Speech Made at a Sideline Event of the 54th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva (virtual attendance)
By Tazeen Hasan
September 15th, 2023
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished delegates, and esteemed participants, allow me to introduce myself; I am Tazeen Hasan, serving as the Advocacy Manager for Justice For All Canada. It is an immense privilege to address this gathering during the 54th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the organizers, namely the Universal Human Rights Council Kashmir Institute of international relations and the World Muslim Congress, for extending this invaluable opportunity to me. It is rather a coincidence that the 54th session commences on the heels of the G20 meeting, which concluded merely a day ago, wherein the world's most influential and geopolitically potent nations converged to deliberate upon the future of our planet. Delhi G20 Declaration emphasized the importance of all states acting in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of the UN Charter in its entirety.
Unfortunately some of these influential nations are, regrettably, prominent examples of transgressors against international standards of fair trial. Our topic of discussion today. I am specifically referring to India, and China in this regard.
Regrettably, time constraints prevent me from delving deeply into the extensive transgressions of these nations. Nevertheless, in my capacity as the Advocacy Manager for Justice For All Canada and as the overseer of the JFA Prisoners of Conscience campaign, I have diligently observed the legal proceedings and the prison experiences of select individuals of conscience. Furthermore, I maintain close connections with the families of some of these detainees, their lawyers, and some former Kashmiri prisoners, local journalists and human rights defenders. Today, I aim to highlight the blatant violations of the right to a fair trial endured by Kashmiri detainees and sufferings of their families through the ordeal of a single Kashmiri prisoner Shabir Shah who has already endured 37 years in prison without trial. I also wish to remind the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of their responsibilities toward these often-overlooked detainees, whose arbitrary incarcerations are as glaring as the noonday sun.
Ladies and gentlemen, it might astonish many of you to learn that Shabir Shah, a distinguished Kashmiri leader and the very first Prisoner of Conscience supported by Justice For All, has endured a staggering 37 years in custody. These years were marked by non-consecutive detentions, all devoid of any convictions. The sheer scale of this imprisonment is nothing short of significant; Shabir Shah was first apprehended at the tender age of 14, and today, at the age of 70, he continues to languish behind bars.
The last time Shah was arrested was in August 2017. His trial began after five years in detention.
I want to remind this esteemed session that prolonged detention without trial is a violation of fair trial standards and the detention is considered arbitrary in customary international law.
Time and again, Shah has been subjected to detention without the formal charges being brought against him. Ironically, this practice is sanctioned by Indian laws like PSA (Public Safety Act) and the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act). Under the PSA, individuals can be whisked away into custody based on vague and nebulous allegations of "acting harmfully against the security of the state or the maintenance of public order."
These laws grant Indian authorities the power to detain individuals without the possibility of bail, systematically denying their right to a fair trial. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have labeled these laws as unlawful. In essence, this amounts to a grotesque mockery of the foundational principles of the rule of law.
Imagine, if you will, the anguish and despair that befalls someone who finds themselves imprisoned for the crime of merely standing accused, without the benefit of due process or a fair trial. This is a grave injustice that cries out for the attention and action from the UN Human Rights Council.
Indian law enforcement agencies in Kashmir justify their actions by stating, "We have to keep them out of circulation." It is crucial to recognize that keeping entire Kashmiri political and civil leadership out of circulation is a colonial necessity of the Indian colonial regime.. To maintain public order, or more precisely, to perpetuate colonialism, the entire Kashmir region has witnessed the disenfranchisement of political figures such as Shabir Shah, Yasin Malik, Altaf Shah, Syed Ali Geelani, Qasim Faktu, Ashraf Seharai, human rights defenders like Khurram Pervez, and journalists like Asif Sultan, Fahad Shah, and Sajjad Gul. The Indian regime has not even spared women in their quest to maintain colonial rule, as demonstrated by the unjust six-year detention of women leaders like Asiya Andrabi, a blatant violation of their right to a fair trial.
On August 5, 2019, when this colonial project underwent a transformation into a settler colonial project, even trade union leaders were not spared. Four years have elapsed, and the majority of them still find themselves languishing in jails located outside of Kashmir, hundreds and thousands of kilometers away from their homes. Due to the nature of their detention being preventive, they are unable to secure bail. The Indian government continues to systematically deny the right to a fair trial to individuals who are not criminals.
