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Right to Self-determination Campaign

International Commission for Human Rights (ICHR)- Kashmir Project hosted an interactive dialogue and roundtable discussion on the International Day of Families entitled “Plight of Divided Families in Jammu and Kashmir” at its premises in Rue Belliard, Brussels. The roundtable explored the prevailing situation and approach of the international community towards the situation of families separated by armed conflict, namely those divided by the Ceasefire Line in Jammu and Kashmir. The event addressed the long existing impediments families have to reunite and see each other after years of being apart, and also posited the urgency of ensuring the human rights in the region, since family is the core element of society. 

The wide range of participants included personnel from the European Parliament and the Brussels political scene, UN representatives, NGO representatives, academics and other interested parties.

Speakers included  Barrister A. Majid Tramboo, Chairman of ICHR and IHRAAM’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Prof. Patrick Dolan, UNESCO Chair and Director -NUI Galway, Prof. Melissa Rancourt, Founder of Greenlight for Girls & the Head of Faculty -Boston University and Mr. Frank Schwalba-Hoth, Political Strategist and former Member of the European Parliament, who chaired the session.

Professor Melissa Rancourt, stated that on the topic of divided families and the impact of borders she faces two different perspectives, the first as Head of Faculty for Boston University Brussels and the second as founder of an international organization, Greenlight for Girls; within the university environment she often speaks about borders and how they impact their work and society, borders separate people by way of education, caste, wealth, poverty, language, politics religion and of course geography. She elaborated on borders describing them as imaginary lines sometimes mentally drawn but also most of the times physically placed, either by negotiation or imposition which emphasize differences in culture, language and belief. These borders, she said, become concrete barriers that limit potential, prevent opportunity and most unfortunately, divide families. She then described some of the regional cases she has worked with and studied where borders have brought families and whole societies apart.

Professor Patrick Dolan approached the subject specifying the importance of family as a human right. He shared with the participants the different features family policy comprises. Regrettably the problem of enforced family separation and its negative impact is not a recent event but one that has been going on by decades in all areas of the world, including the Kashmir region.  When it comes to the upbringing of children, the access to family support and a social environment becomes vital and a gateway to full integration in society; moreover, social empathy in children is achieved through role models, found within nuclear and extended. He emphasized on the role of family in any individual’s live, namely, that families are the greatest source of help and stress, being overall far more helpful since family is strongly connected to recovering from life events, such as those that take place in almost daily basis in the Kashmir conflict. The prominence of family for upcoming generations and the construction of human social capital is centered in its provision of health, both physical and mental; support in active learning; safety from accidental and intentional harm; economic security and security in the immediate and wider physical environment. 

In his opening remarks, Barrister A. Majid Tramboo referring to the elections in Pakistan, congratulated the newly Prime Minister elect of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif who has in his past two terms put forward the Kashmir issue first; he then emphasized on the important role the new government can have in the Kashmir issue and for a more democratic path in Pakistan. Following, he stressed on the importance of the International Day of Families as it makes people remember the plight of divided families in Jammu and Kashmir who are facing for more than 65 years the impediments that hinder them from meeting their relatives across the ceasefire line. He stated that there are many factors which lead to a family’s division, and it is not only politics that divide families, but also that families themselves divide families.

When addressing how it is that the states divide families, he assesses there are 3 major bedrocks in relation to the situation in Kashmir, which are the following:

1) The historical view of the division of Kashmiri families, and how the families of Jammu and Kashmir can’t see each other in  normal circumstances

2) The current reality where people have been continuously displaced because of the conflict in Kashmir, being the displacement internal or external. 

3) The existence of a conflict in an area, which is then targeted by the government that decides to tackle it down, leading to the detention of family members and the voluntary displacement in the search for safety, which thereafter results in the division of families for years.

Barrister Tramboo then stated that the division has a devastating impact on families since the family’s communication and bonds are enormously damaged particularly in the situation of Kashmir. This point was carried further by bringing to the floor different testimonies of Kashmiris that have been victims of the implementation of the ceasefire line between India and Pakistan. Barrister Tramboo stressed the urgency to unite the Kashmiri families by referring to the European Parliament report presented by Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourned which stresses on the points 36, 37, 39 and 40 the urge to reunite families through the opening of 5 crossing points, although he mentioned the bureaucratic obstacles that the crossing involves. Barrister Tramboo noted that some of the points of the reports have not been implemented and hence called upon the European Union to take factual action into the reunification of Kashmiri families and the complementing aid that the fostering of civil society, trade and tourism would bring to the region.

Concluding the roundtable, the Chair Mr Frank Schwalba-Hoth, further elaborated on the situation in Kashmir, where human rights are systematically being neglected, tearing families apart and endowing future generations with unstable and unsafe societies. Mr. Schwalba-Hoth thanked the organization for bringing this reality to the attention of the Brussels’ political scene and thanked the participants for attending the event.

 

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