Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, is to follow a speech by his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, at the United Nations general assembly by accusing him of being complicit in the torture and mass detention of protesters in India-administered Kashmir.
Khan will use his address in New York next week to highlight alleged atrocities being carried out by the Indian army in the Jammu and Kashmir state since Modi’s government revoked the region’s autonomy by abrogating article 370 of the constitution.
Sardar Masood Khan, Pakistan’s former permanent representative to the United Nations who now acts as president of the Pakistani-administered Azad Kashmir state, said his government believed as many as 10,000 people had been detained by Indian security forces. Those numbers have been rejected by the Indian government.
(August 1, 1947)
With the end of British colonial rule, the Indian subcontinent is partitioned into predominantly Hindu India and mainly Muslim Pakistan. Mass migrations follow, with Hindus and Muslims moving to their country of choice. More than a million people are killed in the communal violence that ensues.
(October 1, 1947)
India and Pakistan fight their first war over control of Muslim-majority Kashmir, a kingdom ruled by Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh. The war ends in 1948 with a UN brokered ceasefire, leaving Kashmir divided between the nations, with the promise of a referendum to chose which nation its people wish to join.
(August 8, 1965)
A second war erupts over Kashmir, with India and Pakistan agreeing to a UN-mandated ceasefire the following month.
(December 5, 1971)
The third war between India and Pakistan is fought in East Pakistan, ending with the creation of independent Bangladesh.
(May 10, 1974)
India detonates a nuclear device in the first confirmed nuclear test by a non-permanent member of the UN security council.
(December 1, 1988)
India and Pakistan sign an agreement that neither will attack each other's nuclear installations or facilities; it takes effect in 1991.
(May 8, 1989)
Armed resistance to Indian rule in Kashmir begins. India says Pakistan supports local fighters with weapons and training, which Pakistan denies, saying it only gives local Kashmiris "moral and diplomatic" support.
(May 8, 1998)
India detonates five nuclear devices and Pakistan responds by detonating six of its own. International sanctions are imposed against both.
(December 1, 2001)
India masses troops along its western frontier with Pakistan and the Kashmir boundary after blaming Pakistani insurgents for a deadly attack at the Indian parliament. The standoff ends in October 2002 after international mediation.
(September 8, 2016)
Suspected rebels sneak into an army base in Indian-controlled Kashmir and kill at least 18 soldiers. Indian forces later attack militant bases in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
(February 14, 2019)
A car bombing of a paramilitary convoy in Indian-controlled Kashmir kills 40 Indian soldiers. Militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, headquartered in Pakistan, claims responsibility. India blames Pakistan and promises a "crushing response"."
(August 5, 2019)
India's central government changes part of the Indian constitution and downgrades Jammu and Kashmir from one state to two territories. The changes eliminate Kashmir's right to its own constitution, limit its decision-making power, and allow non-Kashmiri Indians to settle there.
Khan said: “These detainees include children, young men, and people of all ages, and people from all walks of life. They have been tortured. There is a BBC documentary with evidence: people have been beaten up in detention, beaten up with sticks and cables and excessive force has been used against them. And some of the witnesses have said in testimony to the BBC and other news outlets, that they would lose their consciousness and police officers would then use electric shocks to revive them.
“It is not hearsay, it is not rumour. Despite all the restrictions, the [internet] blackout, the international media has managed to establish a pattern of gross and consistent violation of human rights and systematic torture.”
Indian government sources said that decisions on detentions were being made at a local level to maintain law and order.
The detentions were preventive in nature and were being continuously reviewed and appropriate decisions will be made based on law and order assessments, a spokesperson said. The Indian army responded to the allegations of torture of villagers in Jammu Kashmir aired by the BBC, by describing them as “baseless and unsubstantiated”.
India’s supreme court ordered the country’s government on Monday to restore normal life in Kashmir as soon as possible but added that the government should bear in mind the national interest.
Who controls Kashmir?
The region in the foothills of the Himalayas has been under dispute since India and Pakistan came into being in 1947.
Both claim it in full, but each controls a section of the territory, separated by one of the world's most heavily militarised borders: the ‘line of control’ based on a ceasefire border established after a 1947-48 war. China controls another part in the east.
