Paradox of Human Rights in Kashmir

Apart from the political dimension of Kashmir dispute as a territorial conflict between Pakistan and India, the reports of blatant human rights violations and transgressions of Indian military forces and civil administration poses a serious question on the efficacy of prevalent world order and supranational regimes. UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, and several other organizations have raised concerns and published investigative reports calling for action against the human rights violations of Kashmiri people by the Indian government and occupied forces. Recently, the OHCHR has endorsed the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate the gross and systematic human rights violations in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir. The reports of this commission clearly state the facts that Indian occupational forces are involved in extra-judicial killings and kidnappings, arbitrary arrests and detaining the political leadership, using torture and pellet guns against unarmed civilians, and restricting the freedom of movement and expression in the occupied region. The draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA) blanket all these atrocities of occupational force and in the course the region continues to be the largest and most militarized zone on earth.

The question of human rights violations in Kashmir is older than the prevalent declaration of universal human rights and ever since the innocent and harmless Kashmiris are yearning for justice and peace. If one investigates the analyzes the depravity of Kashmiri Muslims of their rights and freedom enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, it turns out to be the only zone in the world where humans are relegated as domesticated animals who are subjects of oppressive Hindu rule. These children of lesser God are being deprived of their civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights from a century now and has been ill-treated as slaves of dark ages by India’s civil administration and occupational forces, neglecting the international law and standards.

Kashmiris has been denied their right to self-determination and plebiscite by Indian authorities as declared in 1949 UN resolution because India is cognizant of the fact that the predominately Muslim-majority will side with Pakistan. Thus, India is denying the right to dignity, liberty and equality to the citizens of Kashmir. Similarly, the natives of Kashmir, Muslims, are deprived of their constitutional liberties including their religious, political and public freedom, as stated in the articles 18-21 of the universal declaration of human rights. The very same people are under curfews and military lockdowns from decades now, which is an encroachment on the Articles 12–17, granting the freedom of movement and right of individual towards the community. In addition, the right to education, adequate living standards, and social security is compromised in the Indian occupied Kashmir, obliterating their sustainable development and depriving them of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.

All the steps leading to the temple of human rights were denigrated by the Indian civil and military administration by their differential treatment of Kashmiri humans as if they are not human at all.

Various reports were published investigating these grave violations of human rights in the Indian Occupied Kashmir, and few of them also alluded that civil liberties have been compromised in the Pakistan administered region of Kashmir as well. However, unlike India, Pakistani authorities kept the region open to foreign visitors. A number of diplomats have visited the region to observe the ongoing situation themselves and all negated these false accusations on Pakistan. The country has always been compliant of the UN resolutions and upheld the terms of bilateral treaties related to the resolution of Kashmir conundrum, whether it is the presence of international observers or conducting a referendum in the region under UN supervision.

Pakistan also invited the Organization of Islamic Council (OIC) International Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) to visit the state of AJK and assess the human rights situation in the IoK. The visit concluded in form of a report highlighting the grave human rights violations and posed serious questions towards demographic engineering by India in occupied territory. The report concluded that “in the absence of India’s willingness to facilitate an independent investigation, there is considerable statistical and circumstantial evidence which lends credence to the allegations of indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by the Indian security forces against unarmed and innocent civilians and human rights activists, resulting in torture, extrajudicial killings, rape and mass blinding through use of pellets”. The mission also requested that if Indian side has any reservations about this report, they should allow the mission of IPHRC and UN fact-finding mission to visit the IoK and assess the situation of human rights over there. The visitors expressed serious concerns over the denial of the right to self-determination to Kashmiri people as it is against the UNSC resolutions and equating the legitimate freedom struggle of Kashmiri Muslims with terrorism is condemnable.

In addition, the report stated the fact that the use of restrictive and discriminatory laws by Indian Security forces such as AFSPA Act is contrary to the international human rights standards. The report was accompanied with the statistical data showing the number of people killed, tortured, arrested, structures arsoned, rapes and molestations, and causalities from the use of pellet guns in the Indian occupied region of Kashmir. In their recommendations for the UN, IPHRC mission to AJK urged the high offices of UN to investigate the ongoing situation in IoK and the UN Human Rights Council to consider the appointment of a Special Rapporteur with a specific mandate to investigate India’s violations in IoK under international law and international humanitarian law. It also called for the inclusion of periodic health situation reports for highlighting the precarious health conditions in the disputed territory by the World Health Organization.

