The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights published a report in 2018 on the situation of human rights in Kashmir. The findings in the report bring the human rights violations in Indian-Administered Kashmir into the limelight and are adequate to wake up the world’s leaders from their deep slumber. The violation of human rights peaked in 2016, after the killing of Burhan Wali on 18th July 2016 by the Indian forces. The local Kashmiri hit the street to protest against his unjust prosecution. However, the security forces responded with the force to suppress the dissenters. As a result, it caused severe human rights abuses. The report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, thus, focuses on the events of the violations from 2016 to 2018.
The following are the Human Rights Violations in Indian-Administered Kashmir as indicated by the report of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:
Lack of access to Justice:
The indigenous people of Kashmir are denied access to the local civilian courts to prosecute the security forces for their avowedly involvement in human rights abuses against them. Armed Force Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA) acts as the stumbling block in the way of justice because it bestows immunity to the security forces from prosecution in the civilian courts unless the central government of India grants permission for their trial. It must be noted that the Indian government has not granted even a single prosecution of armed force personnel till today. Consequently, they are found in using force against the civilian without any fear of accountability that is also against the international laws to deal with the uprising of people for their rights. Besides, the AFSPA allows the security forces to use lethal force against the protestors to maintain law and order. Thus, the immediate and more concerning human rights violation in Indian-Administered Kashmir as indicated by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights is the lack of access to justice.
The military courts operate in Indian-Administered Kashmir to handle the cases of human rights abuses and prosecute the armed forces involved in it. However, these courts are itself the violation of human rights because the judges of the military courts do not meet the international fair trial standards and often give verdicts in the favor of their soldiers. For instances, in 2017, the military courts suspended the life sentences of the five army personnel who had been convicted for extrajudicial killing of three civilian in Baramulla district in 2010. Families of victims in almost all the cases remain unaware of the decision of the military courts or the status of their case.
Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 (PSA) allows the armed forces to take into their custody any person to be involved in creating so-called security problems. In some cases, the PSA authorizes for detention without trial for up to two years. The act is commonly used against the journalists, political leaders and protestors. From March 2016 to August 2017, over 1,000 people were detained under the PSA as per a report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Excessive use of force:
There is no denying the fact that Indian armed forces are involved in excessive use of force to subside the uprising of Kashmiri people for their rights in Indian-Held Kashmir (IHK). As per civil society estimations, around 130 to 145 civilians killed by security forces between mid-July 2016 and end of March 2018. The Indian government also said that 9,042 people had been injured between 8th July 2016 and 27 February 2017 during the protest in IHK. Most of the injuries were resulted from pellet shot guns. It is the most common weapon used by the armed forces. One gun contains around 500 to 600 metal pellets that are dispersed over a wide area affecting non-protestors as well. Mehbooba Mufti, stated that 6,221 people had been injured by pellet guns in Kashmir between 8th July 2016 and 27 February 2017, among the victims 728 had eye injuries.
Torture is the most common measure adopted by the Indian armed forces in IHK to punish those people involved in the protests. Although, India is signatory of International Covenant on Civil and Political rights that asks it to ensure that nobody in the custody is subjected to torture, it adopts a lenient approach towards this international obligation. A thirty-year-old college lecturer, Shabir Ahmed Mangoo died in the custody of Indian Army in 2016 after he was beaten very hard. Besides, A Kashmiri man, Farooq Ahmad Dar, was seen tied to the front of the Indian Army moving Jeep in 2017 because he threw stone at the army vehicle during the protest.
As per the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, around 8,000 Kashmiris have been missing since 1989. To soothe the emotions of victim families, Indian government claims that over 4,000 disappeared people are in Pakistani Administrated Kashmir for arms training. However, the mass graves found in the IHK reveals the involvement of Indian armed forces in killing the Kashmiris after being taken into the custody covertly.
Violation of the right to health:
According to International Law, health facilities must be protected and not subjected to an attack even during the war. However, in IHK, this canon of International Law was not followed even during the local unrest. As per the reports, the armed forces physically assaulted doctors and prevented them to work freely. The security forces and protestors damaged hospitals and over 200 ambulances. Continue communication blockage and curfew further aggravated the health issues, as the patients were unable to move and contact the hospital or doctors during emergency. Besides, the use of tear gas near hospitals affected the ability of doctors to work.
Restrictions on the right of freedom of expression:
The biggest violation of human rights in IHK is the restriction of the right of freedom of expression. Journalists are detained and prevented from writing stories about the situation of Kashmir. No outside media is allowed to work in IHK freely. Besides, the government has suspended Internet and mobile services to keep Kashmiri in isolation and ensure no news of human rights abuses by the armed forces cross the border or catch the attention of international observers. The members of civil society are also prevented from travelling abroad. For instances, in 2016, prominent civil society advocate, Khurram Pervez was arrested and prevented from travelling to Geneva to attend the session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Violation of the rights of education:
The education of the residents has been widely affected since 2016 owing to the conflicts between the armed forces and protestors. According to the Indian state, 31 schools have been damaged since 2016 due to unrest. The curfew by the armed forces also prevented children from attending the schools. As per a report, the schools in IHK remained close for nearly 60 per cent of the working days between 2016 and 2018.
Sexual violence by the armed forces:
Since 1989, approximately 143 cases of sexual violence by the security forces and non-state actors have been recorded, but there is no record of allegations of sexual violence by the security forces being prosecuted in the civilian court. According to the survivors, on the night of 23rd February 1991, Indian soldiers gang-raped 23 women of Kunan and Poshpora villages. Kashmiri protested for independent investigation, but nothing happened.
Thus, the human rights violations in Indian-Administrated Kashmir as indicated by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights range from lack of access to justice, formation of military courts instead of civilian, detentions, excessive use of force, torture, enforced disappearance, violation of the right to health, restriction on the freedom of expression, violation of the right of education to sexual abuses by the security forces. These revelations by the UN commissioner report are enough to raise Indian local people to force their government to abandon its inhuman policies in Kashmir.
Note: This article is a summary of the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights published in 2018. All facts and figures have been taken from that report. The aim of this article is to highlight the human rights violations in the easiest and summarized way so that maximum people could read. For detail reading please refer to the original report.