8-year old Asifa Bano had been brutally raped and murdered by a gang of Hindu men. Her body was left to rot in a forest for three days. When she was finally discovered and news of her murder broke out across India, the country’s Hindu community not only refused to condemn the incident but shamelessly rallied behind the rapists. Lamenting the incident, the New York Times reported, “There was no empathy for the 8-year-old girl. It was as if she barely registered as a human being, as if her life didn’t count except to serve as a target.” This is the bitter reality of Jammu and Kashmir. Just as Pakistan was celebrating its seventy-first Independence Day on August 14, the fourth generation of Kashmiris were facing pallet guns, forced disappearances, systematic rape and torture by the rogue Indian army. As the international community continues to raise the banners of freedom, human rights and dignity, the entire nation of India is making a mockery of these very ideals. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act; is a draconian law that allows the Indian army, paramilitary forces and police to use maximum force with absolute impunity against unarmed Kashmiris. Men are tortured and murdered while women routinely raped. Small children have been blinded by pallet guns. Curfews are the norm rather than an exception. Anyone who resists the occupying forces is labelled a ‘terrorist’, while the Indian military is free to commit unhindered bloodletting of Kashmir’s Muslims. The so-called cordon and search operations are a means to harass the Muslim neighbourhoods, whereby, uniformed men would randomly barge into the house of an unsuspecting family, beat up men and children, sexually harass women and break everything in their sight. Almost one hundred and fifty civilians have been murdered since 2016, by Indian security forces, while scores have gone missing. Even minors have not been spared. Muslims are denied access to medical facilities and freedom of expression is non-existent. Hindu mobs and government sponsored terrorist groups such as the RSS have forced Muslim residents to flee to the hills for safety. New Delhi is not only encouraging Hindu settlements in the valley but also forcing Muslims to renounce their religion and convert to Hinduism in order to dilute the Muslim majority in the valley. Moreover, PM Modi’s BJP-led government is contemplating the annulment of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that accords an autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir. Against this backdrop, albeit after a long silence and criminal negligence, the United Nations has published its first ever report on human rights violations in Kashmir. The report, while highlighting the magnitude of Indian atrocities, also makes a noteworthy revelation about the nature of resistance in Kashmir. It states, “This current round of protests appears to involve more people than the past, and the profile of protesters has also shifted to include more young, middle-class Kashmiris, including females who do not appear to have been participating in the past.” This refutes Indian allegations that Kashmir’s freedom movement is instigated by Pakistan. The Kashmiri freedom struggle is indeed indigenous. The resilient people of the valley have undoubtedly endured pain with patience without ever faltering in their quest for freedom. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act; is a draconian law that allows the Indian army, paramilitary forces and police to use maximum force with absolute impunity against unarmed Kashmiris. Men are tortured and murdered while women are routinely raped. Small children have been blinded by pallet guns. Curfews are the norm rather than an exception Pakistan seeks an amicable resolution of the dispute. However, India is adamantly opposed to any settlement. It is pertinent to mention that all proposals for resolving the Kashmir dispute have either come from Pakistan or independent observers. To this day, India has not suggested any framework or offered any solution to address the Kashmir issue. It has only indulged in violence and bloodshed. And now another opportunity to rekindle peace talks has been lost due to India’s intransigence and PM Modi’s indulgence in cheap popularity to win the next election. The Indian army chief’s provocative statements may have bagged a few votes for Narendra Modi and his BJP in the next election; however, such irresponsible behaviour does not bode well for the prospects of peace and resolution of the Kashmir dispute. For men of conscience to remain silent over Indian atrocities in Kashmir would indeed amount to an unforgivable sin. The problem in Kashmir cannot be relegated to a mere territorial or religious dispute. It cannot be left for India and Pakistan to sort out on their own. It is a human tragedy that merits a collective response. Anyone who values human dignity would be appalled by the treatment meted out to the people of Kashmir. Our silence will only encourage perpetrators of such despicable injustice. What Napoleon had said long ago still echoes today in Jammu and Kashmir: “We suffer a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people. But because of the silence of good people”. It is our shared responsibility to break this silence and raise our voice against the heinous crimes being committed by Indian forces. The writer is an independent researcher in public policy and international relations. He can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, October 6th 2018.