Letter: The right of self-determination for Kashmiris

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The Independent Online
Sir: Randhir Singh Bains's claim that 'political unrest in Kashmir has all the trappings of religious fundamentalism' (letter, 17 June) is disingenuous. There are at least two dozen Kashmiri factions of different hues, ranging from nationalists seeking independence to Islamists seeking union with Pakistan. The vast majority of Kashmiris, however, adhere to the ideal of independence, mainly to avoid a repeat of the 1971 war over Bangladesh. They demand the implementation of a UN-administered plebiscite promised through the United Nations resolutions of 1948-49.

By portraying the Kashmiris' fight for independence as 'a movement based on sectarianism . . . and communal hatred', Mr Bains distorts the nature of the conflict in this predominantly (80 per cent) Muslim state and ignores the two factors which aggravate it the most, namely, the treatment of Kashmiris and of Indian Muslims.

Asia Watch (February 1993) has reported that 'virtually everyone taken into custody in Kashmir is tortured'. Amnesty International (March 1993) has reported that 'men, women and even children are beaten senseless and have their limbs crushed by heavy rollers' and that 'sexual torture, including rape, is common'. Civilian massacres committed by the Indian troops are also common and rarely is any action is taken by the Indian government.

As for the Indian Muslims, the only major study on their social status (Time magazine, 15 February 1993) shows that 'their plight is worse than that of the Hindu untouchables'. The Indian police's killing of 2,000 angry Muslims following the destruction of the Babri Mosque, and the Bombay pogrom (600 Muslims killed), are testimony to the bleak future awaiting India's Muslims.

Kashmiris have no altenative but to seek independence, and it is the international community's responsibility to pressure both India and Pakistan to grant them their right of self-determination.

Yours faithfully,

SALAH EZZ

Oxford

20 June

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