Kashmiri people inhibiting across both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) and rest of the world observed the Right to Self-Determination Day on Sunday to remind the international community of the UN Security Council resolution on Jammu and Kashmir adopted on January 5, 1949, acknowledging their inherent right to self-determination.
The British centuries-long colonial rule on the Indian subcontinent ended in August 1947, the ill-conceived and hurried flight of the British left certain far-reaching elements of the decolonisation process unfinished, including the political fate of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the wishes of its people and with Partition’s underlying principles.
Since then, India has stubbornly stonewalled the free exercise of Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, embodied in a dozen outstanding United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The right of a people to self-determination is a cardinal principle in modern international law, binding, as such, on the United Nations as authoritative interpretation of the Charter’s norms. It states that people, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and fair equality of opportunity, have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no interference.
The concept was first expressed in the 1860s, and spread rapidly thereafter. During and after World War I, the principle was encouraged by both Vladimir Lenin and United States President Woodrow Wilson. Having announced his Fourteen Points on 8 January 1918, on 11 February 1918 Wilson stated: “National aspirations must be respected; people may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent. ’Self-determination’ is not a mere phrase; it is an imperative principle of action.
During World War II, the principle was included in the Atlantic Charter, signed on 14 August 1941, by Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, and Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who pledged The Eight Principal points of the Charter. It was recognized as an international legal right after it was explicitly listed as a right in the UN Charter.
Ever since, Pakistan and India’s inception in 1947 the legal state of Jammu and Kashmir, the land between India and Pakistan, has been contested as Britain was resigning from their rule over this land. Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir at the time of accession, signed the Instrument of Accession Act on October 26, 1947 in sheer violation of the public will, which triggered a strong reaction from Pakistani side as it was against the agreed formula since it was the muslims majority state. The passing of this Act allowed Jammu and Kashmir to accede to India on legal terms. When this Act was taken to Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of British India, he stated that a referendum needed to be held by the citizens in India, Pakistan, and Kashmir so that they could vote as to where Kashmir should accede to. This referendum that Mountbatten called for never took place and framed one of the legal disputes for Kashmir. In 1948 the United Nations intervened and ordered a plebiscite to be taken in order to hear the voices of the Kashmiris if they would like to accede to Pakistan or India. This plebiscite left out the right for Kashmiris to have the right of self-determination and become an autonomous state. To this date the Kashmiris have been faced with numerous human rights violations committed at the hands of Indian occupation forces and have yet to gain autonomy which they have been seeking through self-determination.
Speaking on All India Radio on November 2, 1947, the then Indian premier Jawaharlal Nehru said: “Fate of the state of Jammu & Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. This pledge we have given not only to people of Kashmir but also to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it.” On November 25, 1947, Nehru informed the Indian parliament: “We have suggested that when people of Kashmir are given a chance to decide their future, this should be done under the supervision of an impartial tribunal such as the United Nations.”
However, the Indian fascist government led by Narendra Modi stripped the special status of the Kashmir instead of resolving the dispute as per the UN agreed formula.
As the people of Indian occupied Kashmir continue to reel under the clutches of an ethno-nationalist regime in New Delhi, the global community and its institutions must play their due role to ensure resolution of the decades-long Kashmir dispute as per wishes of the Kashmiri people.
Writer is the CEO of Mélange IT Solutions & The Asian Telegraph, an expert on Political Economy, & Director of Bandial Group