And these arbitrary detentions, conducted in inhumane conditions under unlawful laws, are not confined solely to civil and political leadership. Hundreds of Kashmiri young men were detained prior to the G20 summit in Srinagar, ostensibly to preempt any peaceful protests. Journalists have been subjected to harassment through these arbitrary detentions to such an extent that they are compelled to erase their online presence.
Protection from arbitrary detention is a fundamental principle enshrined in international human rights law. This crucial safeguard serves as a cornerstone of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It underscores the importance of preventing individuals from being detained arbitrarily, without legal justification, or due process.
The substantiation and validation of the arbitrary nature of detentions under these laws, coupled with the violation of the right to a fair trial, are underscored by revelations from A. S. Dulat, the former head of one of India's premier intelligence agencies. In his memoirs, he candidly acknowledges that Kashmiri leaders, upon reaching the maximum period of detention permitted under the PSA, were immediately re-arrested at the prison gate upon their release. Such practices unequivocally constitute a grave infringement upon the principles of justice and a blatant disregard for the right to a fair trial.
When we talk about international law at these forums like the human rights council, we use terms like fair trial, arbitrary detention, we often ignore the humanitarian aspects. While we talk about the technicalities of the laws, we often overlook the sufferings of the mothers, wives and children of the victims of arbitrary detention. Though international law explicitly deals with them.
Imagine the disappointment and agony of the family members of the victim of arbitrary detention, when they wait outside the prison gates to celebrate the release of their father but their father is arrested again in front of their eyes, on charges under PSA.
I will elaborate more on the issue of fair trial. Under international law, fair trial does not begin with the trial. It begins with the time of arrest, The detainee has to be informed of the charges.
Shah, now 70 is suffering from heart disease, diabetes, kidney problem, arthritis and many other ailments.
I will persist in narrating Shah's ordeal to underscore the suffering experienced by the entire Kashmiri civil and political leadership when they are unjustly deprived of their right to a fair trial.
The violation of Shah's right to a fair trial is nothing short of heart-wrenching. His charge sheet remains withheld for five long years after his initial arrest, a blatant injustice. Further anguish is inflicted by placing him a staggering 700 kilometers away from his family in Srinagar, denying him the warmth of home. The injustice continues as he is deprived of adequate medical care, his family denied access to vital medical reports, and his right to seek a second opinion from chosen doctors and surgeons is stripped away. These are the fundamental rights enshrined in international fair trial standards, cruelly denied by the Iranian regime.
To add to this injustice, Shah's daughter must visit him through a glass barrier, unable to embrace her father. His ordeal is exacerbated by solitary confinement, a ruthless attempt to break him mentally and physically, all in the name of forcing him to bow before the oppressive Indian settler colonial regime. This is a tragic tale of fair trial denied and human dignity trampled upon.
This denial of the right to a fair trial extends far beyond Shabir Shah; it is the cruel fate of every Kashmiri who falls victim to arbitrary detention by the Indian authorities in their pursuit of maintaining a settler colonialism project that seeks to mute and disenfranchise Kashmir.
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished members of the Human Rights Council and esteemed sponsors of this session, I implore you to take action. Initiate a comprehensive investigation into these grave human rights violations committed against Kashmiri prisoners. Let us also collaborate with other UN bodies to take concrete action in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
As we stand here today, let us reflect upon the enduring principles of justice, fairness, and human rights, which must always remain inviolable. It is our collective responsibility to illuminate the injustices faced not only by the Kashmiri people but by all individuals worldwide who are unjustly detained, regardless of their nationality or affiliation.
We must tirelessly work towards a future where the fair trial rights of every individual are not just recognized but vigorously protected, where their voices are heard and their dignity upheld.
Thank you for your unwavering commitment to the cause of justice and human rights.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) workers stage a protest demanding information about missing girls and women in Jammu and Kashmir, in Srinagar. Source @aapkamuddasir
Author: Tazeen Hasan
In the shadowed valleys of Kashmir, a deeply unsettling crisis has unfolded, hidden from the world's gaze for far too long. Startling statistics, disclosed by the Indian government in Rajya Sabha, have laid bare a harrowing truth: between 2019 and 2021, a staggering 9,765 women and girls disappeared from their homes in the region.   This alarming figure marks a nearly three-fold increase compared to the preceding three years, underscoring an ominous trend that beckons for immediate international awareness and resolute action. One of the perplexing questions that demand answers are not just about these numbers but also about why the abductions remained concealed from global scrutiny for four long years. In this exploration, we delve into the harrowing reality of Kashmiri girls' abductions and the shroud of silence that enveloped them.
