Indian Atrocities on Kashmiris warrant International Focus
By: Osman Khan
Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri citizen, was hanged in Delhi’s Tihar jail on 9th of February this year. His crime being his innocence presence in the precinct of crime scene on the day of attack on Indian Parliament building. The abrupt hanging of Afzal Guru without giving him a chance to exercise his right to approach Indian Supreme Court against the rejection of his mercy plea by the Indian president, reflect Indian civil and military establishment’s inhuman approach towards Kashmiri people and their basic rights. Afzal Guru’s death reminded Maqbool Bhat’s abrupt hanging, the Kashmiri leader who too was hanged in controversial circumstances in the same month of the year 1984. However, the resolve of Kashmiris to struggle against Indian occupation and exercise their right of self determination only gets firmer with each episode of Indian brutality. India has virtually declared war on Kashmiris. There is not a single Kashmiri family that is not, either directly or indirectly, a victim of the India’s State sponsored violence in Kashmir.
The recent report of ‘Tribunal for Human Rights and Justice in Indian –administered Kashmir and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons -2012’ exposes India’s hollow claims of being a secular and democratic nation having a responsible and a professional army. The report was prepared over a period of two years by these two notable human rights organizations based in the Kashmir valley. The unearthing of 6000 mass Kashmiri graves in the valley followed by verification of other cases of Indian atrocities on innocent Kashmiris has put a big question mark on secular democratic India.
The report has identified around 500 perpetrators in 214 cases of violence committed against the Kashmiris in the Valley. Amongst those 235 from the Indian army, 123 from paramilitary forces, 111 from Jammu and Kashmir Police and 31 from government personnel have been identified as having supported militants’ in their activities. Conspicuous amongst the Indian army perpetrators are two major generals, three brigadiers and ninety other officers ranging from Colonels to captains of the Indian army. Besides these, the other perpetrators identified were 37 senior officials of paramilitary forces, a former and a serving DG of J&K Police. The report also confirms that political and judicial impunity for the civil and military agencies deployed in the valley has resulted in 8000 forced disappearances and 7000 deaths at the hands of Indian armed forces.
The authors of the report have compiled their report from information documented in various court cases, official documents of the Indian government and the state-run agencies in the valley. Ironically, documents in the possession of the State themselves indict the Indian armed forces, paramilitary forces and the police with strong and convincing evidence of their respective roles. The official documents highlight that the impunity fostered by the judicial process has been compounded by the existence of draconian laws in the Kashmir Valley such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990. The official documents also point towards the fact that India has been traditionally obstructing justice for Kashmiris by willfully dismissing allegations of killings and other violent crimes committed against the personnel of its armed forces.
The fact that the Indian government does not want to address human rights issues in Jammu and Kashmir is reflected from its inaction over a report on unearthing of mass graves in three different parts of the Valley submitted to the State Human Rights Commission on 13th August 2012 by Home Department of J&K. The State also refused to conduct DNA tests of the dead bodies with a plea that in the whole country there are only 15-16 laboratories that can conduct the relevant tests but they will not be able to handle such a huge work load. This unwillingness of the Indian government to proceed ahead with the case of unearthing of mass graves and identify the perpetrators needs a focused attention of the world community. Despite the fact that the available official government documentation do indict the perpetrators in the killings and criminal violence unleashed by the Indian armed forces in the Valley, the Indian government is not permitting prosecution of the members of the armed forces citing the impunity granted to military personnel in Kashmir through Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA). Its refusal to allow the prosecution indicates that the Indian State and its agencies have a direct role in the commission of crimes against the Kashmiri nationals. The mention of official designations of the Indian army personnel in the Tribunal’s report for crimes committed by them in the Kashmir Valley and the Indian government’s willful resistance to allow their prosecution also indicate Indian government’s involvement in these crimes.
In view of India’s intransigence on prosecuting the perpetrators of crimes against Kashmiri nationals, there is a moral obligation on the international community to debate the issue in the United Nations Forum and move the security council to punish the Indian military perpetrators of crimes in Kashmir through international criminal courts or military tribunals to put aside general perceptions that it adopts a select approach when it comes to human rights violations in different parts of the world. Whereas, it castigates other countries for alleged human rights violations like China, it must also take on India where the magnitude of human rights violation in occupied Kashmir sometimes crosses the limits of shame.