The United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNHCHR) has issued its “Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir.” The report contains graphic documentation of human rights violations being committed by the Indian military and paramilitary forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir. This is a significant step towards greater international recognition of the serious abuses committed against Kashmiris at the hands of Indian army. This report takes the veil of secrecy off of India’s crimes against humanity. Perhaps now the global community can share the outrage felt by the people of Kashmir.
The 49-pages report cites specific incidents where the Indian Government violated the very principles of human decency and democratic freedom against the people of Kashmir. The reports states that, “In responding to demonstrations that started in July 2016, Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries. … One of the most dangerous weapons used against protesters during the unrest in 2016 was the pellet-firing shotgun.”
The report details many instances where the use of draconian laws have given sense of total impunity to the Indian army in Kashmir. It states “The government of India has passed legislation under the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act of 1990 which gives extraordinary power to all ranks of the Indian military and paramilitary forces.” These laws, the report emphasizes, “ have created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardize the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations.”
The report underscored that “Impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice are key human rights challenges in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.” And that “Impunity for enforced or involuntary disappearances in Kashmir continues as there has been little movement towards credibly investigating complaints including into alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region.”
Many international NGO’s have suggested that Kashmir was the largest army concentration anywhere in the world. The report noted that “Civil society and media often cite the figure of 500,000 to 700,000 troops which would make Kashmir one of the most militarized zones in the world.”
As we know that during the latest phase of uprising , virtually the whole population of Kashmir turned on the streets to demand the right of self-determination to be given to the people of the territory. The report underlines this fact by stating; “While Indian-Administered Kashmir has experienced waves of protests in the past—in the late 1980s to early 1990s, 2008 and 2010—this current round of protests appears to involve more people than the past, and the profile of protesters has also shifted to include more young, middle-class Kashmiris, including females who do not appear to have been participating in the past.”
It is a fact that bilateral talks between India and Pakistan have failed because they sought to by-pass the leadership of the people of Kashmir, which is the primary party to the dispute. This fact has been recognized in the report which clearly says, “There remains an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and to deliver justice for all people in Kashmir who have been suffering seven decades of conflict. Any resolution to the political situation in Kashmir should entail a commitment to ending the cycles of violence and accountability for past and current human rights violations and abuses committed by all parties and redress for victims. Such a resolution can only be brought about by meaningful dialogue that includes the people of Kashmir.”
The Indian human rights organizations and NGO’s including ‘The People’s Union of Civil Liberties’, and others sent out teams to Kashmir to study specific allegations of human rights abuses including torture and publish reports on their findings, which are often highly critical of government authorities. The United Nations report validates these finding by suggesting that [As a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits torture under any circumstances (Article 7), India is obliged to ensure that no person is “subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. There have long been persistent claims of torture by security forces in Kashmir.]
Here are few more examples of torture cited in the report about torture.
“On 18 August 2016, a 30-year-old college lecturer, Shabir Ahmad Mangoo, died after being severely beaten in the custody of the Indian Army.”
“Another case of torture involving the Indian Army is that of manual labourer Nasrullah Khan who was allegedly detained and tortured at the Indian Army’s 27 Rashtriya Rifles camp on 31 August 2017.”
Medical services and ambulances are clearly being targeted for no other reason than that they are carrying young men who show evidence of having already been in the line of fire somewhere and therefore again become victimized. There is clearly an intent to physically disable these young men and civilian population. The report warns that “Doctors in Srinagar accused the security forces of firing tear gas near hospitals and, in some cases, inside the hospital, which affected their ability to work and further affected the health of the patients.”
Meanwhile to get the attention of international community remains a challenge. The world powers have taken a hands-off stance in having asked India for permission to send in a team to investigate. On the other hand, India does not allow the Kashmiri human rights activist to visit the international forums to raise the subject of human rights. Here are few examples cited in the report.
“Human rights defenders who have tried to bring international attention to the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir have faced reprisals while access has been obstructed for some journalists.”
“… prominent human rights defender Khurram Parvez was arrested and detained under PSA on 15 September 2016, a day after being prevented from travelling to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.”
Human rights lawyer Kartik Murukutla, who works with Khurram Parvez at JKCCS, was detained at the New Delhi airport immigration desk on 24 September 2016 on his return from Geneva after attending the same Council session.”
“French journalist and documentary film-maker Paul Comiti was arrested on 9 December 2017 in Srinagar for allegedly violating Indian visa conditions.”
It is well documented that the bloody occupation has resulted in massive human rights violations, particularly targeting women and children. The sanctity of women has been violated, in a gruesome and unforgiving fashion. The UN report upholds that [In the 2013 report on her mission to India, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said, “[W]omen living in militarized regions, such as Jammu and Kashmir and the north-eastern states, live in a constant state of siege and surveillance, whether in their homes or in public. Information received through both written and oral testimonies highlighted the use of mass rape, allegedly by members of the State security forces, as well as acts of enforced disappearance, killings and acts of torture and ill-treatment, which were used to intimidate and to counteract political opposition and insurgency.”]
The United Nations report makes the following recommendation to the UN Human Rights Council to, “Consider the findings of this report, including the possible establishment of a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.”
The report also makes 17 recommendations to the Government of India so as to bring these atrocities to an end, including:
“Urgently repeal the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990.”
-- “Establish independent, impartial and credible investigations to probe all civilian killings which have occurred since July 2016.”
-- “In line with its standing invitation to the Special Procedures, accept the invitation requests of the almost 20 mandates that have made such requests; in particular, accept the request of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and facilitate its visit to India, including to Jammu and Kashmir.”
-- “Fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law.”
It is our hope that the United Nations report will mobilize the policy makers of the members states of the UN Human Rights Council to do everything in their constitutional power to stop the killings in Kashmir. It is further our hope that the policy makers of these member countries will look to solving the root cause of the problem – the unfulfilled promise of self-determination as guaranteed by successive United Nations Security Council resolutions.
We believe that history is not predestined, and it is up to us to make peace its destiny in Kashmir through all of our energies, goodwill, wisdom, and compassion for the tragic afflictions of that once glorious land.
(Dr. Fai is the Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness Forum and can be reached at: email@example.com)