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National

February 20, 2017

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Kashmir atrocities thrust back in the spotlight

Kashmir atrocities thrust back in the spotlight

The Physicians for Human Rights in December 2016 came out with a report “Blind to Justice: Excessive Use of Force and Attacks on Health Care in Jammu and Kashmir.” The report is a brief description of the torture inflicted on the general Kashmiri population by the Indian law enforcement agencies.

Who are the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)? Based in the US, in their own words, it says it “has used science and medicine to document and call attention to mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. PHR is a global organization founded on the idea that health professionals, with their specialized skills, ethical duties, and credible voices, are uniquely positioned to stop human rights violations. PHR’s investigations and expertise are used to advocate for persecuted health workers and medical facilities under attack, prevent torture, document mass atrocities, and hold those who violate human rights accountable.”

Though not widely reported, the shocking report asserts: “Indian authorities have used indiscriminate and excessive force in responding to widespread protests across Jammu and Kashmir… This has included repeatedly firing on protesters killing at least 87 people and injuring more than 9,000 others, not including injuries sustained by security forces during protests. In seeking to quell the protests, security forces deployed an arsenal of weaponry that they reported to be ‘less than lethal,’ but these weapons in fact caused deaths and serious, often permanently debilitating injuries. The weapons, which security forces used against both peaceful and stone-pelting protesters, included tear gas grenades, pepper gas shells, 12-gauge shotguns firing ‘birdshot,’ and live ammunition.

“To investigate the impact of the use of force against protesters in Jammu and Kashmir, the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) conducted interviews with a wide range of medical professionals, lawyers, and injured protesters. Accounts from doctors and media reports show that Indian security forces deliberately obstructed access to urgent medical care for protesters, and harassed medical workers attempting to treat protesters, including by preventing doctors from reaching the hospitals where they work.”

The report adds: “Further, every doctor interviewed by PHR stated that police, both uniformed and in plainclothes, were present at hospitals and monitored protesters being admitted for treatment. They said police sometimes asked for the names and registers of patients admitted at the end of the day, and used the information to arrest those injured on the grounds that they had participated in ‘unlawful assemblies’.”

The report presents stubborn facts: “The indiscriminate and excessive use of force by Jammu and Kashmir police and the Central Reserve Police Forces against protesters in Kashmir violates India’s obligation to protect the rights to life and health, and the country’s obligation to uphold and facilitate freedom of expression and assembly.”

The report reinforces: “A failure to distinguish between legitimate exercises of freedom of expression and ‘unlawful’ assemblies, as well as legal protections for police against prosecution for the use of force, have contributed to a lack of accountability for security forces who use unnecessary and excessive force on protesters, including where the use of force results in death or serious injury.”

While the report has much to reveal before the world about the atrocious human rights situation in the held valley, the statement of Indian Army chief is damning. General Rawat has warned that those protesting near sites of encounters in Kashmir would be treated as anti nationals and over ground workers of militant organizations. One now understands why the torture by Indian forces emptied villages after villages in held Kashmir where encounters with militants took place.

As it is, Pakistan will continue to reaffirm moral, political and diplomatic support to the people of Kashmir in their struggle for their right to self-determination and highlight the gross and blatant violations of human rights committed by the Indian forces in held Valley. This remains a clear, well executed regional strategy.  

 

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