The suppression of information and the stifling of voices in the region, often perpetuated through strict control of media and communication channels, created a veil of silence around these distressing incidents. The veil of silence shrouding the escalating abduction of Kashmiri girls for about four years can be attributed to a confluence of factors that have systematically silenced voices in the region since the revocation of autonomy. Kashmiris have been rendered utterly disenfranchised in the wake of this significant political shift.
Journalists, integral to the dissemination of news, have been subjected to arbitrary detention under the draconian Public Security Act (PSA), a law that callously allows for detention without formal charges. Prominent journalists such as Fahad Shah, Asif Sultan, and Sajjad Gul have fallen victim to this oppressive measure, while others have been harassed to such an extent that they are compelled to erase their online presence.
Silenced Voices on Social Media Surveillance and UAPA
The heightened atmosphere of social media surveillance and the oppressive reach of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have emerged as critical factors stifling citizens' ability to report the abductions. The escalation of social media surveillance has cast a chilling effect on the freedom of Kashmiris to express their views and disseminate accurate information about the situation. Under the ambiguously worded UAPA, even the slightest expression of dissent can swiftly lead to imprisonment, making it a powerful tool of repression. In this climate, any semblance of dissent can be construed as a threat, potentially resulting in the confiscation or demolition of a dissenter's home. These circumstances create an immensely challenging environment in which to speak out against the abduction of girls in the valley, further highlighting the urgent need for international intervention and advocacy.
"This clampdown extends to human rights defenders who now face increasing challenges in documenting violations. Khurram Pervez, the head of the Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies, an organization that was documenting HR violations in Kashmir, has been arbitrarily detained for two years. Moreover, international scrutiny has been actively rebuffed, with Amnesty International expelled from India due to foreign funding regulations, the denial of entry to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and even the restriction of a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sana Matto from attending an award ceremony in the US. These tactics employed by the Indian regime have collectively disenfranchised Kashmir, thus concealing the distressing reality of the three-fold increase in the disappearances of Kashmiri girls in the valley over the past four years.
As we unveil the shroud of silence that veiled the abduction crisis of Kashmiri girls for four long years, it becomes increasingly evident that the international community must act swiftly and decisively. The Canadian government, with its commitment to human rights and global justice, has a pivotal role to play. It is incumbent upon Canada to collaborate with the United Nations in initiating a comprehensive investigation into the grave human rights violations transpiring in the disputed region of Kashmir. Furthermore, Canada should fervently urge the Indian government to grant access to respected human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR) within Kashmir. This access will empower these organizations to independently document and report on the ground, shedding light on the realities faced by the Kashmiri people and ensuring that those responsible for these atrocities are held accountable. The time to act is now, for justice, accountability, and the safeguarding of fundamental human rights in Kashmir.
 "10,000 Women Have Gone Missing in Jammu and Kashmir From 2019 to 2021: Centre." Kashmir Observer, 28 July 2023, Link.
 "Amnesty International Halts Work in India, Citing Witch Hunt by Government." NPR, 29 September 2020, Link.
 "India's Crackdown on Kashmir: What You Need to Know." BBC News, Link.
 "India, U.S. Sign Military Agreement Amid China Tensions." Reuters, Link.
 "Nearly 10K Women, Girls Go Missing in Kashmir, Sparking Alarm." VOA News, Link.
 "India Sends Thousands More Troops to Restive Kashmir." VOA News, Link.
 "J&K High Court Quashes Detention of Journalist Fahad Shah, Orders Set at Liberty." Outlook India, Link.
 "Journalists Arrested in Indian-Administered Kashmir." The New York Times, 16 April 2022, Link.
 "Opinion | India's Assault on Press Freedom in Kashmir." The New York Times, 8 March 2023, Link.
Tazeen Hasan exposes the persistent hatred that Kashmiris face within Indian society under Indian domination. The discrimination and hatred perpetuated by the Hindutva leadership are pushing towards the full-scale genocide of Kashmiris and Indian Muslims.
In October 2021, a shocking display of prejudice occurred when an Indian politician belonging to the ruling BJP party brazenly declared that Kashmiris should be skinned alive, suggesting that Pakistani blood runs through their veins. This statement was made in response to the arrest of three Kashmiri engineering students in Agra, Uttar Pradesh province of India, who were accused of celebrating Pakistan's victory in an Indo-Pak cricket match. This incident serves as a glaring example of the discrimination and hatred faced by Kashmiris in India, shedding light on a distressing reality that cannot be ignored.
