Usurping of human rights in IHK
19 November, 2012
By Khalid Iqbal
During October 2012 two reports were released highlighting the human rights situation in the Indian Held Kashmir (IHK). Reports by Amnesty International (AI) and Citizen's Council for Justice (CCJ) were released in a quick succession. Both dossiers have adequately exposed the ongoing human rights (HR) violations in IHK.
The Indian Independence Act had laid down clear terms of reference for the rulers of princely states. They were given the choice to freely accede to either India or Pakistan, or to remain independent. Both these factors were ignored in the case of Kashmir.
Ever since the landing of Indian troops in Kashmir on October 27, 1947, HR violations by the Indian law enforcing agencies (LEAs) and security forces continue with impunity. The Public Safety Act (PSA) empowers the state authorities to detain any individual in IHK on charges of acting in a manner prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order. Under Section 8 of this Act, a Divisional Commissioner or a District Magistrate may issue a detention order to prevent any person from acting in a manner prejudicial to the "security of the state or the maintenance of public order." Vague wording of the statute provides an umbrella cover to the atrocities of LEAs.
In AI's current report, entitled "PSA - Still a Lawless Law", a comparison has also been drawn with its last year's assessment. The current report indicates that despite pressure on New Delhi, the PSA has not been reviewed or amended; and hence, new records of HR violations are being set by the security forces in IHK. The security forces are the major perpetrators of violence there, but no action is taken against the culprits. For instance, they arrested a minor under the PSA contrary to the recently incorporated amendment in the juvenile act, which requires the detainee to be all least 18 years old. In another gruesome incident, they beat to death a 65-year-old woman.
Likewise, the CCJ's dossier titled "Atrocity and Suffering" reveals: "502 people were either murdered or became victim of enforced disappearance; 2,048 individuals were physically tortured; 6,888 subjected to forced labour and 40 died while in custody." Moreover, 234 mosques and 700 civilian properties worth Rs 1,038 million were destroyed under the garb of operations against outlaw elements.
As a matter of policy, the Indian government does not attach any importance to international groups like the Amnesty International and other regional and domestic HR organisations. Concrete recommendations by well reputed Indian as well as international entities for stopping the HR violations have generally been ignored. As a consequence, the Muslim majority population in IHK continues to suffer, perpetually. Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, and Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), have empowered the security forces' personnel to shoot suspected lawbreakers. New Delhi has over and over again refused to revoke the AFSPA that also gives power to the Indian army to detain, indefinitely, anyone they think is "reasonably" suspicious.
This law further gives permission to the armed forces to shoot anybody, who is "acting against the law."
Interestingly, even the IHK state government has called for the revocation of this law. In the presence of these laws, the security forces enjoy immunity against their trial for committing crimes against humanity. The UN Special Rapporteur, Christof Heyns, who visited the state early this year, had also called for the repeal of this controversial law.
As of now, nearly 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed by the LEAs; corpses of thousands of them have been exhumed from the recently discovered mass graves in the northern parts of the Kashmir Valley. That has, indeed, jolted human conscience at global level.
The Muslims in IHK were quietly bearing the injustices and high-handedness; however, their patience ran out when state elections were rigged in 1987. It triggered mass agitation and within two years street protests turned into an armed resistance. India pumped in around 700,000 regular and paramilitary forces in the Valley to quell the uprising, but failed to do so. After a lull of few years, the Amarnath Shrine Board dispute in the summer of 2008 gave a reason to the Kashmiri youth to vent out their rage, once again!
The second round of unarmed movement in IHK took place in 2009. The third wave of protests in the summer of 2010 got converted into a mass movement. These protests were led by the teenagers with stones in their hands. So high was their morale and level of motivation that they did not care for the bullets and teargas shells rained by the occupation forces. Also, no amount of cruelty frightened or intimidated them.
Now, despite the relative calm, India does not deem it fit to reduce its extraordinarily heavy military presence in Kashmir. The recent police figures on the militancy related incidents in 2011 maintain that seven districts of J&K are militancy free, 13 districts have recorded only single-digit militancy related incidents and only four have witnessed double digit incidents. These figures show a "steep and drastic decline" in militancy. According to the IHK Director General of Police, there are only 147 active armed militants in Jammu and Kashmir. It corroborates the earlier similar statements of the Indian Army Chief, who placed the figure somewhere around 300. To counter this meagre number, over 600,000 troops are permanently stationed in IHK. Needless to say, IHK has the dubious distinction of being the most militarised spot on the globe today.
The UN has passed resolutions calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir. These resolutions vividly recognise the right of the people to decide their own future through a process of self-determination. It is also pertinent to mention that the UN through its Resolutions 91 and 122 has also repudiated the Indian stance that the issue of accession of Kashmir had been resolved by the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir.
India, however, tends to hide behind the misinterpreted Clause 6 of the Simla Agreement and maintains that the resolution of all disputes between the two countries, including Kashmir, is to be done bilaterally. Article 103 of UN Charter says: "In the event of a conflict between the obligations of the members of the United Nations under the present charter and their obligations under any other international agreement, their obligations under the present charter shall prevail."
President Asif Zardari, in his recent address to the 67th session of the General Assembly, had rightly attributed the non-resolution of Kashmir dispute to the failure of the UN system.
The writer is a retired Air Commodore and former assistant chief of air staff of the Pakistan Air Force. At present, he is a member of the visiting faculty at the PAF Air War College, Naval War College and Quaid-i-Azam University.