New York-OIC officials and a top Saudi diplomat voiced strong support for the Kashmiri people in their struggle for their UN-pledged right to self-determination at a special event held in New York to mark the 72nd anniversary of India’s massive invasion and occupation of Kashmir, known as “Black Day.”
The largely-attended event was organized by Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, the outgoing Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, whose dedication to the Kashmir cause was praised by guest speakers, with Ghulam Nabi Fai, secretary-general of Washington-based World Kashmir Awareness, calling her the “voice of Kashmiri people.”
It was the first time that foreign diplomats joined the annual observance of “Black Day” held here to voice their solidarity with the oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir and to denounce India’s annexation of the disputed state in violation of the UN resolutions and its lockdown, now nearing three months, which is enforced by 900,000 troops.
Ambassador Lodhi warmly thanked all the guests for attending the event which took place at the Pakistan Mission to the United Nations.
Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador Agshin Mehdiyev, permanent observer of OIC to the UN, enumerated the steps taken by the 57-member organization in support of the Kashmiri people, and urged the international community to accelerate its efforts to help them “decisively” in achieving their legitimate rights.
He also drew attention of the audience to the joint communique adopted by OIC’s Contact Group on Kashmir last month that called on India to rescind it’s decision to strip the state’s special status, withdraw the inhuman curfew and other restrictions and free thousands of detained people, especially young boys, and the local political leaders.
Ambassador Mehdiyev underscored the need for a peaceful resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Professor Akmal Saidov, chairperson of the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC), focused on the worsening rights situation in occupied Kashmir, and said India’s August 5 move to abrogate Constitutional Articles 35A and 370 was “purely aimed at changing the demographic of the State of Jammu and Kashmir by making the indigenous Muslim population a minority within their homeland.”
“Over 8 million Muslims in IOK are locked into an inhuman curfew that has turned the entire valley into the biggest open prison of the world with severe human rights and humanitarian consequences,” he said, citing mass arrests of people, political leaders and journalists.
“These blatant human rights violations have reached a scale that a recent BBC report cites Kashmiris preferring death a better option than inhuman and excruciating torture and molestation by Indian Security forces,” Prof. Saidov said.
“Continuation of these mass and grave human rights violations by Indian security forces with impunity under an exclusionary ideology of Hindutva has also led to the issuance of genocide alerts by reputable international human rights organizations,” he told the gathering.
Prof. Saidov called for working together at this critical hour, and said, “The world cannot afford to be a bystander in this situation; the suffering of Kashmiris is a burden on the collective conscience of humanity.”
Ambassador Abdallah Y. Al-Mouallimi, permanent representative of Saudi Arabia to the UN, reaffirmed his country’s unequivocal support for Kashmir and Pakistan.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always stood by Pakistan on Kashmir and we have always advocated self-determination for the Kashmiri people, as the Saudi people unanimously support their cause,” he said.
The Saudi envoy said that the struggle of people of Kashmir will not go unanswered “Inshallah”, and that it was not a “wishful thinking but reality is that you cannot suppress a population of 8 million”.
“We hope for a peaceful resolution of Kashmir in accordance with UNSC resolutions,” he said, adding, that “the key to success is an approach that protects the interests of Pakistan, Kashmir, and India.”
In his remarks, Ghulam Nabi Fai lamented that Kashmir was no longer the paradise it used to be as the Indian government was hell-bent on turning it into a killing field.
He said that the deteriorating situation in occupied Kashmir was aptly described by some observers: ‘A living hell’ (New York Times) and ‘The most beautiful prison in the world’ (an EU parliamentarian).
Quoting Arundhati Rai, a prominent Indian writer, Fai stated that democracy in India was long dead as the Kashmir region became one of the most militarized zones in the world. He also cited Gautam Navlakha, an Indian human rights activist, who repeatedly called the Kashmir struggle an indigenous movement and that India should stop blaming Pakistan.
In the same vain, Fai said that Yashwant Sinha, an ex-BJP foreign minister, had acknowledged that India was not losing Kashmir but had already lost it
Fai urged the international community to uphold its promise to the people of Kashmir by granting them their right of self-determination as enshrined in the UN Security Council resolutions.
In her concluding remarks, Ambassador Lodhi underscored that while 27 October was a Black Day, each day of occupation was equally dark for the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir.
Rejecting the cynicism and false impression created by some elements that Kashmir was not a priority issue for the Ummah, the Pakistani envoy welcomed the strong statements made by the Saudi Arabian ambassador as well as by OIC’s permanent representative and the chairman of the OIC’s IPHRC which helped in exploding that myth.
She underscored that her Permanent Mission in New York was not just the voice of Pakistan but was also the voice of the oppressed people of Jammu & Kashmir.
Ambassador Lodhi said India could not continue its draconian tactics in Kashmir indefinitely, as harsher restrictions would be met with equally strong resistance by the people.
She thanked the Turkish President Tayyeb Erdogan for his strong statement on Kashmir at the UN and also urged other leaders from the Muslim world to speak out for the rights of the Kashmiri people.
An impressive photo exhibition was also organized depicting the barbarity of human rights violations in occupied Jammu and Kashmir and highlighting the Kashmiri people’s struggle for their inalienable rights.
Ambassador Lodhi conducted the guests around who evinced keen interest in the exhibits.
Also on the display were several historic photographs, which included the first meeting of UN Security Council on Kashmir in1948 and of UN Observers’ deployment in 1949 as well as the recent consultations in UNSC on 16 August after a gap of 53 years. Ambassador Lodhi has the distinction of lobbying to ensure that that meeting was held in the wake of India’s illegal annexation of the disputed state on 5 August.