How Many People Have To Die?

In a recent TV interview, I was asked this horrible question: How many people have to die before the world community acts? What is the number of dead that leads to global action? In the past 30 years, at least 100,000 people have died in the Kashmir conflict. In other conflicts around the world, there are often more dead civilians than any  other group, including violent non-state actors (VNSA). Unbelievably high number of civilian deaths have been recorded in the conflicts in Rwanda, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bosnia, and more.

Even after the end of conflicts, mass graves are still being recovered in Rwanda, for example, and survivors have traumatic memories that stay with them for a lifetime.

For example, in my classroom last year, I invited a genocide survivor from Rwanda to share his story with the students. As he was speaking, he began to see images in his mind of his sisters and brothers cut into pieces by a knife-wielding violent actor. That story was so heartbreaking that my guest speaker, a young man in his 30s, nearly fell to the floor crying. I cannot imagine his pain nor his trauma. But I have seen this before.

So many victims of war and conflicts hold onto painful memories of their dead (i.e,. those who were brutally killed). 

Source: Council on Foreign Relations – Global Conflict Tracker

The Conflict With No End

In the pristine valley of Kashmir, the crisis continues as COVID-19 creates an additional justification for the India State to impose a lockdown. In my recent books on Kashmir, I have described the lockdown as a dehabilitating silence. In the absence of a loved one’s voice, silence can lead to agitation, fear, dread, and loss of hope. It is the worst kind of silence. That was the day when Kashmir went dark. 

August 5, 2019

The one-year anniversary is only a few days away. Indian activist and best-selling author Arundhati Roy described the lockdown in The New York Times in these words:

[India] turned all of Kashmir into a giant prison camp. Seven million Kashmiris were barricaded in their homes, Internet connections were cut and their phones went dead…For Kashmiris, this has been an old, primal fear.”

India’s decision to implement a policy of forced isolation is arguably the worst form of control and coercion. For months on end, the communications blackout destroyed the way of life in Kashmir.

Famed Kashmiri graphic novelist Malik Sajad paints a vivid and dark picture of life in Kashmir with the apt title, We Have Been in a Lockdown for Three Decades. Through cartoons, Sajad illustrates the way Kashmiris have suffered through lockdown since 1990 in his graphic novel, Munnu.

It is a life not lived as India imposes curfews and uses brute force to control an unarmed population.

Cartoons by Malik Sajjad

The images coming out of Kashmir–and the voices from those who suffer–reveal one truth: the conflict is not over. And there seems to be no apparent end to the ongoing crisis. While there is little international action to end the lockdown, there are a plethora of human rights activists, some government leaders, journalists, other civil society actors, and writers like myself who are calling attention to the Kashmir conflict. To read my work, visit

What is the solution? The Dean of a reputed Academy in Dubai asked me this question. Like many activists, I declare the only truth that is possible: give Kashmiris the right to vote. The right to choose self-determination. The right to walk freely in their own homeland. The right to all aspects of human security. The right to freedom is a basic human right for everyone. 

You can read an excerpt from my new special edition of Secrets of the Kashmir Valley. Click the link below.



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