The increasing intensity of human rights violations in the Indian Held Kashmir in recent years requires an awakening of global conscience. The violations are of multidimensional in nature ranging from “mass killings” to “forced disappearances” and from “torture” to “rape and sexual abuse” to “political suppression and restrictions on freedom of speech”. The main culprits responsible for such violations include: the Indian Armed Forces, central police force and border security personnel.
Resolving any issue by suppressing the aspirations of the concerned people would not lead to any sustainable solution. While refereeing to the debate on the status of Jammu and Kashmir, a renowned Indian writer on human rights, Ram Puniyani, has rightly emphasised that India should understand what the Kashmiris want, a mere assertion from ultra nationalist tendencies will harm the process of healing of wounds and the march towards a better democratic process in the state. As Nehru pointed out, what is more important is to win the hearts and minds of people, the laws can follow. Integrating the people by not considering their aspirations would not work. Such outbursts are counterproductive for the people at large.
The Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, United Nations Human Rights Council in its 13th Session (21 May – 1 June, 2012), pointed out that religious minorities had been facing violence and discrimination due to the laws and bills on religious conversion in the Indian states of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, and Himachal Pradesh. The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion has reported that these laws have had adverse consequences for religious minorities and have even sparked violence against them.
According to Amnesty International, for the last twenty-five years, the Armed Forces’ Special Powers Act in Jammu and Kashmir still continues to feed a cycle of impunity for human rights violations, Amnesty International India said in a new report. The report, “Denied: Failures in Accountability for Human Rights Violations by Security Force Personnel in Jammu and Kashmir,” documents the obstacles to justice faced in several cases of human rights violations believed to have been committed by Indian security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir. It focuses particularly on Section 7 of the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA), which grants virtual immunity to members of the security forces from prosecution for alleged human rights violations.
Leaders of both sides of Kashmir are of the view that India is losing its international goodwill under Prime Minister Narendra Modi due to violation of human rights on communal basis. While addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in September 2015, Syed Faiz Naqshbandi, a senior leader of APHC from Srinagar and AmjadYousaf Khan from Azad Kashmir pointed out that the laws framed by Indian government were facilitating arbitrary arrest and detention, forced disappearances, extra-judicial killings with complete impunity for security forces. They accused the Indian government of having an “intransigent and unrealistic approach” towards the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir who since 2003 have been carrying out peaceful struggle but there is no change in Indian atrocities.
The discrimination against Kashmiris has expanded. According to a report by the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, “Kashmiri Muslims in New Delhi suffer from a deep sense of insecurity and vulnerability and are victims of police harassment, humiliating searches, intimidation, arbitrary detentions and demands for bribes by local policemen under the pretext of fighting terrorism. “Thousands of students joined protests, effectively paralysing the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi. The demonstrations were also held to mark the anniversary of the 2013 execution of Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri man convicted of an attack on India’s Parliament. Afzal Guru was hanged by Indian courts just to satisfy the collective consciousness of the Indian nation and court decision was not based on the principles of justice.
The biggest challenge Kashmiris faced in the Post 9/11 was that their legitimate internationally recognised freedom movement was equated with terrorism. The 9/11 provided India a golden opportunity to push forward its own agenda in the name counter-terrorism in Kashmir. Consequently, India tried to combine the issues of War on Terrorism and Kashmir so as to draw maximum benefit from the changed international opinion in favour of using brutal use of force against innocent Kashmiris. Today the world knows that freedom struggle in Kashmir has nothing to do with terrorism. In spite of brutal use of force by the security forces, Kashmiri youths did not opt for the armed struggle. On the contrary to Indian attitude, Pakistan showed a great flexibility by giving unilateral concessions by offering “out of the box” solution. All these policies and moves have proved very harmful and disastrous for the Kashmir cause.
In Indian Held Kashmir there are severe violations of human rights as number of total deaths is 93,274, custodial killings are 6,969, arrests/detention are 117,345 destruction and razing of houses is 105,861, children orphaned are 107,351, women widowed are 22,728 and women gang-raped are 9,920. Through rape, security forces are aiming to punish and humiliate the entire community. According to report of China Daily, compared to 2012, there has been 38% increase in the human rights violations in 2013 in IHK. The black laws like PSA, TADA, AFSP enforced by India in Kashmir, give immunity to occupying forces for indefinite detention and torture on suspicion basis. Amnesty International, UNO, US State Department, international think tanks have condemned the violations of international laws and human rights violations by India in Kashmir.
According to a report, 17,000 people, mostly women, have committed suicide during the last 20 years in the Valley. According to a study by the Medecins Sans Frontiers, “Women in Kashmir have suffered enormously since the separatist struggle became violent in 1989–90. At the beginning of the insurgency there were 1200 patients in the valley‘s sole mental hospital. The hospital is now overcrowded with more than 100,000 patients. A 2011 official inquiry report on unmarked graves conducted by the investigative wing of the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) had detected 2,156 unidentified bodies buried in 38 graveyards across five districts of north Kashmir. APDP has also asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to put pressure on centre to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and invite/permit the United Nations Special Rapporteurs/Working Groups to visit Jammu and Kashmir. Without addressing structural and prevalent conditions, and more importantly, in the absence of justice, there can be no peace or normalcy.
Pakistan should continue to maintain consistency and firmness over its Kashmir policy and play an active role in highlighting the human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir at international forums. Along with adopting effective and proactive diplomacy for resolving Kashmir issue by drawing from the UN resolutions, Pakistan should also highlight the humanitarian aspects of human rights violations in the Indian Held Kashmir. Besides this, the Kashmiri people should be given unqualified moral support for getting their right to self-determination. The role of overseas Kashmiris in highlighting the violation of human rights in Kashmir is commendable.
There is a need to further refine their role in a systematic and coordinated manner in awakening global conscience. There is also a need to have a comprehensive media strategy to highlight Kashmir issue into its true perspective. Although Kashmiris have extended full support to India-Pakistan peace process, yet they are not included in the dialogue process. India should realise that there would be no sustainable solution of the Kashmir issue without taking into consideration the aspirations of the Kashmiris and the right of self-determination given to them by UN resolutions.
— The writer is working as Research Fellow, at Islamabad Policy Research Institute.