Supporting the victims of torture and abuse

Marking a day in support of victims of torture is not enough

Supporting the  victims of torture  and abuse

Torture remains an instrument in the hands of those seeking ways to maintain their rule, to establish dominance, instill fear and submissiveness. The UN Convention Against Torture defines torture as any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person may have committed or be suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. Every year the UN marks the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, reminding the world to condemn torture and show solidarity with those suffering.

The continued annexation of the Kashmir valley intensified after August 2019, when India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in its constitution. Over 800,000 security forces from the Indian army, paramilitary forces/ police have been deployed in the disputed region. They are armed with special powers (Armed Forces’ Jammu and Kashmir’ Special Powers Act, 1990) and PSA (Public Safety Act-1978) as a carte blanche. This gives Indian security forces absolute authority to detain, capture, kidnap, kill/ dump and keep people incommunicado without being called to accountability. The systematic oppression is carried out through torture of locals, abductions, rape of Kashmiri women and political imprisonment. While torture remains prevalent in conflict zones of the world, it has been a regular practice against the people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The use of pellet guns on protestors and disruption of funeral processions are used to inflict physical and mental torture.

To further suffocate the Kashmiris, India shut down the cellular and internet services for months after revoking the special status. It also targetted journalists attempting to report on the situation. The unlawful treatment did not stop as those in need were reported to have been denied access to medical aid. According to the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, between 2008 and 2020, over 4,656 people were killed by the Indian security forces. The actual numbers are suspected to be higher.

The Indian government’s apathy attitude towards Kashmiris did not relent when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the valley. Medical facilities in the occupied region are underequipped and understaffed. By keeping medical facilities to a bare minimum, India exercises continued torture that goes against every UN and human rights convention. The situation in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir has worsened under the BJP-led government.

Indian forces continue to harass families of the victims of torture. The death of one person starts a torturous life for an entire family. The deceased is frequently the sole bread earner of the family. In most cases, dependents include children and aged parents. Many have been scarred psychologically for life due to the brutality suffered at the hands of Indian security forces. These are just a few of the many issues problems faced by the people living under the illegal occupation.

To ascertain the situation on the ground, the UN and human rights groups must ask the Indian government for unsupervised access into the region. International medical teams should be sent in to assist the hospitals in treating Covid-19 patients. The use of pellet guns must be banned. The children must be protected. International organisations should pressure the Indian government to adhere to the international laws pertaining to the human rights and protection of journalists. Rape as means of torture should be banished. All this is only possible when concern goes beyond marking a day in the calendar to show solidarity with the victims of decades of forced occupation. Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory under UNSC Resolution 47 adopted on April 21, 1948 that demanded an impartial plebiscite in the valley. India has resisted such a plebiscite.

The Indian military openly commits war crimes against women, the elderly and children. Every house, every family in the Valley has stories to tell of torture and degradation at the hands of the Indian forces.

The writer is an independent media and   foreign policy analyst.

She tweets @MsAishaK

Supporting the victims of torture and abuse