The trio was apprehended under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act, including charges of promoting enmity between different groups and "cyber terrorism." The discrimination and hatred didn't end there. The local bar associations in Agra refused to represent them, and on one occasion, the students were physically assaulted within the premises of the Agra court. Even when the court eventually granted them bail in March 2022, not a single person from Agra was willing to come forward as their surety. The students endured a grueling six months in detention, facing harsh bail conditions before finally securing their release.
The question arises: How did such discrimination occur in the largest ‘democracy’ in the world? The answer lies in their religio-ethnic background; the students were Kashmiris and Muslims. Kashmiris have long been subjected to harassment and discrimination in India, despite India's insistence that they are Indian citizens. They are often targets of systemic bias solely based on their Kashmiri identity, which denies them access to housing and infringes on their basic rights, perpetuating a sense of exclusion and marginalization within society.
Renowned author Basharat Peer's personal experiences further shed light on the existence of an apartheid-like situation faced by Kashmiris. His accounts of struggling to find rental accommodation in Delhi and witnessing Indian passengers refusing to offer seats to Kashmiri army troops highlights the unique dynamics of the military-civilian relationship in Kashmir. This observation suggests that Kashmiris often feel compelled to comply with the demands of Indian army personnel, reflecting deep-rooted prejudices resembling an apartheid-like situation, even in the early 1990s.
Discrimination against Kashmiris extends beyond daily life experiences and permeates the realm of imprisonment. Kashmiri prisoners held outside of Kashmir are frequently labeled as terrorists and face hatred and mistreatment from fellow inmates, prison guards, and even jail health care staff. Instances of dehumanization, harassment, and denial of basic rights are distressingly common, as vividly described by Sehar Shah, the daughter of Kashmiri politician Shabir Shah, who recounts her recurring ordeals with the guards of Tihar Jail during her visits to her father. The accounts of discrimination and humiliation suffered by Kashmiri prisoners paint a harrowing picture.
It is crucial to acknowledge that these injustices are inflicted upon the Kashmiri people despite promises made by India's founding father, Jawaharlal Nehru, to grant them a plebiscite for self-determination. Moreover, 17 United Nations Security Council resolutions recognize the right of self-determination for Kashmiris. However, the ongoing discrimination against them exposes a tragic reality.
Kashmiris face discrimination in India because they are not perceived as Indians. The recent statement by the BJP politician calling for the skinning alive of Kashmiris is a testament to the underlying and heavily problematic mindset that views Kashmiris as inferior outsiders. This discriminatory treatment parallels the dark history of settler colonialism, where land was desired, but indigenous people were marginalized or eliminated. Kashmiris find themselves caught in a similar struggle as India seeks control over the region while completely disregarding the rights and well-being of its people. The world must pay attention and take action against this flagrant injustice, ensuring that the discrimination faced by Kashmiris is unequivocally addressed and rectified.
Tazeen Hasan produced this personal narrative on behalf of Sehar Shah based on her one-to-one communication with Shah. Shah's postings on Facebook and Twitter have also been used for details.
My name is Sehar Shabir Shah, and I am the daughter of the renowned "Prisoner of Conscience," Shabir Ahmad Shah, who has endured a staggering 36 years of his life behind bars. Our lives have been marked by constant struggles and challenges, but nothing could have prepared us for the events that unfolded ahead of the G20 summit.
It was a seemingly ordinary day when chaos erupted. Troops, comprising the army, Special Forces, and black cat commandos, descended upon our peaceful abode around 6:00 p.m. Their presence was overwhelming, as armored vehicles blocked off the bypass and effectively isolated our entire neighborhood.
In the midst of it all, our helper sought solace in her room, completely unaware of the impending intrusion. The troops forcefully smashed down the gate of our kitchen garden, hopping over walls, and brazenly entering our home through that very same entrance.
At the time, my mother was engaged in the evening Asr prayer. The sound of the doorbell interrupted her devotions, but she was unable to immediately attend to it. With each passing minute, the clamor outside intensified. By the time she reached the gate, roughly 20 to 25 heavily armed men had already breached our house's defenses. Scaling walls and jumping inside, they instilled fear with their imposing presence.
