Sri­na­gar Atroc­i­ties Con­tinue

In­dia con­tin­ues to com­mit se­vere atroc­i­ties in held Kash­mir where the peo­ple suf­fer but the world sim­ply looks on.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Dr Mu­rad Ali The writer holds a PhD from Massey Univer­sity (New Zealand) and is cur­rently based at the Ger­man De­vel­op­ment In­sti­tute in Bonn, Ger­many as a post­doc­toral re­search fel­low.

In­dian army’s atroc­i­ties in Kash­mir are un­re­lent­ing.

On June 14, 2018, the e UN re­leased a re­port t per­tain­ing to un­abated hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in Kash­mir. The 49-page re­port, the first ever doc­u­ment com­piled by the UN on hu­man rights abuses in Kash­mir de­picts a grim sit­u­a­tion. The re­port high­lights a con­sis­tent pat­tern of vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights in In­dian Held Kash­mir (IHK) and the blunt and pro­tracted abuses com­mit­ted by mil­i­tary per­son­nel against un­armed res­i­dents of Kash­mir with im­punity. The pri­mary fo­cus is on gross hu­man rights cru­el­ties per­pe­trated from July 2016, when un­prece­dented demon­stra­tions erupted across the val­ley af­ter In­dian se­cu­rity forces killed Burhan Wani, a young leader of an armed group who, like many other ed­u­cated youth, was forced by per­sis­tent mil­i­tary in­sults and reprisals to take up arms.

“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 UN re­port states. Cit­ing cred­i­ble civil so­ci­ety fig­ures avail­able on record, the re­port says that up to 145 civil­ians have been killed by the se­cu­rity forces since mid-July 2016 till April 2018.

Dur­ing this pe­riod of enor­mous tur­moil, one of the most lethal mu­ni­tions em­ployed at will by In­dian se­cu­rity forces against protesters is the pel­let­fir­ing shot­gun. De­spite re­peated calls from hu­man rights and civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions to pro­hibit its de­ploy­ment, the weapon is still be­ing used by se­cu­rity forces and, as per pub­li­cally ver­i­fied es­ti­mates, 17 peo­ple were killed by shot­gun pel­lets be­tween July 2016 and Au­gust 2017, and 6,221 peo­ple in­jured by the metal pel­lets dur­ing this pe­riod. Civil so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions lament that many of the vic­tims have par­tially or com­pletely lost their eye­sight and will never be able to see their fam­ily mem­bers and friends and their beau­ti­ful sur­round­ings.

“Im­punity for hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions and lack of ac­cess to jus­tice are key hu­man rights chal­lenges in the state of Jammu and Kash­mir,” the re­port says, not­ing that the 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”. The AFSPA pro­hibits pros­e­cu­tion of mil­i­tary per­son­nel un­less the In­dian govern­ment grants prior per­mis­sion to this ef­fect. “This gives se­cu­rity forces vir­tual im­mu­nity against pros­e­cu­tion for any hu­man rights vi­o­la­tion. In the nearly 28 years that the law has been in force in Jammu and Kash­mir, there has not been a sin­gle pros­e­cu­tion of armed forces per­son­nel granted by the cen­tral govern­ment,” the re­port af­firms.

Rather than cen­sur­ing or pun­ish­ing mil­i­tary per­son­nel in­volved in fla­grant hu­man rights abuses, the new norm is to en­cour­age such ten­den­cies to fur­ther in­tim­i­date and ter­ror­ize the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion. For ex­am­ple, in May last year, the mil­i­tary com­mand gave a com­men­da­tion to an army of­fi­cer who used a lo­cal Kash­miri civil­ian un­law­fully as a “hu­man shield” to evac­u­ate se­cu­rity per­son­nel and elec­tion staff from a mob in Jammu and Kash­mir’s Budgam district. Sim­i­larly, in a set­back for ac­count­abil­ity of se­cu­rity force abuses, the Armed Forces Tri­bunal in July last year sus­pended the life sen­tences of five army per­son­nel who were con­victed in 2014 for a 2010 ex­tra­ju­di­cial killing of three vil­lagers in the Machil sec­tor in Jammu and Kash­mir. Ow­ing to this, Hu­man Rights Watch, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional and nu­mer­ous other in­ter­na­tional as well as na­tional civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions have re­peat­edly asked for the re­vi­sion of the no­to­ri­ous AFSA laws that have pro­vided blan­ket im­punity to law-en­force­ment per­son­nel against any hu­man rights abuses com­mit­ted against non­com­bat­ant Kash­miris.