India and Pakistan have gone to war a further two times over Kashmir, most recently in 1999. Artillery, mortar and small arms fire are still frequently exchanged.
How did the dispute start?
After the partition of colonial India in 1947, small, semi-autonomous ‘princely states’ across the subcontinent were being folded into India or Pakistan. The ruler of Kashmir dithered over which to join until tribal fighters entered from Pakistan intent on taking the region for Islamabad.
Kashmir asked Delhi for assistance, signing a treaty of accession in exchange for the intervention of Indian troops, who fought the Pakistanis to the modern-day line of control.
In 1948, the UN security council called for a referendum in Kashmir to determine which country the region would join or whether it would become an independent state. The referendum has never been held.
In its 1950 constitution, India granted Kashmir a large measure of independence. But since then it has eroded some of that autonomy and repeatedly intervened to rig elections and dismiss and jail democratically elected leaders.
What is Kashmir’s special status?
Kashmir’s special status, given in exchange for joining the Indian union, has been in place since 14 May 1954. Under article 370, the state was given a separate constitution, a flag, and autonomy over all matters except for foreign affairs and defence.
An additional provision, article 35a, prevented people from outside the state buying land in the territory. Many Kashmiris believed this was crucial to protecting the demography of the Muslim-majority state and its way of life.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata party repeatedly promised to scrap such rules, a long-term demand of its Hindu nationalist support base. But analysts warned doing so would almost certainly ignite unrest.
On Monday 5 August 2019, the government issued a presidential order to abolish Kashmir’s special status. The government argued that the provision was only intended to be temporary and that scrapping it would boost investment in Kashmir. Critics, however, said the move would escalate tensions with Pakistan – which quickly called India’s actions illegal – and fuel resentment in Kashmir, where there is an insurgency against Indian rule.
What do the militants want?
There has been an armed insurgency against Indian rule over its section of Kashmir for the past three decades. Indian soldiers and Pakistan-backed guerrillas fought a war rife with accusations of torture, forced disappearances and extra-judicial killing.
Until 2004, the militancy was made up largely of Pakistani and Afghan fighters. Since then, especially after protests were quashed with extreme force in 2016, locals have made up a growing share of the anti-India fighters.
For Indians, control of Kashmir – part of the country’s only Muslim-majority state – has been proof of its commitment to religious pluralism. For Pakistan, a state founded as a homeland for south Asian Muslims, it is the last occupied home of its co-religionists.
Michael Safi and Rebecca Ratcliffe
India stripped its only Muslim-majority state of autonomy on 5 August, shutting off phone networks and imposing a curfew in moves that were said to be necessary to remove the threat of terrorism and to keep law and order.
India’s attorney general, KK Venugopal, told the court that not a single bullet had been fired and that communications restrictions were being lifted.
Speaking to the Guardian during a visit to Brussels, Khan, the 27th president of neighbouring Azad Kashmir, said the Indian government were “congenital liars” and suggested that there was a danger of India arranging a “false flag” terror attack in Kashmir to justify its actions.
He said: “The situation is as bad as it was, it is in fact deteriorating. The Indians are trying to put a spin on what is happening there and mislead the world that everything is normal and I can tell you that everything is not normal. People have been protesting and they have been hiding these protests.”
Khan said Pakistan’s prime minister would use the stage at the UN general assembly in New York to expose the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir a “direct and forthright” manner.
By coincidence, the leaders of India and Pakistan are both scheduled to address the UN next Friday afternoon.
“We would of course highlight the ongoing atrocities in Kashmir and the responsibility of the international community to avoid a genocide there,” he said. “To be very candid: there is terrorism but this is from the Indian side. Nine hundred thousand troops brutalised the people of Jammu Kashmir. I call it terrorism and it is being practised by the indian state apparatus.”
The Azad Kashmir president defended the recent arrests of 22 independence protesters in Pakistani-administered Azad Kashmir, where he insisted there was “tolerance of dissent”.
“They wanted to cross the yellow sea [to go to India-administered Kashmir] and in some incident, prior incidents … if they had crossed the Yellow Sea the Indians would have opened fire and killed them. This was the main reason [for the arrests]. I don’t have the latest information but I think they are being released.”