“Once they saw boys on the road, they fired indiscriminately on them. Owais bent his body under the plinth of his home, but one bullet hit his head and I saw his brain spilling out of the head.” recalled Shaheena Akhtar, an eyewitness to the abominable violence by the Indian Armed Forces in which 20 year old, Owais Yousuf Najar was killed. This was the latest incident of violence that preceded the new year. It took place in Sirnoo Village of Pulwama district of occupied Kashmir valley. After an alleged encounter with trapped militants, the Indian Security Forces used indiscriminate live-bullets, severe teargas-shelling and pellets at the protesting Kashmiri civilians. While seven civilians were killed, more than 60 were critically injured. This brutality was followed by shallow announcements of “grief” and “concern” by the state authorities. However, this isn’t a lone incident. Another harrowing tale is of Hiba Nasir, an 18-month old toddler whose eyes were ruptured by pellets fired by security forces inside her home at Kapran, a village in the Shopian district in Indian-held Kashmir. She happens to be the youngest victim of pellet bullets and doctors have warned that she may have permanently lost vision in her right eye. This savagery which is calculated and in violation of International Law is well-documented ad nauseum, yet it hardly sparks the kind of debate and outrage from the West as the human rights abuses from elsewhere do. A rare change from the norm was the one of its kind report by the Office of the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights in June this year which called for a major investigation into human rights abuses in Kashmir. Commenting on the abuses in the Indian-held Kashmir, the report underscored widespread abuses from sexual violence, excessive use of force, torture and enforced disappearances to name a few. Whereas Azad Jammu Kashmir has its own problems in this regard but of a different nature. Although, in our day and age, human rights and humanitarianism has gained currency in the world, especially in the ‘liberal’ West but its application has been selective. So, while Israeli human rights abuses in Gaza and the West Bank are met with outrage and condemnations in the West, the same in Kashmir hardly raise eyebrows in the concerned quarters Notwithstanding this recent report, the Kashmir dispute is for the most part, not really considered worthy of Western condemnation, empathy, concern or attention. Instead, the Kashmiris’ plight is relegated to a mere bilateral issue between Pakistan and India. And while many would explain this Western indifference as a result of India’s growing influence in global affairs yet, such an explanation is simplistic which ignores the legitimacy of the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination. By doing so, the Kashmiris are stripped of their agency and “otherized”. Their struggle for self-determination and agency is deemed less worthy compared to similar struggles elsewhere in the world. Although, in our day and age, human rights and humanitarianism has gained currency in the world, especially in the ‘liberal’ West but its application has been selective. So, while Israeli human rights abuses in Gaza and the West Bank are met with outrage and condemnation in the West, the same in Kashmir hardly raises concerned eyebrows in the concerned quarters. This selective humanitarianism is exactly what points to the underlying contradictions and hypocricy. Inspite of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, do we really accept human rights universally? Maybe in some ideal state, they are but the problem always becomes of practice; how do we protect and promote human rights. Selective application of the standards of human rights has been used as a cloak by the West to further its own interests in the region. This double standard is evident in the case of Kashmir. Another problem is the prevalent western exceptionalism, whereby, they are able to stroke every issue with the same brush without paying due attention to the specifics and particularitiesof those conflicts and regions. This is also a result of the West’s focus on presentism which ignores history and implies that the total developments are the ones that have happened in the present. This creates an incomplete picture of developments and conflicts because we cannot understand how things came to be without understanding the preceding developments which culminated into the developments of today. The current Kashmiri struggle has a history which has been acknowledged and sanctioned by the West in the form of the United Nations Security Council resolutions. It is impossible for justice to prevail without the acknowledgement of the West of its selective humanitarianism which has perpetuated state violence, dispossession and adebilitating state of affairs in regions like that of Jammu & Kashmir. As Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” Is anyone listening? The writer works for Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) Published in Daily Times, January 23rd 2019.