The troops began shouting at my mother as she cautiously opened the lobby door, demanding to know who else was present in the house. Despite her assurances that she was alone, they persisted, barking their questions and demanding more information. Eventually, they barged inside, their boots resounding against the floors, meticulously scouring every nook and cranny, leaving a trail of disorder in their wake.
My mother accompanied a few soldiers who ascended to the top level of our house, while the rest scoured the ground floor and other rooms. It was heart-wrenching to witness the destruction they wrought upon our once-serene dining room. Furnishings were ruthlessly dismantled, and possessions were callously scattered, rendering the room unrecognizable.
The aftermath of their search left our rooms in utter disarray. Every wardrobe lay open, and belongings were carelessly strewn about. The sight of the chaos and devastation was deeply unsettling. My sense of disgust grew as I surveyed the wreckage that now plagued our home.
Before departing, the troops made their intentions clear. They intimidated my mother with threats of a return visit, leaving her shaken and unsettled. Fortunately, we had installed CCTV cameras throughout our residence, capturing every moment of this harrowing ordeal. Determined to document the full extent of their intrusion, I meticulously photographed the rooms and the mess they left behind.
The attached CCTV footage and images serve as a testament to the violation we endured on that fateful day. They bear witness to the destruction inflicted upon our home, forever etching this traumatic experience into our collective memory.
Through sharing our story, I hope to shed light on the immense challenges faced by families like ours, who bear the burden of political persecution. It is my fervent desire that justice prevails, that those responsible for the raid are held accountable, and that no other family must endure the same anguish that has befallen ours.
For 36 long years, my father has been unjustly held in arbitrary detention imposed by the Indian government, without ever facing conviction in a single case. Every passing day, my heart aches as I wait for the day when I can embrace my aging and gravely ill father once more.
The raid on our home, with its brutal intrusion and wanton destruction, only adds to the weight of my longing. It is a painful reminder of the injustice that has plagued our lives for far too long. As I pick up the shattered remnants of our belongings, I can't help but feel the weight of uncertainty pressing upon me. How much longer must I endure this separation from my beloved father?
#Kashmir #Prisoners_of_Conscience #G20_in_Kashmir
Tazeen Hasan sheds light on the deliberate destruction of the apple crop, a devastating blow to the economic backbone of Kashmiris. In doing so, she exposes it as one of the numerous genocidal tactics employed by the Indian settler colonial regime in Kashmir.
The Indian settler colonial regime in Kashmir persistently employs genocidal tactics against the Kashmiri population. One such strategy involves purposefully targeting apple farmers and individuals affiliated with the apple business, effectively dismantling their economic backbone. Additionally, this brutal settler colonial action has grave ramifications for the environment.
According to reports in the Indian media and Kashmiri sources affiliated with Justice For All Canada, the Indian army obstructed the Jammu-Srinagar road during the apple harvesting season in the autumn of 2022, causing the apples to decay in the stranded trucks. Indian channel NDTV confirmed that while other vehicles were allowed to pass, trucks carrying apples were specifically halted. Hence, this was a deliberate and systematic policy rather than an unintentional natural disaster or calamity. With 3.5 million Kashmiris relying on apple farming and business, this ruthless settler colonial policy inflicted significant damage on a population already enduring lockdowns and the COVID-19 pandemic since 2019.
This action was so brutal that Mehbooba Mufti, the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and a former coalition partner of the BJP, felt compelled to issue a statement alleging that the halting of trucks on the highway was a deliberate attempt to subject the people of Kashmir to suffering.
Since 2019, Kashmiri farmers have been grappling with economic hardships, struggling to provide for their families. The apple harvesting season in 2022, however, held the promise of a bountiful income due to an exceptionally abundant apple crop. Nonetheless, the deliberate disruption of transportation shattered their hopes and plunged them deeper into poverty and hunger. With 3.5 million Kashmiris depending on the apple harvest for their livelihoods, the intentional disruption during the peak season poses a grave threat to their economic stability and well-being.
Moreover, this action led to the fruits deteriorating and emitting methane gas. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, significantly contributes to global warming and climate change. The decomposition of organic matter, such as rotting apples, produces methane, which, when released into the atmosphere, exacerbates environmental concerns. The unchecked emission of methane from the decaying apples during the blockade poses risks to local air quality.
