Why the world is silent on Indian brutalities, will they ever answer this question?

By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan

The Asia Watch and Physician for Human Rights carried a joint investigation of human rights violations by Indian security forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir in 1990s. In the summary of the report, the investigators clearly mentioned that; “In their efforts to crush the insurgency, Indian forces in Indian Kashmir have engaged in massive human rights violations including extra-judicial assaults on health care workers. Indian security forces have systematically violated international human rights and humanitarian law. Among the worst of these violations have been the summary executions of hundreds of detainees in the custody of security forces in Kashmir. Such killings are carried out as a matter of policy. More than any other phenomenon, these deliberate killings reveal the magnitude of the human rights crisis in Kashmir.”

From 2006 to 2010, thousands of unidentified graves have been discovered by human rights organizations in various parts of the Occupied State as indicated by the members of the frightened families of those killed by Indian security forces. Most of these graves have been found in the Uri, Baramula, Srinagar, Badgam and Anatnag (Islamabad). These mass graves are of those innocent Kashmiris, who met the fate of custodial killings after having been tortured by Indian security forces. The European Union Parliament through its 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.”

Indeed, EU showed its severe concern over Human Rights in Indian Occupied Kashmir and Indian laws relating to abuses by the security forces during military operations. Apart from emphasizing the Indian Government for ensuring independent and impartial investigations into all suspected sites of mass graves in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the EU Parliament has also stressed for securing of these grave sites in order to preserve the evidence. The resolution of European Parliament has also stressed the Indian Government to make necessary amendments in the Human Rights Protection Act, so that independent and even Indian National Human Rights Commission can undertake the investigation of the human rights abuses by Indian armed forces.

International community and human rights organizations of the world have been frequently insisting India for securing the human rights in its occupied portion of the Kashmir. More recently, Ms. Margaret Sekaggya, the United Nations (UN) special rapporteur on human rights defenders, visited Indian Occupied Kashmir and emphasized India to repeal the barbaric laws, which give its security forces, absolute power to violate the human rights  in Kashmir. She addressed a news conference in New Delhi on January 20, 2011, seriously objecting to the 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. 

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Ms. Sekaggya particularly insisted for the immediate repeal of two laws viz; the Armed Forces Special Power Act and the Public Safety Act. India enforced these inhuman laws in Kashmir, in 1990s, after the massive public uprisings in the State, against the illegal Indian occupation. In 1990, Governor Rule was imposed in the occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir and Indian Security Forces were given sweeping powers of arrest and detention, through; the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) and the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (TADA). They could even shoot to kill with virtual immunity. 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.

The discriminatory law, permits people to be detained for a period up to two years on vaguely defined grounds to prevent them “from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the state or the maintenance of public order. The broad definition of this act permits the authorities to detain persons without trial for simply asking whether the state of Jammu and Kashmir should remain part of India. This contravenes their right to express their opinions guaranteed in Article 19 of the ICCPR, which provides that any individual arrested or detained be brought promptly before a court in order to decide immediately on the lawfulness of the detention.

Through the Armed Forces Special Power Act, the Army and Para-military forces in disturbed areas have the power to shoot to kill any individual who is violating or behaving in contravention of the law enforced. Provisions of this act are; “It is necessary so to do for maintenance of public order – – – – – fire upon or  otherwise use force even to the cause of death against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or things capable of being used as weapons or of fire arms, ammunition or explosive substances.”

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Apart from this, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), is yet another discriminatory law, enforced in the Occupied State to maltreat the Kashmiris. The inhuman law permits Indian Security Forces, to detain the people arbitrarily for just inquiring whether Jammu and Kashmir should remain part of India or discussing the possibilities of plebiscite. This cruel act allows the authorities to arrest and detain people just on mere suspicion and people can be remanded up to 60 days in police custody. Amnesty International has found the provisions of TADA, is a gross violation of the international Human Rights Laws.

The unlawful powers granted to Indian security forces provide sufficient ground 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, Indian Government has not bothered to soften the provisions. All these laws make the 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. UNO, 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 as well as on open roads and streets. 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 Kashmiris under the cover of these the laws.

In spite of fraudulent treaty of accession of the state by Maharaja Harisingh, the people of Kashmir have never accepted their state as part of India. It was only in 1990, that, they formally started an armed liberation struggle against the Indian subjugation, upon pushing them against the wall. It was purely an indigenous uprising of the Kashmiri youth. In 1989/90, Kashmiri boycotted the Lok Sabha elections and started peaceful protests for their right of self-determination in the light of UN resolutions. This provoked India, which moved over 700,000 security forces in the occupied territory to suppress the Kashmiris. Indian forces were deployed in each nook and corner of the state. Indeed, through a unanimous vote, Kashmiris had rejected the Indian Lok Sabha elections under the Indian constitution in 1989 by casting even less than 2% votes. Thus, 98% people remained off the polling stations. This action of Kashmiris caused a panic in the ranks of the Indian government and they perpetrated brutalities on Kashmiris, continuing even today. Indian forces battling the Kashmiri freedom fighters in the state were given unlimited powers to suppress the popular uprising through above-mentioned discriminatory laws.

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Since the outbreak of renewed insurgency in the state of Jammu and Kashmir by its people in 1989/90, a reign of terror and repression has been let loose by the Indian authorities. In the garb of so-called terrorism, a veritable war was started against the defenseless masses, obviously for their open and large-scale support to this new phase of the decade’s old movement for the right of self-determination. Siege and search operations, the ransacking  of the houses during searches, identification parades, dusk-to-down curfews without break, random arrests, mostly of the youth including teen-age boys (in the age group of 14-19 years) were the most common features of Indian forces. Besides this, unprovoked / indiscriminate shootings, massacres, target  killings, severe beating of civilian irrespective of age and sex for fun or revenge killings, physical torture at improvised centers, night raids, rape are continued even today.

Apart from the independent human rights organizations, the world body (UNO), feels 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 high time that, India should listen to the global voices on its grass human rights violations in its occupied portion of Kashmir and give Kashmiris, their right of self-determination.

Dr Raja M Khan is an Associate Professor teaching International Relations in National Defence University, Islamabad. He did his Ph.D from Karachi University. His area of study is South Asia, Central Asia and Muslim World in general. He is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.

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