South Asia Research and Analysis Studies

Endless abuses of human rights in Kashmir
Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan

According to the Asia Watch and Physician for Human Rights, Indian security forces have systematically violated international human rights and humanitarian law in Kashmir. Among the worst of these violations have been the summary executions of hundreds of detainees in the custody of security forces in Kashmir.

Indeed, these killings are carried out as a matter of policy. Some of the human rights organisations have discovered thousands of unidentified graves in various parts of the occupied state in 2007/8.

These mass graves are of those innocent Kashmiris who met the fate of custodial killings after having been tortured. The European Union Parliament, through a resolution in 2008, demanded the Indian government for an independent probe of this human massacre. The parliament noted that, “It cannot be excluded that the grave sites contain the remains of victims of unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and other abuses which have occurred in the context of armed conflict persisting in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989.”

More often, the international community and human rights organisations have been insisting India for securing the human rights in its occupied portion of the Kashmir. Recently, Ms. Margaret Sekaggya, the United Nations (UN) special rapporteur on human rights defenders, visited the Indian occupied Kashmir and emphasized India to repeal the barbaric laws, giving Indian security forces, wide-ranging powers of arrest, illegal detention, and torture to the people of this heavenly state.

The UN human rights defender particularly mentioned that during her visit to the occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir, she learnt through the grieved families about the “killing, torture, ill-treatment, disappearances, threats, arbitrarily arrests and detention,” of their loves one by Indian security forces. She insisted for the immediate repeal of inhuman laws like the Armed Forces Special Power Act, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (TADA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA).

These special legal provisions contravene most of the human rights provisions laid down in international human rights instruments to which India is a party, notably the right to life and the right not to be subjected to torture or to arbitrary arrest and detention.

Through the Armed Forces Special Power Act, the Indian security forces in disturbed areas have the power to shoot to kill any individual who is violating or behaving in contravention of the law enforced. On the other hand, TADA permits detention of the people arbitrarily for just inquiring whether Jammu and Kashmir should remain a part of India or discussing the possibilities of plebiscite. This cruel act allows the authorities to arrest and detain people on mere suspicion and people can be remanded up to 60 days in police custody.

These broadly defined powers provide sufficient grounds for shooting of detainees and suspects even in custody. In spite of expression of concern by Human Rights Organizations and Amnesty International over these “cruel laws” which contravene the right to life, the Indian government has not bothered to soften the provisions. All these laws make security forces of India operating in the state of Jammu and Kashmir immune from prosecution for acts committed while exercising powers under these laws. Thus, members of the forces are encouraged to act with impunity. The United Nations, Amnesty International, and Kashmiris strongly feel that these laws are a license in the hands of the Indian security forces to kill the helpless Kashmiris in custody or anywhere.

Since no member of the security forces including police can be prosecuted, and alleged to have committed human rights violations, therefore, they are free to do anything with the lives of any Kashmiri under the cover of these the laws. UN human rights activists feel that, “The Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act should be repealed, and application of other security laws which adversely affect the work of human rights defenders should be reviewed.” Indeed, it is about time that, India ended the gross HR violations in Occupied Kashmir and gave Kashmiris their right of self-determination. The writer is an analyst of international relations.