Recent J&K reports: The UN’s credibility at stakeby Opinion Express June 30, 2018 0 comments
Making it crystal clear that the UN’s credibility is at stake, two contrarian reports on J&K were conducted back to back. Not only does the world body need to have wide representation, but also have the courage to call out the corrupt.
A flip-flop is but expected in politics. But for an august body like the United Nations, which is believed to be the moral compass of the globe, it only erodes its relevance and righteousness. Just last week, a UN report on alleged human rights violations in Jammu & Kashmir caused quite a row with political parties across the spectrum calling it motivated and ill-intentioned. The flimsy report, with no clear-cut, factual points of reference and largely a remote-sensing operation with gettable quotes, was roundly debunked by political parties across the spectrum. And then this week, it released another report of how Pakistan-based banned terror outfits Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen had recruited and used children in Jammu & Kashmir during clashes with security forces last year. The annual report of the UN Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict listed the use of children as cannon fodder in Jammu & Kashmir as a “grave violation.” It even asked the Indian Government to put in place measures to hold perpetrators of child recruitment, thereby arguing for an extreme vigilance set-up.
The problem, given the release of two contrarian reports back-to-back — the latter almost negating the offensive narrative of the former — is that the UN seems to be placating both India and Pakistan, obfuscating reality and keeping the chasm wide rather than holding peace. The swiftness of releasing the second report, soon after a comprehensive criticism of the rights report, also seemed reactive, much like a coerced amendment rather than investigated truths.
Now with the US also withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council, on the grounds of its “shameless hypocrisy” in assessing its border issues, (of course, US has used its clout all too often in the UN to justify its agenda in oppressor countries) the credibility of the world body is at stake. With heft and funding in the hands of big powers, neutrality is a chimera. The Human Rights Council, for example, has 47 member countries, which are elected to three-year-terms by the General Assembly. The representatives are chosen carefully to represent all regions and they cannot seek re-election immediately after completing two consecutive terms. Little do we realise that most member states have rights abuses in their own turf and avoid being upbraided for their track record for the period they are in control. So they make a scapegoat of existing and familiar conflict zones, becoming an implicit partner in the terror economy around these hotspots.
Let’s agree that when it comes to Kashmir, there have been more UN reports on its human rights than any other totalitarian territory, without ever a mention made of the victims of terrorists, whom the UN still classifies as militants. Has the UN ever tried to commission a fact-finding mention on how moderates in the Valley, who are trying hard to bring about a negotiated settlement and peace, are being systematically silenced or eliminated? How sufi clerics who prize Kashmiriyat over radicalisation, go missing? Instead of attempting to simmer down and look at a holistic approach, UN reports on Kashmir have always targeted the establishment and security forces, who, truth be told, are bleeding resources and lives pointlessly and would, of course, want an alternative method of engagement without compromising India’s integrity. The UN has never ever acknowledged that the vituperative policies of neighbours are equally responsible for a festering Kashmir. Let us also not forget that Kashmir is an easier encashable conflict zone, which can be recycled with the same narrative of civil society drift and alienation because of the presence of security forces, upgrading a few figures here and there. The situational dynamics on the ground, which take a longer time to manifest, have, therefore, been conveniently overlooked.
Do the Chinese excesses, given its political prisoners, suppression of dissent and aspirations of Tibetans and Uighurs, merit as much attention in the UN? Or what about Egypt which has banned NGOs from operating and arrests dissenting journalists? What about more stringent forms of punishment and suppression of democracy in Arab states? Does the UN realise by letting go of an objective analysis, and working according to pressure groups, has made it more propagandist than peace-keeper?
The core issue is that the UN, or even other human rights watchdogs, exist simply by countering the establishment narrative anywhere in the world, assigning themselves a certain kind of legitimacy as a champion of the unheard or alternative voices without realising that some of their own investigations are compromised by subjective assessment than objective investigation. Most often the UN information resource is based on viewpoints of activists, who again have to justify their raison d’être. Often UN observer teams rely on second-hand information and the easy access to experts rather than probing the complexity of the situation. There is no problem with consulting experts, provided the basket has a credible mix of opinions and viewpoints, rather than relying on the “educated perception” of a few. The second problem is of referencing the study in the context of timelines and dot surveys. The UN says it is granted limited access but given its patchy performance in compiling reports, which cherry pick time periods that reinforce the prevalent theory than giving a holistic big picture, and sample sizes that are not at all widespread or representative, and which ignore the so-called “oppressor” as also an “oppressed”, can it really expect us to be welcoming?
A few days ago, Amnesty International had to do a volte-face. Embarrassingly so. The rights body, which has at various points been criticised for receiving funding from Islamists, had to change its line of Muslim victimisation by the military Government. Although the Myanmar Government had for long time been claiming genocide of Hindus and Buddhists by extremist Rohingya Muslim groups, observers dismissed it as Government propaganda to hide its own excesses against them. Till the team interviewed refugees at camps and chased information on-ground, there was no corroboration of what was known unofficially for long, that 100 Hindus were brutalised, terrorised and killed in cold blood by Rohingya extremists. Predictably, this raised hackles of Rohingya activists worldwide, leading them to wonder if the Myanmarese military had indeed been able to swing Amnesty to their side of the story. This disbelief at Hindu or Buddhist oppression is symptomatic of a deep-rooted malaise in a mindset, sometimes even our own, that perceives Islamic extremism as a result of other kinds of majoritarianism and never the accelerator or provocateur of deepening faultlines. Activist agenda have been funded on perpetuating a one-sided story. The other side, therefore, is not easily allowed to gain traction. Hawkish anti-India propagandists, who have worked lobbies and generated cause-driven finances, right now have the upper hand as influencers.
Even when it comes to our own educated discourse, any talk of Hindu victimhood is quickly assigned to being driven by political agenda rather than being a matter of genuine human interest. Has the UN or any rights watch group decided to focus on conflict refugees in Jammu, who have been left homeless as their border villages have been ruined in shelling of the proxy war and terrorist attacks? Has the unofficial ethnic cleansing and displacement of Pandits been ever the subject of review without risking the tag of it being part of right-wing propaganda? The UN, whatever be its compulsions of working with the Big Five and its contributors, must at least try to sift the grain from the chaff and bubble up the truth rather than taming itself with an acceptability of clichéd prejudices, particularly in relation to an assertive and emergent world from the Orient. The UN needs to have a moral equivalence and be widely representative to re-establish its worth as an organisation respected by everybody. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had once said, “The UN’s unique legitimacy flows from a universal perception that it pursues a larger purpose than the interest of one country or a small group of countries.” It is time for the UN to work on others’ perception of it.
(The writer is Associate Editor, The Pioneer)
Writer: Rinku Ghosh
Courtesy: The Pioneer