UNHCR report on Kashmir

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Dr Muhammad Khan

On June 20, 2018, Indian Government rejected the report on human rights in Jammu and Kashmir, initiated by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The report called for international access to Kashmir “on both sides of the Line of Control” to investigate allegations of human rights violations. As per Indian media (DNA), “India called it a matter of deep concern that such a report determines the Council’s consensus on terror, which remains the “pernicious violator of fundamental rights.” The report under UNHCR, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has called to set up a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) for a more comprehensive investigation into the human rights situation in Kashmir. The process of investigation needs international access into the state, which India rejected once again, but Pakistan welcomed it. Indian Ministry of External Affairs has outrightly rejected the report, saying it is “fallacious, tendentious and motivated”.
While analysing the Executive Summary of the first ever report on human rights in the State of Jammu and Kashmir by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, one would appreciate this international body for its concern over the massive human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). The first part of the report has categorically discussed the human rights violations in IOK, where following the publication of this report, Governor Rule has been imposed, upon forced resignation of Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti. Governor IOK, Mr Vohra has already forwarded a report pertaining to the imposition of Governor Rule in IOK under Section 92 of the IOK Constitution. Earlier BJP withdrew its support for the coalition Government under the directives of Prime Minister Narindra Modi. It is not the first time that India has rejected the demand for a neutral investigation of human rights violations in IOK; rather it has been doing so, repeatedly in the past three decades.
The report has been entitled by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as; Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir: Developments in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018, and General Human Rights Concerns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. The basic observation on the report is that, it named Indian occupied part of Jammu and Kashmir as, Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, a violation of UN resolutions on Kashmir. As per UN resolutions on Kashmir, the state of Jammu and Kashmir is disputed, whose decision has to be made as per UNCIP resolutions of August 13, 1948 and January 5, 1949. This entire process has to be implemented under United Nations through an impartial plebiscite. Therefore, calling IOK as Indian state needs immediate correction as per UN resolutions and lists of UN disputed regions. It is worth pointing out that, State of Jammu and Kashmir has been listed among World’s Six Most Worrisome Disputed Territories, poised to flare into violence.
Indeed, martyrdom of Burhan Wani in July 2016 gave a new impetus to the freedom struggle of Kashmiris, who are struggling for their freedom from India since 1947. Wani was killed by Indian security forces in Bumdoora village in Kokernag area of IOK, gave a new impetus to this Kashmiri struggle. Hundreds of Kashmiris, especially the youth, have been martyred since then, besides wounding and paralyzing thousands. From 2016 onwards, UNHCR has met with the representatives of the Governments of Pakistan and India for an unconditional access to Kashmir to assess the human rights situation. India rejected this UNHCR request; Pakistan however, accepted the offer, provided India should also offer the access.
This UNHCR considers, impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice are key human rights challenges in IOK. More so, the special laws in force in IOK; Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 (PSA), have created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardize the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations. Since July 2016, thousands of people have been detained under the PSA. As per rights groups, youth (minors) have been the main targets of Indian security forces from 2016 to 2018. The Indian brutal acts also include; “numerous reports of attacks on, and obstruction of basic medical services” needed by wounded Kashmiris.
Indeed, the days-long curfews and communications blockades also had a major impact on people and their access to medical care in Kashmir. IOK experienced frequent communications blockades and imposed restrictions on freedom of expression, targeting media and journalists, killing of Syed Shujaat Bukhari being the most recent. There has been impunity for enforced disappearances of Kashmiri youth, later killed in fake encounters. Indian authorities have failed to investigate and prosecute those soldiers, involved in killings, rapes and other human rights violations in IOK.
Whereas, Pakistan has welcomed this UNHCR report, since it has nothing to hide, but India rejected it. Why India is crying over this report in which UNHCR has just asked “to consider establishing a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir”. This is a very basic demand, logical in its contents and irrefutable in its outcome, within the UN mandate. There should be a COI of all human rights violations in IOK, which includes; killing of over 100,000 Kashmiris in IOK, rapes of over 11000 women, mass graves, blinding of youth through pellet guns, torturing the innocents in torture centres and burning the houses and community centres in IOK.
Indeed, India is apprehensive that the finding of this international body, the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) can be subsequently referred to International Court of Criminal (ICC), which may declare India as a state, sponsoring terrorism in IOK, thus, exposing real face of India to international community.
— The writer, Professor of Politics and International Relations, is based in Islamabad.

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