oppresses the minorities and nations under its control, which has become a serial violator of international law and human rights. They said Indian armed forces chief Deepak Kapoor’s recent public comments about bringing both China and Pakistan to their knees within 96 hours of a war betrays the dangerous and aggressive mindset of the Indian establishment which has already conducted undeclared wars on the Naga, Sikh, Kashmiri and other nations using brutal means, systematically violating basic human rights, as routinely pointed out by the world’s leading human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international.
Specifically they urged the United Nations to:-
Establish tribunals to conduct criminal prosecutions of Indian politicians and security personnel who have, over recent decades, committed genocide in order to silence, by force, lawful and legitimate struggles for national self-determination. The body of evidence held against the perpetrators of systematic mass murder, extra-judicial killings, disappearances, and torture is substantial and the failure of India’s judicial system to punish the guilty remains a scandal. The recent 25th anniversary of the anti-Sikh pogroms of November 1984, in which 10,000 Sikhs were massacred, was marked by a full scale shut down of Punjab by Sikhs but no action on the part of Indian politicians who instead simply insist that the episode should now be forgotten. The perpetrators of the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 remain unpunished. The UN should now step in to administer justice.
Impose sanctions on India to force it to withdraw the formal ‘reservation’ it has lodged with the United Nations which states that the right of self-determination does not apply to the nations and peoples within Indian occupied territory. Article 1 of the 1966 International Covenant on Human and Political Rights states that all peoples have the right to self-determination and India’s rejection of this basic tenet of international law is the direct cause of the conflicts which have caused and will continue to cause untold death and destruction. The UN’s own Human Rights Committee has required India to withdraw that reservation but to date India has refused to do so. India must recognise the right of self-determination and, under UN supervision, immediately engage with the people of these disputed territories and respect their democratic voice. UN Security Council Resolutions demanding a plebiscite in Kashmir continue to be brazenly ignored even though that is the only credible way forward; India’s obvious lack of seriousness in its talks with the Naga leadership despite the sincere efforts of the Nagas to engage in meaningful dialogue; the criminalisation under sedition laws of Sikh leaders who stand for an independent Khalistan, which the Sarbat Khalsa (national assembly) freely determined to be the Sikh response to India’s aggression in 1984: all of these policies betray India’s true intentions and it is time the world community took action to bring India in to line with international moral and legal standards. Colonialism has long been consigned to the dustbin of history and so must India’s attempt to impose its Hindu nationalist agenda on nations that will never surrender their sovereignty and dignity.
Eject India from all the UN’s humanitarian bodies until it improves its appalling record of mistreating its religious minorities. In August 2009, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedoms put India on its ‘watchlist’ of states that fail to protect such groups. Recent years have seen mass violence directed towards Christians, Muslims and Sikhs with the connivance of security forces, disinterest of the courts and blatant instigation from Indian politicians who continue to hold high office. Article 25 of the Constitution outrageously deems Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains to be Hindus for the purposes of religious and personal law and Hindu fundamentalists are now campaigning for their set of religious laws to be imposed uniformly over Muslims and Christians as well. Mosques, Gurdwaras and Churches have been destroyed by state and non-state actors but somehow no one is ever punished by the legal system.
Pending India’s compliance with the international standards the Naga, Kashmiri and Sikh leadership urged the international community to robustly dismiss India’s pretensions to a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. It would be the height of folly indeed to reward a serial violator of basic international norms by giving it the means to frustrate the one international body that can hold it to account.
They pledged to work together, along with their friends in the region and beyond, in order to promote a peaceful transition from the current unjust framework of Indian colonialism to a new order in South Asia where freedom, peace and security and justice would prevail. The withdrawal of Indian forces from these occupied territories would be a pre-requisite for that transformation. Instead of indulging itself in Republic Day posturing, India would do better to reflect on the crimes it has committed and its own inherent contradictions. Threatening its neighbours and inhumanly oppressing minorities may have become the raison d’etre for ‘Hindutva,’ but these policies offend the very notion of religion and will surely ultimately prove suicidal for the Indian state.
In the UK, Muhammad Ghalib, Chair of the All Party Kashmir Co-ordination Committee, Amrik Singh Sahota OBE, President of the Council of Khalistan, and the Naga Support Centre all pledged to continue their campaign to enlist international support for the peaceable implementation of their national rights.
Lord Ahmed, Chair of ‘Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination’, the cross party group at the Westminster parliament which promotes national self-determination, endorsed these demands. Having been recently denied a visa to visit India specifically because of his support for these causes, he castigated the ongoing oppression of these freedom loving nations and urged the international community to hold India to account for its crimes. Reflecting on India’s refusal to grant him a visa, he noted the move was consistent with India’s attempts to conceal its record by denying human rights groups, UN officials and independent observers access to conflict zones. He remarked that all this was futile – the true picture is becoming ever more apparent to the global community which will be forced to act sooner or later.