According to the report of Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), “around 1100 civilians were killed by the Indian occupied forces including 160 in 2018 only, however, the Union Ministry for Home Affairs claimed only 37 civilians, 238 terrorists, and 86 security forces personnel were killed in 2018 up to 2 December 2018”. There is a momentous difference in the stats provided by the Kashmir’s local bodies and the Indian government, showing that there is an increasing number of extra-judicial killings of innocent civilians by occupational forces. The OHCHR also second the fact that there has been a drastic increase in the civilian killings in 2018 due to excessive use of force by the Indian military in the region. Similarly, the Special Rapporteur expressed concerns about “intentional, excessive or indiscriminate use of firearms by Indian security forces and the failure to conduct thorough, prompt and impartial investigations into these cases in order to uphold rule of law and to ensure non-reoccurrence of the violations.”

The 2019 report of OHCHR recommended to authorities in India to repeal the AFSPA, legally prosecute the security personal violating the human rights, and investigate the abuses like extra-judicial killings, sexual violence, torture and enforced disappearances conducted in Indian Occupied Kashmir. The report also urged the Indian government to end the ban on freedom of the press and fully respect the Kashmiris right to self-determination as mentioned in the international law.

Amid the reports of human rights violations presented by the OHCHR and OIC fact-finding mission, and their recommendations to the Indian government for abiding by the international norms and standards,

Amnesty International reported that in August 2019 the BJP regime unilaterally altered the special status of Kashmir and “launched a widespread lockdown, detained opposition leaders and activists like Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, severed the communication links, and prevented access to basic services such as education and healthcare for civilians”. The report also highlighted the Indian government’s lack of accountability of the murderers and attackers who attacked and threatened the indigenous people on basis of their religious and ethnic identities. It underlined the attacks and intimidations of Hindu nationalist groups on Kashmiri university students forcing them to leave the institutions. The humanitarian group also highlighted the curb on freedom of expression by arbitrary arrest, detention and prosecution as a means of silencing the journalist and a continuous shut down of internet in the region.

All these aforementioned facts and stats about Indian repression on Muslims of Occupied Kashmir clearly narrates the fact that the dispute is not merely a territorial one now, it has taken a religious lateral now and being a predominately Muslim-majority state, the incumbent Hindutva regime is altering its demography. India has played its moves by repressing the indigenous people through excessive and belligerent use of force and now the regime has been taking long-term political and social manoeuvring in account like revocation of article 370 and amending the citizenship amendment bill and allowing outsiders the acquisition of land in Kashmir. Several scholars, journalists and politicians have already highlighted this ongoing social engineering in the Indian occupied region and this will result in reducing the Muslim majority into a minority of state. All those echoing these concerns are silenced by threats or killings, demonstrating the medievalism and authoritarianism in the world’s so-called largest democracy.

Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan and to unshackle the Indian oppressed Kashmiris Pakistan has not left any stone unturned in last 73 years. These efforts include soliciting foreign actors and the United Nations for mediation, offering India to have a combine administration or conduct a plebiscite for the peaceful future of devastated Kashmiri people. Human rights violations and atrocities in Kashmir is not newfangled and unseen but dates back to the independence of both nations. Since then, this territory has been exploited as a buffer zone of two South Asian Nuclear states and it has been oppressed on the costs of blameless noncombatants. The reports issued by the supranational bodies like OHCHR, OIC and Amnesty International highlight the grave violations of human rights committed by the Indian occupational forces and laid the recommendations for putting a halt to the heinous acts against humanity. However, it is a matter of prejudice of Indian civil and military administration about Muslim population of the Kashmir, which is why the authorities are not complying with the international standards and defying the observers, fact-finding missions and independent journalists to visit the IoK.

The Kashmiri leadership also acknowledges the unwavering support of Pakistan to the Kashmiri people and raising the Kashmir dispute and highlighting gross human rights violations in IOJ&K at all international forums. The Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi underscored that Kashmir will continue to remain the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. He reiterated Pakistan’s firm resolve to stand with the Kashmiris until the realization of their right to self-determination as promised by the international community. Pakistan has always stood fast for the resolution of Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people. On top of this, India should stop maltreatment of innocent civilians and provide them with the due respect and rights every human deserve, as stated in the international law and human rights declaration. Dr Fai encapsulated, that “India has not desisted from its human rights violations”, and there is a need of making India understand that peace cannot be held through terror and India is clearly at war with Kashmiris.

