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Human Rights Abuses in Kashmir

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It is not clear to me why the human rights abuses within Jammu and Kashmir (Indian administered) have not been headline news all over the world. Certainly, the Indian media appears to have muted the events in Kashmir.

The types of abuses against civilians ongoing since the 1990s include: mass killings, forced disappearances, torture, rape, sexual abuse, political repression and suppression of free speech. Those accused are the Indian central reserve police force, border security personnel and militant groups. In 2010, the UK's Guardian newspapers described dispatches obtained by Wiki-Leaks. US officials had evidence of widespread torture by the Indian police and security forces. US diplomats in Delhi were briefed in 2005 by the International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] about the use of electrocution, beatings and sexual humiliation against hundreds of detainees. In 2010, the Times of India wrote

"According to the latest statistics, the number of civilians killed in firings by security forces is almost three times the number of those killed in actions by terrorists".

In July 1990, the Indian military was given special powers under Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958(AFSPA). At the time, human rights groups claimed that this gave the security force blanket immunity against any crimes committed. Calls for a change have been unsuccessful. Senior army officials pointed out that in Manipur, the withdrawal of AFSPA from urban centres led to a surge in violence in those areas. More recently, the government stated it as not prudent to repeal the AFSPA . The International Business Times wrote:

"Defence Minister AK Antony said last month that hasty decisions could not be taken regarding the withdrawal of the Act since infiltration from across the Line of Control (LoC) had increased. The Defence Ministry and the Army have been strongly opposing withdrawal of the AFSPA from the state, saying that such a step could adversely impact the security architecture in the region"

Human Rights Watch has produced some vital reports regarding the human rights abuses meted out on the people of Kashmir since the early 1990s. Their 1996 report "Human Rights Watch, India's Secret Army in Kashmir: New Patterns of Abuse Emerge in the Conflict, and 1 May 1996" is a harrowing read. Their report Human Rights Crisis in Kashmir can be downloaded here. Asian Watch and Physicians for Human Rights have also reported their findings, stating:

"Indian forces in Kashmir have engaged in massive human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, rape, torture and deliberate assaults on health care workers. Armed insurgent groups have murdered Hindu and Muslim civilians, summarily executed persons in their custody and have committed rape, assault, kidnapping and indiscriminate attacks which have injured and killed civilians".

When inquiries have been ordered into these allegations of abuses, the investigations are frequently never conducted and the findings not made public. The Indian government has been largely dismissive of many of the allegations raised. The report Rape in Kashmir was equally critical.

The cumulative result is a community struggling from day to day. Kashmir has one of the highest rates of psychiatric morbidity in the world. Kashmir Global summarises the situation here.

A recent report in BBC World News, dated 6th December 2012, summarises the contents of the recently released report constructed by the International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice . The document, entitled "Perpetrators - Stories of Impunity in Jammu and Kashmir at a press conference on Thursday, December 06, 2012" , analysed 214 cases of abuse and highlighted the various roles of officials. Evidence includes official documentation as well as witnesses. During the release of the report in Srinagar, Mr Kartik Murukutla, a human rights lawyer and one of the authors of the report, said India's priority in Kashmir was to control the territory not to pursue justice. He said

"For the victims, the wait for proper justice seems perpetual. In its approach to justice, the Indian state has not moved beyond cash relief or the promise of re-investigation."

"The state has wilfully lowered the standard of justice as well as the crimes perpetrated," he said.

The group stated

"Cases presented in this report reveal that there is a policy not to genuinely investigate or prosecute the armed forces for human rights violations. There is an occasional willingness to order compensatory relief, but not to bring the perpetrators to justice. On the contrary, alleged perpetrators of crimes are awarded, rewarded and promoted by the State"

According to the Guardian newspapers, the Indian forces have refused to comment . It summarised the situation as follows

"Up to 70,000 people died in violence in Kashmir over recent decades, it is widely estimated. Civilians and security forces were killed in a series of suicide-style attacks and bombings. Such attacks justified the hard-line often taken by security forces, former officers say. However, as the intensity of the conflict has ebbed in recent years, there has been a steady stream of revelations detailing abuses. In recent years, dozens of unmarked graves containing more than 2,000 corpses have been discovered on the Indian side of the line of control, the de facto border that has split the former kingdom between India and Pakistan for nearly 40 years."

In summary, despite the death toll of civilians, there does not appear to be any constructive action taken by the Indian government to prevent these atrocities. Many Indians are protective of their army, refusing to consider the possibility that these allegations require further inquiries. Concerns related to human rights violations were also raised by the United Nations . The Working Group remains concerned about allegations of a widespread practice of enforced disappearances between 1989 and 2009 and the existence of mass graves. In the meantime, the abuses of human rights continue while those in control turn a blind eye to the situation - lives are being destroyed and relationships fractured beyond repair.

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