The United Nations has faced a barrage of criticism since its founding, and rightly so. Too frequently, the organisation panders to despots and dictators, hiding behind its mountain of cash and veneer of civility and cooperation. However last month the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) held a landmark session where survivors of some of the worst crimes were given space to air their thoughts.
At the UNHRC’s 52nd session, a host of Kashmiri voices new to the global stage spoke about their experience of the region at a time of great political change.
Lone highlighted that 2022 had been among the most peaceful years witnessed in the last three decades. Levels of terror attacks and recruitment have been decreasing in the wake of 2019’s series of constitutional changes and local government reforms.
In August 2019, the Indian-administered section of the Muslim-majority region had its special status revoked.
The status, included in India’s 1949 constitution, had bestowed the disputed province with a major chunk of decentralised autonomy.
Since this major change 4 years ago, the state now operates as two territories intended to be unified with Indian territories, however, Ladakh is separately administered.
The reforms, which followed a wave of Pakistan-sponsored terror attacks, gave constitutional status to local self-governments across Rural & Urban areas and extended laws such as the Right to Education, Maintenance & Welfare of Parents & Senior Citizens Act, 2001, National Commission for Minority Act and acts for benefit of Women, Children, Disabled to the area.
The session was also the first ever in which the families of terror casualties offered public testimony. Until a handful of years ago, the intimidation and threats such relatives lived in fear of made such public addresses highly dangerous, a climate that has somewhat stabilised.
Both Lone and Akhter told the Human Rights Council that hybrid warfare with a global element remains a problem in the region. Lone highlighted that developments in Afghanistan and the Middle East are being used to feed online propaganda designed to radicalise Kashmiris and the South Asian diaspora online, including people in the UK.
Tasleema also discussed the region’s roaring cross-border drug trade. As terrorist networks have encountered increased barriers to instigating unrest in Jammu and Kashmir in recent years they have diverted funds into the drug trade. Young people are particularly vulnerable to this issue, with With 90 per cent of Kashmiri drug users being aged between seventeen and thirty-three years old.
One may hope that future global forums in which the region’s issues are explored through the voices of those on the ground will continue to improve its quality of life.