Pallet Gun: A Weapon of Choice of Indian Occupational Forces

The Indian High Court of Jammu and Kashmir took an outrageous decision to legitimizing the use of pallet gun by Indian armed forces as a crowd control measure. Although there are numerous proofs that it was a sporadic practice of IAF before this decree and many human rights organizations and activists had already raised voices against this heinous act that has been harming innocent and unarmed civilians protesting for their basic rights. Before this decree, pellet guns along with many other lethal weapons has caused a number of causalities and physical disabilities among the inoffensive protestors yearning for the basic human rights entitlements. The verdict of Indian High Court is not only a defiance of the international human rights standards but also an intimation that current Indian government can take any brutal measure to oppress the Kashmiri natives politically. India even being the world’s largest democracy cannot tolerate pluralistic society and its far-right national government’s abominating attitude towards Muslims is a proof of it. There are numerous other crowd control methods, but Indian weapon of choice is a ‘Pallet Gun’, which was instituted by police force of India. In these ten years, hundreds have been killed and myriad blinded by this lethal weapon. In 2016, a plea was raised at Indian court due to an uproar by human rights organization and activists that led to formation of a biased committee deciding in favor of state practices. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights furnished a report in year 2018, which called on an investigation on the abuse of rights in the regions administered by India. Among numerous causalities, the youngest one was a 19-month-old child, Heeba Jan, who suffered injuries in 2018 when she and her mother were caught in the middle of a violent clash while escaping from tear gas near their house. Amnesty International India urges the Government of India to ease the restrictions on the communication channels and media, and to release the political leaders. The plight of Kashmiri Muslims is yet to be resolved by the international community by having a view that amid the unarmed Kashmiris demanding their right of self-determination and cold-hearted armed Indian police and military personnel, who will be titleholder of Kashmir.


Political Dimension of Kashmir Dispute

From last 90 years, the people of Jammu and Kashmir are yearning for their birthright of religious and political freedom. The world recognizes the conflict as a prolonged territorial dispute between Pakistan and India overlooking the context of the conflict, which dates back to 1930 when the Muslim majority of the state agitated against the minority-rule of Hindus for their religious freedom. Soon after, the partition took place and Kashmir, a predominately-Muslim majority state, given away to India contradicting the fundamental principle of partition. The perturbed Muslim majority of the region denied this unscrupulous division and called for help from their Muslim brethren resulting in an armed confrontation and settled by the UN cease-fire agreement of 1949 on the grounds that a referendum will be held in the region to gather the consensus of the majority population of the region. In contrast, the right to self-determination and plebiscite granted by the supranational authority to the Kashmiri citizens was repudiated by India and resolution was not implemented ever since. Soon after, India held an election in the occupied territory, which The United Nations Security Council explicitly negated to be a substitute for a free and impartial plebiscite to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1956, amid the Kashmiri cries for freedom, Indian leadership integrated the occupied territory of Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union of India. The mounting repression of India in the occupied valley resulted in an upsurge in the demonstrations and protests by the citizens of the Kashmir and in lieu of Pakistan’s support to their fellow Muslims, the animosities between both neighboring countries escalated into two full-scale wars afterwards –ended up the Tashkent Declaration and Simla Agreement. The agreement clearly stated, “Neither nation would not interfere in each other’s internal affairs; economic and diplomatic relations would be restored; there would be an orderly transfer of prisoners of war and both leaders would work towards improving bilateral relations.” However, India acknowledged the territory as disputed and designated it special area status, never honored the sanctity of these agreement and ever since the country is violating the terms of the accord brokered by the US and USSR. The recent revocation of Article 370 is a blatant violation of these bilateral treaties and utter disregard of International Law, as India unilaterally altered the special status of Kashmir and again annexed it as one of its union territories.

Quote:  Reportedly, more than 94,000 Kashmiris have been killed, more than 22,000 women widowed and 10,000 raped and molested, 105,000 children have been orphaned by Indian military and paramilitary troops in IoK since 1989.

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About Amna Malik 61 Articles
Author is the President, Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR) and Editor-in-Chief of ‘Mélange int’l Magazine’ and ‘ The Asian Telegraph’.