LRIP

Repatriation of Stranded Pakistani Women A Continuum Struggle between Blood and Hope in IOK

Mahwish Bakht

The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally transformed the definition of state security. Afghanistan, China, India, Iran, and Pakistan are all working hard to address their internal security issues. The defenseless people in conflict zones are under siege from arduous competitions and heinous laws imposed on them by the Modi Regime. After the 5th of August, 2019, a new chapter of humanitarian crisis has been written in the history of IOJ&K. As the BJP has systematically eroded the disputed Kashmir region’s distinct identity and autonomy, I t is now difficult to determine human security and values in the union territories that have been divided.

The international community is least captivated by the curfew imposed in the former state more than 600 days ago, which is aimed at suffocating the Muslim majority politically, socially and economically. The Indian government’s desire for revenge against Kashmiri Muslims has acted as a never-ending source of agony. The BJP’s deceptive politics revolve around anti-Muslim laws such as CAA and updated NPR laws, as well as anti-autonomous Kashmir region. The BJP regime sees the repeal of Articles 370 and 35(A), as well as massive changes in the administrative structure of the Kashmir region, as opening up new avenues of development in “Naya Kashmir.”

According to The Economic Times (2019) and Al-Jazeera (2021), there are approximately 370 vulnerable Pakistani and Kashmiri women from Pakistan who have been trapped in IOK for more than two decades under Indian military governance. During a protest in Srinagar, it was highlighted that approximately 500 Pakistani families had been resettled in Indian occupied Kashmir under the “Return and Rehabilitation Scheme” announced in 2010 by Ex-Chief Minister Mr. Omar Abdullah and the Ministry of Indian Internal Affairs. Interestingly, all have Adhar Cards (the majority are widows/divorced), and their names are also on the area’s voter list.These stateless subjects have endured eternal suffering and have been imprisoned in a disputed region. There are 250 Pakistani side homeless Kashmiri women trapped in disputed Kashmir (mostly from Muzaffarabad, Bagh, Rawalakot, and Kotli). The Indian administration has always been hesitant to grant Indian citizenship rights, identity cards, and passports, to them citing a particular reason that they are Pakistani nationals living in IOK illegally. As a result, they are all demanding either Indian citizenship or deportation to Pakistan.

These Pakistani women are living in fear, facing endless curfews, identity crises, psychologically traumatized children, and bearing animosity and subjugation from Indian armed forces both publicly and privately. Under the Geneva Conventions (1906, 1929, and 1949), the Indian state is responsible for instructing its armed forces to adhere to International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) in both peace and conflict situations in IOK. According to Customary IHL Rule 134, Section A. General (Military Manuals), “India’s Army Training Note (1995) ordered troops not to ill-treat anyone, especially women and children.”

In contrast, the victims have been detained in IHK local jails for 2-3 years and continue to appear in court for unproven offences. However, the Indian National Laws for Juvenile Protection (2000) do not protect Kashmiri children. Meanwhile, the local administration consistently lies to central authorities, agencies, and embassies about their protection. With the evolving political situation in the Jammu and Kashmir region after 2019, the aforementioned women’s and children’s right protection case is indeed highly complex.Gaining legal identity, connecting with their families in AJK (Pakistan), and approaching higher authorities for justice are all complicated tasks for them. Despite the fact that the rehabilitation policy of 2010 promised them hassle-free border crossing, it has displaced and humiliated them. The BJP government’s callous treatment of Pakistani migrants in IHK is a serious violation of paragraphs 4 and 5 of the United Nations Declaration (1974) on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergencies and Armed Conflicts, as well as UN Security Council Resolutions (2139, 2165 & 2258).

According to an Economist Intelligence Unit report, India has been ranked 53rd by the International Democracy Index (it was 27th in 2019) due to the failure of good governance and the suppression of civil liberties (2020). Meanwhile, India has been demoted from “free” to “partly free” status, which it shares with Ecuador, Mozambique, and Serbia. Freedom of expression, like democracy, is increasingly scarce in India. Especially in Disputed Kashmir, where no one is free either before or after its manifestation, including the headquarters of YouTube and Twitter.As a result, the availability of fast internet services, free discourse on true realities, and sharing unheard voices from the Kashmir region with an international audience is now a challenge.

Under the Public Safety Act (1978), security forces are arresting social activists, students, and journalists, as well as sealing news agencies’ offices, for publishing or writing against the government’s acts in IOK on media. Currently, the Indian Administration is applying its containment policy indiscriminately to individuals and institutions. In an era of technological advancement and the importance of public opinion in state affairs, his leadership employs majoritarianism and authoritarianism to advance their national interests.

By depriving the aforementioned Kashmiri women of their basic human rights, the Government of India is setting a dangerous precedent for unparalleled oppression in Jammu and Kashmir. The presence of an extended curfew imposed by the BJP in IOK, as well as statements made by the Afghan Taliban on the Kashmir issue, has created unease in New Delhi. To ensure its strategic depth, counter Pakistan’s proximity, and avert the looming threat of an Afghan Taliban alliance formation in Occupied Kashmir, India is going above and beyond in its negotiations with the new Afghan government (2021).

At the same time, the Indian government is blaming Pakistan for regional militancy, but his brutal reign has been sufficient in providing safe havens and mushrooming of the existing five ISIS camps on Indian soil. As the Indian EAM in the UN Security Council (2021) stated, we are not safe until we are all safe. Prime Minister   Modi should consider EAM’s statement through the lens of regional security complex theory in light of his role in deteriorating the security situation in Occupied Kashmir after August 2019, igniting conflicts within a conflicted zone, the international implications of fueling rivalry against Pakistan, and the impact on regional peace.

India should draw lessons from the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and recognize the importance of long-term peace in disputed Kashmir towards the peace and development of South Asia. The IHOs, Pak-MOFA, and the Pakistani Embassy in India must launch humanitarian interventions to evacuate their nationals from IHK as soon as possible. During the pandemic, there is an urgent need for the long-awaited fast clearance process for Pakistani migrants at IOJ&K. The Government of India is solely responsible for providing them with humane treatment in accordance with ICRC-approved Customary International Human Law norms.In the future, policymakers on both sides should work to expedite SOPs for cross-border movement and people-to-people connectivity. These avenues may also help to avoid a protracted Indo-Pak stalemate over the Kashmir dispute, particularly after the revocation of Article 370 and Article 35-A in August,2019.

 

*Mahwish Bakht is a researcher and belongs from Bagh in AJK. She can be reached at

mahwishbakht04@gmail.com.

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