TENS of thousands of innocent people in Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) have been subjected to torture in the past three decades, according to a report released on Monday by two prominent human rights groups – the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons and the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) – which called for a UN investigation. Kashmiris in the IoK have been systematically tortured by the Indian state to curb dissent, said the report titled “Torture: Indian State’s Instrument of Control in Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir”. The report said that 432 individuals were interviewed who had been subjected to water-boarding, beatings with iron rods and leather belts and electric shocks to the genitals. It added that the institutions of the state like legislature, executive, judiciary and armed forces use torture in a systematic and institutional manner.
The 560-page report, researched for a decade, recommends that an investigation be led by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It also urges India to ratify the UN Convention against torture and also allow global rights groups unhindered access to occupied Kashmir. Last year, the UN in its first report on Kashmir had called for an independent international investigation into reports of rights violations like rape, torture and extrajudicial killings in the region focusing mainly on serious human rights violations in the region from July 2016 to April 2018. “In responding to demonstrations that started in 2016, Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries,” the report said. UNCHR Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, had in a statement called for a Commission of Inquiry by the Human Rights Council into all violations before opening the session in Geneva.
Juan E Mendz, former UN special rapporteur on torture, said the report would help draw attention to the need to express concern about India’s human rights record. “For the worldwide struggle against torture, this report will constitute a landmark,” Mendz, who teaches human rights law at American University in Washington, wrote in the prologue of the report. “I am convinced that a report, when it is as rigorous, evidence-based and persuasive as this one is, constitutes a building block toward public awareness of the tragedy of torture.” The JKCCS has written scathing reports in the past about the brutality by some of the hundreds of thousands of Indian troops stationed in the region and highlighted the widespread powers granted to them. However such reports including a UN report failed to move international community for action against India for committing atrocities on the people of Kashmir.
In 2016, the then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had condemned the ongoing killings in Indian-occupied Kashmir and urged India and Pakistan to settle Kashmir and other outstanding issues through dialogue. He had issued the statement after residents of the Kashmir Valley had endured their 40th consecutive day of a strict curfew during which schools, businesses, public transport and all normal life had been shut down after uprising by the July killing of a prominent Kashmiri freedom fighter Burhan Wani. Since 1989 more than 90000 Kashmiris have been martyred, and hundreds of thousands have been injured. The catastrophe is big enough to move any conscious human being, but unfortunately the apathy and insensitivity of international community has emboldened India to perpetrate atrocities on the people of Kashmir, as Indian forces’ murder, rape and fake encounters have turned Kashmir into a hell that would stretch Dante’s imagination.
Not that international community is unaware of repression and heinous crimes in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK); it is rather the vested interest of western governments to remain mute just to please India. It is unfortunate that seven decades have elapsed but international community shows apathy and indifference towards sufferings of Kashmiris and do not impress upon India to implement the United Nations Security Council Resolutions that bestowed on Kashmiris the right to self-determination. Even those countries that had in the past supported Pakistan’s genuine stance now suggest that India and Pakistan should resolve the Kashmir dispute through bilateral negotiations, knowing full well that many rounds of dialogue have taken place including the stalled composite dialogue, but to no avail. India takes the plea that according to Tashkant Declaration and Simla Accord both countries are obliged to resolve the issues through bilateral negotiations.
Whenever India faced criticism for acts of barbarism by its armed forces, India started talking about resolving the Kashmir issue through bilateral negotiations on the basis of Simla Accord. However, one should not ignore the fact that Article 103 of Chapter XVI of the UN Charter clearly states: “In the event of a conflict between the obligations of the members of the United Nations under the present Charter and any other international agreement, their obligation under the present charter shall prevail”. The Congress leaders had often expressed willingness to discuss all issues or disputes with Pakistan including Kashmir, but when pressed for meaningful dialogue to resolve Kashmir dispute, they said Kashmir was an integral part of India. Today, Kashmir stands as a potential nuclear flashpoint which could consume the life of millions of people in an instant. To avert a major disaster, there must be a serious, result-oriented and time-bound process of dialogue between the leadership of India and Pakistan, and of Jammu and Kashmir.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.