In view of this pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion, the re­port has urged that the UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil needs to con­sider es­tab­lish­ing a com­mis­sion of in­quiry to con­duct a com­pre­hen­sive in­de­pen­dent in­ter­na­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in Kash­mir. It has asked that it is the right time to ad­dress past and on­go­ing hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions and abuses and de­liver jus­tice for all peo­ple in Kash­mir, who for seven decades have suf­fered a con­flict that has claimed or ru­ined count­less pre­cious lives.

There is al­most to­tal im­punity for en­forced or in­vol­un­tary dis­ap­pear­ances, with lit­tle move­ment to­wards cred­i­bly in­ves­ti­gat­ing com­plaints, in­clud­ing into al­leged sites of mass graves in the Kash­mir Val­ley and Jammu re­gion. Chronic im­punity for sexual vi­o­lence also re­mains a key con­cern in Kash­mir. The Hu­man Rights Watch has noted that the rape of 150 women by In­dian mil­i­tary per­son­nel in the twin vil­lages of Ku­nan and Posh­pora in Kup­wara District on the night of Fe­bru­ary 23, 1991, is a sym­bolic case in which no mil­i­tary of­fi­cial was ever pun­ished. Re­fer­ring to that hor­ren­dous case, the UN re­port has ob­served that “at­tempts to seek jus­tice

have been de­nied and blocked over the years at dif­fer­ent lev­els”.

“The po­lit­i­cal di­men­sions of the dis­pute be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan have long been cen­ter-stage, but this is not a con­flict frozen in time. It is a con­flict that has robbed mil­lions of their ba­sic hu­man rights, and con­tin­ues to this day to in­flict un­told suf­fer­ing,” as­serted UN High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hus­sein.

“This is why any res­o­lu­tion of the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Kash­mir must en­tail a com­mit­ment to end the cy­cles of vi­o­lence and en­sure ac­count­abil­ity for past and cur­rent vi­o­la­tions and abuses by all par­ties, and pro­vide re­dress for vic­tims,” he said.

The re­port also ex­am­ines a range of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in Pak­istanAd­min­is­tered Kash­mir which, ac­cord­ing to the re­port, are of a dif­fer­ent cal­i­bre or mag­ni­tude and of a more struc­tural na­ture. In ad­di­tion, the re­port says, re­stric­tions on free­dom of ex­pres­sion, peace­ful assem­bly and as­so­ci­a­tion in Azad Jammu and Kash­mir (AJK) and in Gil­git-Baltistan have lim­ited the abil­ity to ob­tain in­for­ma­tion about the sit­u­a­tion.

Among its rec­om­men­da­tions, the re­port asks that In­dia should ur­gently re­peal the AFSPA; es­tab­lish in­de­pen­dent, im­par­tial and cred­i­ble in­ves­ti­ga­tions to probe all civil­ian killings since July 2016 and all abuses com­mit­ted by armed groups; and pro­vide repa­ra­tions and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion to all in­jured in­di­vid­u­als and to the fam­i­lies of those killed in the con­text of se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions. Sim­i­larly, the Pub­lic Safety Act (PSA) should be amended to en­sure its com­pli­ance with the in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights law and all those held un­der ad­min­is­tra­tive de­ten­tion should ei­ther be charged af­ter a trans­par­ent trial or should be im­me­di­ately re­leased.

While the re­port is a wel­come de­vel­op­ment and has aptly high­lighted the plight of the wretched Kash­miris liv­ing a mis­er­able life in the shadow of more than 500,000 In­dian soldiers de­ployed in the val­ley, it has doc­u­mented hu­man rights abuses over a very small pe­riod. It must serve to awaken the con­science of other UN bod­ies, in­ter­na­tional civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as a whole so that they do not turn a blind eye to In­dian atroc­i­ties in Kash­mir. While In­dia has greatly ex­panded its in­ter­na­tional clout in many cap­i­tals and as­pires for UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil mem­ber­ship, the UN re­port on hu­man rights in Kash­mir has ex­posed to what ex­tent the In­dian govern­ment’s claim of re­spect­ing in­ter­na­tional law trans­lates into re­spect for the in­ter­na­tion­ally pro­tected hu­man rights of Kash­miris.

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