By Servet Gunerigok
WASHINGTON (AA) - The president of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), the Pakistani side of divided Kashmir, on Tuesday accused New Delhi of committing war crimes in Indian-held Kashmir, saying the disputed region is burning.
Speaking at a panel at the Middle East Institution in Washington, Sardar Masood Khan opened his speech with the invasion and occupation of Jammu and Kashmir by Indian forces in early August.
India deployed 180,000 troops and beefed up its military presence in the territory, which already has 700,000 Indian troops. It also imposed a security lockdown, a communications blockade and prolonged curfews which continue to date.
"All these steps taken by India on Aug. 5 are illegal, unlawful, and they violated international law and UN Security Council resolutions," said Khan.
"Right now, Kashmir is burning. There is a genocide going on there, and I choose the word very carefully, and after ascertaining its legal validity, there is an ethnic cleansing going on there. India is committing war crimes there.”
Hundreds of people, mostly political leaders, have been detained or arrested by authorities since the Indian government made the move on Aug. 5.
Following the move, which he called the reoccupation of Kashmir, Khan estimated that the number of detainees ranges between 20,000 to 30,000.
Khan also said Indian soldiers are equipped with draconian laws and were brutalizing the Kashmiri people.
"And they are doing so with impunity, because they have been given immunity from prosecution. There is no accountability and there was none in the past," he added.
He called on the international community to end the carnage in Kashmir and to stop India from taking measures that rob Kashmiris of their rights to settlement, permanent residence, education and health.
"We also appeal to the international community to clearly declare the steps taken by India on Aug. 5th illegal and to put pressure on India to reverse them," he added.
India and Pakistan hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.