Saturday November 27, 2021

Unchecked atrocities

August 22, 2019

On August 5, India revoked Article 370 and Article 35-A of the Indian constitution through Presidential Order C.O 272 to alter the special constitutional status of Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK). By doing so, the Modi government not only violated UN resolutions but also dishonoured key international instruments and important bilateral commitments.

Before making the announcement, India unlawfully detained several political leaders, illegally imposed broad restrictions on freedom of movement, and banned public meetings in IoK. India has also shut down the internet, phone services, educational institutions and since then, there is a total media blackout in the valley and people are locked in a worrisome curfew.

This illegal act of the Modi government was universally condemned by many states and governments across the globe. Ultimately, Pakistan with the help of China rushed to the UNSC to seek UN intervention which helped in calling an emergency consultative meeting. Meanwhile, the Indian unilateral action and the worsening human rights situation in IoK was also condemned by almost all human rights bodies including the UN, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty international etc.

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) while “denouncing” the human rights violations committed by the Indian forces in the IoK, said this was atrocities at a “new level”. Its spokesperson precisely referred to the July 8 report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Right (OHCHR) on the frightening situation of human rights in Kashmir. While expressing deep concern, he updated that ‘the Indian authorities in IoK have constantly blocked telecommunication networks to muzzle dissent, used arbitrary detentions to punish political dissidents and employed excessive force while dealing with the protests leading to extrajudicial killings and serious injuries’.

Regrettably, India has shut its eyes on the first report the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights which recommended the UN Human Rights Council to call for an international inquiry into multiple violations committed in Kashmir. Optimistically the government of Pakistan welcomed all these reports but unfortunately, India not only rejected these reports but also refused to engage with the UN Human Rights Council.

Besides these UN reports on IoK, there are countless other important reports of the world-leading human rights organizations. For instance, the “report” of the “Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons and Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society” describes a more “disturbing human rights situation” in IoK.

The report ostensibly claims that from 2008-18, more than 1081 Kashmiri civilians have been extra-judicially killed by the Indian security forces. It further asserts that between 2016 and March 2017, 17 people were killed, 6221 others got injured in IoK, due to excessive use of force by the Indian forces though pellets guns. Only in 2018, the Indian forces killed 40 other Kashmiri civilians in various encounters. Although there is always an unfortunate denial by India, still there have been 8000 reported cases of enforced disappearance and 7000 other mass graves in IoK.

Besides these, there have been 108 instances of internet stoppage in IoK only in 2018 and already 53 instances of shutdowns in 2019. Furthermore, just in the last one year, the Indian forces disallowed 12 out of 52 Friday prayers in IoK on the pretext of maintaining law and order.

The same report asserts that India has conferred unchecked and unaccountable powers on its security forces under the draconian Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 (PSA); The forces are targeting and detaining human rights defenders, journalists, pro-independence political leaders and people involved in protests.

In a series of thousands of illegal and arbitrary detentions, Khuram Parvez, a prominent human rights activist was illegally arrested under the PSA and was imprisoned for more than two months, at the time when he was travelling to Geneva to speak at the UN Human Rights Council. Like the other thousands of cases, in this case, too, the high court observed that “the detention order was not only illegal but the detaining authority had abused its powers in ordering his detention”.

Later on, Khuram claimed that he was detained because the government felt threatened of the work that his organization was carrying out, and wanted to discourage them from engaging with the UN. Khurram’s case is just one of the many thousands in Jammu and Kashmir where individuals have been placed in administrative detention under the PSA without charge or trial.

Another black law imposed in IoK is the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA) which confers unchecked powers on security forces with protection from prosecution for serious human rights violations including extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances.

According to the HRW report, the AFSPA prohibits prosecution of security forces personnel unless the Indian government grants prior permission to prosecute. “This gives security forces virtual immunity against prosecution for any human rights violation. Sadly, in the nearly 28 years that the law has been in force in IoK there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government”.

Besides the thousands of undocumented human rights violations, there are countless important fact-finding reports by international human rights organizations regarding the new level of atrocities in IoK. India should abstain from committing further human rights violations and respect the UN as well as recommendations by different human rights organizations. Because war can never favour the interests of the region.

The writer is a Peshawar-based lawyer.


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