The long-term consequences of this blockade are even more hazardous. According to experts, methane is approximately 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide, making it a significant contributor to climate change. By allowing the apples to rot and emit methane gas, the blockade not only harms the immediate environment but also intensifies the long-term challenges posed by global warming. This underscores the urgency of addressing the repercussions of these settler colonial policies, both in terms of the economy and the environment, to prevent further harm to the well-being of the people of Kashmir and the planet as a whole.
The deliberate release of methane gas, both from natural sources and human activities such as agricultural practices, waste management, and fossil fuel extraction, exacerbates the warming effect on the atmosphere. As global temperatures rise, glaciers continue to shrink, setting off a dangerous feedback loop. The melting of glaciers exposes darker surfaces underneath, such as rock and soil, which then absorb more sunlight and further contribute to global warming.
Furthermore, the thriving apple crop in Kashmir necessitates significant amounts of water for irrigation, making efficient water resource management crucial. However, the blockade resulted in the wastage of precious water resources that were utilized to nurture the apple orchards. As the apples remained trapped in the halted trucks, the water used for their growth and maintenance went to waste. This not only deprives the local population of a vital resource but also emphasizes the need for sustainable water management practices to ensure the long-term viability of agricultural activities in the region.
In summary, the blockade has dire consequences for the local economy and the environment. The deliberate disruption of the Kashmiri local economy raises concerns about a systematic plan aimed at impoverishing and starving the Kashmiri population. It is crucial for global institutions like the United Nations and its relevant agencies to address these issues, protect the livelihoods of millions, and promote sustainable practices that ensure the well-being of both the environment and the people of Kashmir.
Ensuring environmental sustainability and eradicating poverty and hunger are two of the eight Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations. The UN and relevant agencies need to take urgent and decisive action against such settler colonial policies of the Indian occupation regime in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The upcoming G20 meeting for the tourism working group presents a unique opportunity for nations to collaborate and discuss the development of sustainable tourism. While the environment is a major agenda item for the G20 in 2023, it is ironic that unrestricted religious tourism in Kashmir is causing significant damage to the local environment, as highlighted by experts. This essay will shed light on the concerning issue of environmental genocide in Kashmir, particularly focusing on the destructive impact of the Amarnath Yatra pilgrimage on the Kolahai glacier and the implications for the livelihoods of the Kashmiri population.
The Warning Ignored:
As early as 1996, Indian environmentalists had cautioned the government about the need to restrict the number of tourists participating in the Amarnath Yatra pilgrimage. They warned that the increasing influx of pilgrims would have a detrimental effect on the Kolahai glacier, which serves as the primary water source for several rivers in the region. Unfortunately, despite these warnings from environmental and climate change experts, the Indian government did not take adequate measures to limit the number of pilgrims. In fact, Hindutva groups actively campaigned to increase the pilgrimage, leading to an exponential rise in participants. Consequently, the Kolahai glacier has lost 23 percent of its area over the past three decades.
The Intentional Destruction:
The destruction of the Kolahai glacier, a vital lifeline for the Kashmiri people, cannot be seen as a mere coincidence. The majority of Kashmiris rely on the Jehlum river for their agricultural needs, which provides livelihoods for approximately 70 percent of the population. The intentional neglect and disregard for the environmental impact of unrestricted religious tourism is tantamount to an environmental genocide against the people of Kashmir. By allowing the exploitation of this fragile ecosystem, the authorities are endangering the survival of the Kashmiri population, as their agricultural practices heavily depend on the availability of glacial water.
The Role of G20 Tourism Working Group:
The G20 Tourism Working Group holds a significant responsibility to address the issue of environmental genocide in Kashmir. While promoting sustainable tourism is a key objective, it is essential to ensure that tourism activities are not hazardous to the environment and the local communities. The destruction of glaciers and the resultant environmental damage in Kashmir must be a crucial topic of discussion during the G20 meeting. It is imperative to explore strategies and policies that prioritize the protection of the environment, the preservation of natural resources, and the sustainable development of tourism in the region.
The environmental genocide unfolding in Kashmir due to unrestricted religious tourism demands immediate attention from the G20 Tourism Working Group. The destructive impact of the Amarnath Yatra pilgrimage on the Kolahai glacier, the lifeline of the Kashmiri people, cannot be ignored. It is the responsibility of the G20 member nations to discuss and advocate for sustainable tourism practices that prioritize the preservation of the environment and the well-being of local communities. By addressing the environmental genocide in Kashmir, the G20 can play a pivotal role in promoting responsible tourism and ensuring a sustainable future for all.
