Human Rights Crisis in Kashmir and Slumbering World

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The unresolved Kashmir dispute is at the heart of the India-Pakistan conflict. Kashmir is not only a territorial conflict but a matter of Human rights violations and regional stability. The tension between India and Pakistan has grown more perilous since India’s action of scrapping the autonomous status for Occupied Kashmir enshrined in Article 370 of (India’s) Constitution and bifurcated the occupied region into two separate Union territories – Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir and Buddhist dominated Ladakh. A new wave of suppression was unleashed in the run-up as India imposed a curfew in Indian Illegally Occupied Kashmir (IIOK) and deployed thousands of troops in the valley. Indian forces in Kashmir continually commit human Rights violations; non-combatant civilians and political leaders have been detained with charge, public meetings are banned, thousands of security check posts have been established, and a communication blackout has been enforced. Resultantly, ordinary people are suffering from a constant lack of basic living necessities, and medical supplies have become scarce.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) unilateral move of abrogation of article 370, new domicile rules, and ongoing strict restrictions in IIOK has raised the question about the status of democracy in the self-proclaimed “world’s largest democracy”. In tandem, India has also engaged in military buildup along the Line of Control and Working Boundary. The current situation has the ingredients of unintended escalation in the Kashmir crisis. The emerging dynamics have demonstrated the reality that Modi’s anti-Pakistan policy is not merely an electoral strategy but linked with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BJP’s extremist vision of Hindu nationalism. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s policymakers viewed BJP’s manifesto as another political rhetoric to gain the support of RSS extremists in the elections. After India’s move of scrapping article 370, Pakistan activated its bilateral and multilateral diplomacy.

since the partition of the sub-continent, the Kashmir issue has been described as the unfinished agenda of the partition of British India. Now, many more aspects have been added, such as human rights violations and socioeconomic dimensions. Human rights violations in Kashmir are an ongoing issue, and the international community must understand that Kashmir is not only a territorial conflict but a matter of abuse to humanity. Indian forces in Kashmir continually commit war crimes. There are brutal killings of Muslims, youth are slaughtered, civilians are arrested and then killed during custody, endless incidents of gang rape, and the people suffer from a constant lack of medical and basic living necessities. A new wave of brutality raised its head in Kashmir in 2016. A massive uprising occurred against pellet-firing guns, murders, mysterious disappearances, fake encounters and other atrocities by the Indian army. The United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) issued a detailed report on Kashmir in June 2018 (the first-ever report after 72 years). It highlights India’s state-sponsored criminal activities in Kashmir. The Commission found “excessive use of force by security forces” and “unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries”, as 147 Kashmiris were killed between 2016 and 2018.

What was missing from the report was the attempt by the Indian government to change the demography of Kashmir. To bring about the demographic changes, India has initiated a systematic increase in the ratio of the Hindu population. The key objective of the demographic change is to increase the representation of Hindus in the Valley and reduce the representation of the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to achieve their desired outcome if a plebiscite is held under the United Nations.

It is also pointed out in Reports that Indian forces used “one of the most dangerous weapons,” i.e., “pellet-firing shotguns,” which killed 17 persons and injured thousands, besides making them partially/completely blind. The report also condemned the criminal legal code in place for the security forces, in the name of the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990, and Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978. The former act grants immunity to the security forces from any prosecution for their killings. At the same time, the latter provides immunity against any misuse of the law through kidnappings or making enforced/ involuntary disappearances, including sexual violence against women.

In the last 28 years, not a single case has been prosecuted against any security person, as the laws do not grant justice or a chance for an appeal to the victim. What was missing from the report was the attempt by the Indian government to change the demography of Kashmir. To bring about the demographic changes, India has started systematic increases in the ratio of the Hindu population. The key objective of the demographic change is to increase the representation of Hindus in the Valley and reduce the representation of the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to achieve their desired outcome if a plebiscite is held under the United Nations. The United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) has proposed that any negotiated political settlement “must entail a commitment to end a cycle of violence and ensure accountability for the past and current human rights violations and abuses and provide redress for the victims”. However, the irony is that the so-called champions of human rights have been quiet on India’s gross human rights violations. The burning question is that why is the international community a silent spectator?

The global powers may have a collective responsibility to protect human rights and initiate a dialogue between two nuclear powers to maintain peace and stability in the region, but they are oblivious to this. In these circumstances, what should be the viable course of action? A realistic solution appears to increase pressure on India to implement the UNHRC recommendations. The Commission urges India to repeal its repressive criminal laws, establish credible investigation and prosecution against the crimes committed under those laws, and revise the laws in consonance with international human rights laws. The United States, China, and Russia must also play their part in ensuring that India implements the UNHRC reports. A viable strategy could be to engage China to bring India and Pakistan to the talking table as threats and challenges linked with the Kashmir conflict are also viewed as a potential of China’s economic initiatives in the region. China is a global power and the region’s economic hub. It has the potential to initiate a peace process in South Asia. Pakistan should also emphatically demand the implementation of United Nations resolutions as self-determination is a legal and moral right of the people of Kashmir. Based on UN resolutions, Pakistan should develop a strong counter-narrative on legal aspects of the Kashmir issue. Proactive diplomacy is also required incorporating an effective strategy by Pakistan’s policymakers to project India’s human rights violations.

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