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India’s damning indictment by UN


June 29, 2018

The UN has released the first-ever report on documented human rights violations in the Indian held Kashmir and demanded an international probe into it. The UN report has called for an independent, international investigation into human rights abuses in the Valley. Observers have termed it a watershed moment, an unprecedented development, a unique instant. The report was released by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. It covered developments in the Indian-held state of Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018.

Among other recommendations, the report asked the authorities in India to fully respect India’s international human rights law obligations in Indian Administered Kashmir; urgently repeal the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990; and, in the meantime, immediately remove the requirement for prior central government permission to prosecute security forces personnel accused of human rights violations in civilian courts; establish independent, impartial and credible investigations to probe all civilian killings which have occurred since July 2016, as well as obstruction of medical services during the 2016 unrest, arson attacks against schools and incidents of excessive use of force by security forces including serious injuries caused by the use of the pellet-firing shotguns; investigate all deaths that have occurred in the context of security operations in Jammu and Kashmir following the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India; provide reparations and rehabilitation to all individuals injured and the family of those killed in the context of security operations; investigate and prosecute all cases of sexual violence allegedly perpetrated by state and non-state actors, and provide reparations to victims.

Bringing the issue vividly to the surface, it said, “Any resolution to the political situation in Kashmir should entail a commitment to ending the cycles of violence and accountability for past and current human rights violations.” It also sought to address the past and ongoing human rights violations on an urgent basis.

Understandably, the report evoked a sharp reaction from India which termed the document as "fallacious and motivated". Spearheading a counter assault, New Delhi also lodged a strong protest with the UN saying the government is "deeply concerned that individual prejudices are being allowed to undermine the credibility of a UN institution." the Indian government, profoundly upset, claimed that "It is a selective compilation of largely unverified information. It is overtly prejudiced and seeks to build a false narrative. The report violates India's sovereignty and integrity."

Also, the Congress hit out at the Modi government over the UN report on human rights violations in Kashmir, asking it how it allowed the world body to come out with such a report. Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera accused the Indian government of criminal failure on the foreign policy front. "We are very agitated, concerned and worried, (that) how did the UN report on human rights see the light of the day. The prime minister keeps going to address the diaspora across the world. He talks big, comes back and this is what we get," Khera said. He added: “The biggest question mark on our foreign policy has been this, how was UN allowed in the first place to come up with the damning report, a shameless report, a report which the Congress rejected right at the word go.” The Congress had termed the report a "prejudiced attempt" by vested interests to hurt India's sovereignty and national interests. Such observations do not get the Indian state very far.

On the other hand, Pakistan has welcomed the report’s recommendation to establish a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan’s Permanent Representative at the UN Office at Geneva stressed that excessive use of force, indiscriminate killing of civilians and blindings by pellet guns in Jammu and Kashmir must be investigated. The Foreign Office in Islamabad said the latest UN report is a reminder of this internationally-recognised dispute and the urgency of its settlement, both to protect human lives and promote peace.

The Indian reaction though expected is morally deplorable and does not address the iconic popular uprising in the Valley. The wave of online, electronic and print derision of the report shows lack of objective evaluation about the course of action in the valley. The Indian Army’s entanglement is inducing regional instability. To be sure, the path of perpetual warfare in the valley is fraught with uncertainty. As it is, the historic report is more than symbolic in importance and will impact the Indian war babble, policies and narrative.

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