Tazeen Hassan, Campaign Manager.
April 25th, 2023
Tazeen Hasan commenting on the Irony of G20's Climate Change Agenda and unchecked Environmental Genocide in Kashmir
The G20 is one of the most influential global platforms where leaders from the world's largest economies come together to discuss and coordinate on various issues. One of the key items on the agenda for G20 2023 is Green Development, Climate Finance & LiFE. However, it is ironic that the meeting is being held in Jammu and Kashmir, a region where an environmental genocide is taking place.
The melting of Himalayan glaciers in Kashmir, caused by unrestricted religious tourism, is causing harm to the environment and is leading to the displacement of millions of people.
The meeting taking place in May in Kashmir is about the Tourism working group. While climate change is a top agenda item in the G20, Indian environmentalists have recommended that India should restrict religious tourism in Jammu and Kashmir. This is because unrestricted tourism is causing Kolahai and other glaciers to melt at an alarmingly faster rate. Reports show that Himalayan glaciers in Kashmir are melting twice as fast as other Himalayan glaciers, which is leading to environmental genocide for the Kashmiri people who rely on glacier water for 70% of their needs.
The Indian government's criminal ignorance of the damage caused to the environment in Kashmir is concerning. Despite several reports and recommendations by environmentalists, the government is allowing tourism to continue unchecked. Moreover, the government is holding meetings related to climate change in a region where environmental genocide is taking place.
The irony is that the G20 is focusing on climate change, while it is holding meetings in a region where environmental destruction is occurring. It is essential for the G20 leaders to acknowledge the severity of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and take steps to address the issue. It is not enough to discuss climate change while ignoring the environmental destruction taking place in the region.
The Indian government must take responsibility for the damage caused to the environment in Jammu and Kashmir. They must acknowledge the recommendations made by environmentalists and take steps to reduce unrestricted tourism in the region. If the Indian government fails to take action, the G20 leaders must take the initiative and boycott meetings held in Jammu and Kashmir. It is time for the world to recognize the environmental genocide taking place in Kashmir and take necessary action to prevent it.
April 20th, 2023
Written by Editorial Team
As grassroots activists, we cannot ignore the lack of Kashmiri representation as India-hosted G20 meetings began in Kashmir this week.
The G20 kicked off its Y20 youth meetings in Jammu, located in Indian-Occupied Kashmir. One glaring absence was any representation or input from local Kashmiri populations. This lack of representation is concerning—especially as Kashmir’s civil society remains impacted by ongoing human rights violations and numerous challenges in advocating for their rights on the international stage.
For instance, ongoing instability and internet shutdowns have hit the education system hard. Teachers struggle to maintain lessons or communicate with their students. India’s Hindu nationalist government has cracked down on dissent and independent voices in Kashmir, resulting in fear and uncertainty in the education system. Teachers are now afraid to discuss sensitive topics in the classroom.
The G20 is also a missed opportunity to raise the alarm on the mass detention of human rights defenders in Kashmir. Activists encounter threats, harassment, and intimidation simply for conducting peaceful advocacy. You don’t need to look further than Shabir Shah and Khurram Parvez—both prisoners of conscience and victims of free speech under India’s BJP government.
Government authorities also employ various measures to suppress their voices, like restricted movement. Kashmiri protesters risk frequent arrest and detention under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (1978), which allows administrative detention without charge or trial for up to two years.
The G20 presented an ideal opportunity for such concerns to be addressed.
As we conduct our advocacy work, we cannot imagine how helpless Kashmiris must feel without the ability to engage with international human rights organizations and have their voices heard on the G20’s global stage.
As we reflect on missed opportunities for Kashmiri representation, we shift our focus to the world's largest economies participating in the G20 summit this year.
It’s not enough for G20 members to focus on economic matters while ignoring the blatant inequalities and abuses in Kashmir. These countries have a legal and moral responsibility to demand Kashmiris be allowed to participate in global forums—especially meetings held directly on their lands.
As the G20 moves forward in 2023, we’ll learn which leaders prioritize human rights versus economic interests and which states don’t. Leaders who subscribe to international human rights norms are responsible for demanding Kashmiris have a seat at the G20 table.
Failure to do this sends a message that the realities and lived experiences of Kashmiris are not valued, and that they are not welcome in shared spaces meant for discourse and diplomacy.
Don’t Stop Now