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Separatist leaders write to UN chief on Kashmir issue

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Srinagar, Oct 01: Kashmiri separatist leaders said on Monday that they have written a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ahead of his India visit, drawing his attention to the urgency to resolve the Kashmir issue.

“As you (Guterres) embark on your trip to India, we in the State of Jammu and Kashmir take this opportunity to draw your attention towards the urgency of the need to resolve the dispute over it,” the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) said in the letter,

The JRL, comprising Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, said they felt that India’s refusal to hold dialogue was doing “unimaginable harm not only to Kashmir, but to the entire South Asian region” at a time during which interconnectedness — culturally, economically and politically — is the driving force in international relations.

“We would like to urge you to advocate that New Delhi engage with us in Kashmir and with Pakistan, with whom India’s relations are also deteriorating by the day,” they said.

“We have a right to self-determination. Delhi would like us to abdicate that responsibility before they talk. To cede to that demand would be to concede before talks, rendering talks unnecessary,” they said.

The JRL also raised the issue of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, documented recently by the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights.

“The lack of sustained attention by the international community to this aspect of the disputed conflict and not holding India to account on this count has only succeeded in emboldening its armed forces, enjoying immunity from law, and causing untold misery for civilian Kashmiris, who are forced to live with arbitrary arrests, imprisonment, torture and killings in their everyday lives,” said the JRL.

“Indian forces continue to shower pellets and bullets indiscriminately on the unarmed civilian population. According to estimates, more than 16000 people in Kashmir have been seriously injured by pellets while hundreds have been permanently blinded. 14 percent of these victims are below the age of 15,” they said.

The “campaign of suppression” through daily cordon and search operations has become a permanent feature, said the JRL. “During these operations, the forces assault residents and damage their properties. A warlike situation exists in Anantnag, Bandipora, Baramulla, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian districts,” they said.

The JRL said that Jammu and Kashmir was not a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. “We would like to assert that it is primarily a question of the rights of the peoples of the State of J&K, and that resolution must be sought within the parameters of that definition as well.

“In this regard, we would like to emphasize that this facet of the dispute can only be addressed if we, the peoples of the state, are permitted to represent our case and therefore ask you to champion our right to be heard on the dispute as the primary party to it,” said the JRL.

“We urge you to take these points into consideration as you engage with the Government of India,” they wrote to Secretary General.

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