The World’s silence over rampant human rights violation in the
Indian Occupied Kashmir is a tragedy by itself.
By Asma Khalid
“The ultimate tragedy is not the repression and the cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
The unresolved Kashmir dispute is the defining factor in the bilateral relations between India and Pakistan. Since the partition of the sub-continent, the Kashmir issue has been described as the unfinished agenda of the partition of British India and now many more aspects have been added such as human rights violations and socio-economic dimensions. Human rights violations in Kashmir are an ongoing issue and the international community must understand that Kashmir is not only a territorial conflict but a matter of abuses to humanity.
War crimes are continually committed by Indian forces in Kashmir. There are brutal killings of Muslims, youth are slaughtered, civilians are arrested and then killed during custody, there are endless incidents of gang rape and the people suffer from a constant lack of medical and basic living necessities. A new wave of brutality raised its head in Kashmir in 2016 and a massive uprising occurred against the use of pellet-firing guns, murders, mysterious disappearances, fake encounters and other atrocities by the Indian army.
The United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) issued a detailed report on Kashmir in June 2018 (first ever report after 72 years) in which it highlighted India’s state-sponsored criminal activities in Kashmir. The Commission found “excessive use of force by security forces,” and “unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries”, as 147 Kashmiris were killed between 2016 and 2018.
It also pointed out that Indian forces used “one of the most dangerous weapons,” i.e., “pellet-firing shot guns,” which killed 17 persons and injured thousands, besides making them partially/completely blind. The report also condemned the criminal legal code in place for the security forces, in the name of the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990, and Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978. The former act grants immunity to the security forces from any prosecution for their killings, while the latter provides immunity against any misuse of the law through kidnappings or making enforced/involuntary disappearances, including sexual violence against women. In the last 28 years, not a single case has been prosecuted against any security person, as the laws do not grant justice or a chance for appeal to the victim.
What was missing from the report was the attempt by the Indian government to deliberately change the demographics of Kashmir. To bring about the demographic changes, India has started systematic increases in the ratio of the Hindu population. The key objective of the demographic change is to increase the representation of Hindus in the Valley, as well as to reduce the representation of the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to achieve their desired outcome if a plebiscite is held under the United Nations.
The United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) has proposed that any negotiated political settlement “must entail a commitment to end a cycle of violence and ensure accountability for the past and current human rights violations and abuses and provide redress for the victims”. However, the irony is that the so-called champions of human rights have been quiet on the gross human rights violations by India. The burning question is that why is the international community a silent spectator?
It is important to understand that Kashmir is a multi-lateral issue involving Pakistan, India, Jammu & Kashmir, the United Nations and the international community. The silence of the international community and the so-called civilized powers is meaningful but not surprising. India is a big market for European countries and the United States. These countries are high stakeholders in the United Nations as well. It is obvious that economic and strategic interests of developed countries have priority over human rights abuses in Kashmir. The geo-political and strategic interests of regional and global powers are more important than morality and human rights.
For seven decades, Kashmir issue remained an unresolved issue on the agenda of the United Nations. There is response from the regional and global players on human right violations. Insularity of international organizations and India’s rejection of third party mediation are the key factors that have driven the Kashmir movement towards an unending stalemate.
The global powers may have a collective responsibility to protect human rights and initiate a dialogue between two nuclear powers to maintain peace and stability in the region but they are oblivious to this. In these circumstances, what should be the viable course of action?
A realistic solution appears to be increase in pressure on India to implement the UNHRC recommendations. The Commission urges India to repeal its repressive criminal laws, establish credible investigation and prosecution against the crimes committed under those laws, and also revise the laws in consonance with international human rights laws. The United States, China and Russia must also play their part in ensuring that India implements the UNHRC report. A viable strategy could be to engage China to bring India and Pakistan to the talking table as threats and challenges linked with the Kashmir conflict are also viewed as a potential of China’s economic initiatives in the region. China is a global power and the region’s economic hub and has the potential to initiate a peace process in South Asia. Pakistan should also emphatically demand implementation of United Nations resolutions as self-determination is a legal and moral right of the people of Kashmir.
Pakistan should develop a strong counter-narrative on legal aspects of the Kashmir issue, based on UN resolutions. Proactive diplomacy is also required incorporating an effective strategy by Pakistan’s policy makers to project India’s human rights violations.
The writer is Senior Research officer at Islamabad Policy Institute. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in South Asia Magzine, February 02,2019.