The Kashmiri diaspora around the world has demanded the demilitarization of Jammu and Kashmir to pave way for a plebiscite in the disputed Himalayan region.

In a joint statement marking a year since India scrapped the region’s special constitutional status, 56 groups representing Kashmiris living overseas vehemently condemned New Delhi’s “pernicious tyranny” and “imperialist” aims.

“[The Indian government] has unleashed a well-designed imperialist plan that seeks to forever change the political nature of the Kashmir dispute through demographic changes, political maneuverings, and administrative machinations,” read the statement released by the World Kashmir Awareness Forum from the US.

Before scrapping the legislation that protected the region’s autonomous status on Aug. 5 last year, India deployed tens of thousands of soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir to quash any backlash over the controversial move.

Phone and internet connections were snapped and more than 7,300 leaders and activists were imprisoned.

“Disarm and withdraw all Indian military and paramilitary personnel from the occupied territories so that all the people in Jammu & Kashmir can exercise their unfettered right of self-determination through a free and fair referendum, as agreed to by both the Governments of India and Pakistan as well as the United Nations Security Council as early as 1948,” the Kashmiri diaspora groups said.

“The events of Aug. 5, 2019 are consistent with the ruthless occupation and suppression the people of Kashmir have suffered under the unpopular Indian rule.”

They said India’s “brutal occupation has led to 150,000 civilian deaths, more than 8000 individuals missing or disappeared, and thousands of Kashmiri women raped.”

“This does not even begin to account for the tens of thousands tortured, maimed, and permanently injured men, women and children by the Indian security forces during their 72-year reign of terror,” read the statement.

‘Never give up’

The diaspora groups expressed their support for Kashmiris’ “unyielding struggle to resist occupation and achieve their right to self-determination.”

“Despite this persistent and pernicious tyranny, the people of Kashmir never have nor ever will give up their right to be free,” the statement said.

“We stand with them in their struggle to stop the Indian government from dehumanizing them and completing their settler-colonial project to remove them culturally, politically, and ethnically from the face of the earth.”

The groups demanded that India “immediately lift its yearlong military siege, restore all internet connectivity and communications links, and release all political prisoners including underage children, journalists, and civil society members.”

“[India must] allow unfettered access to monitor and report on human rights violations by credible international bodies including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights, World Organization Against Torture, Doctors without Borders, Physicians for Human Rights, and UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other UN thematic rapporteurs,” the statement said.

It asked India to “halt and rescind all laws, including the domicile laws that have been instituted to speed the demographic changes and promote the ethnic, cultural, and political cleansing of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Disputed region

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts but claimed by both in full. A small sliver of the region is also controlled by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, New Delhi and Islamabad have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965, and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.

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