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Kashmir Is A Human Rights Disaster

By Naveed Qazi

25 August, 2011

Draco [7th century B.C] was an Athenian lawmaker whose code of conduct prescribed cruelty and severity. His constitution endorsed laws based on homicide and abuse. Lawmakers who endorse this legal philosophy dishonor fundamental human rights with immunity from legal accountability. Armed personnels, in India, with such bestowed powers, can beat a person to pulp without any warrant, can endorse arbitrary detention, give electric shocks and perform simulated drowning – basically can kill a person without any justification. They can do this because they have been shielded by clauses in these 'draconian-like laws' that allow initiating of a prosecution, without the permission from the Central government. Such permission is rarely granted in any world order today or in places where life is of well meaning and is well respected.

A study done by 'Medicins Sans Frontieres,' in mid 2005, revealed that the Kashmiri women are among the worst sufferers of sexual violence among the world. Over 9800 women have been raped and molested, 22100 women have been widowed till April 2007. Interestingly, these figures are much higher than Sierra Leone, Chechnya and Sri Lanka. Most of the rapes in Kashmir go unnoticed due to the stigma, these women face in the society. Also, according to a 1994 United Nations publication (E/CN.4/1995/42, pp.63-69), it says that during 1990 to 1996 alone, 882 women were reportedly raped by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. This clearly reflects an unjustifiable abusive policy towards Kashmiris. The suffering of women in Kashmir is symbolic of the suffering of women worldwide, but the state agencies are seemingly unmoved by the plight of these raped victims in Kashmir. They maintain that families of allegedly raped women do not lodge complaints against the accused with the respective police stations. Thus the guilty escape from conviction. This serves as a telling comment on the plight of victims and on the attitude of the state towards addressing the issue. Even if world celebrates women's day every year, no relief has been in sight for this dejected lot of women in our valley. All human rights enshrined in The Charter, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and The Human Rights Covenants have been flagrantly violated.

The story of unmarked graves in Kashmir seems tragic, and on the contrary, it has been subjected to confusion. Many journals drafted at Amnesty International & Human Rights Watch have explicitly stated that many unmarked graves in Kashmir are deemed as graves of unidentified foreign militants, by the Government of India, who in reality were picked up by Indian Armed Forces, killed in custody and then falsely identified as foreign militants. In many cases, when relatives have succeeded in their demand to have graves exhumed, their claims have been found to be correct. It can also be asserted with a local example. The Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), Srinagar state: "Our report alleges that more than 8,000 persons have gone missing in Jammu & Kashmir since 1989. Since 2006, the graves of at least 940 people are reported to have been discovered in 18 villages in Uri district alone. The existence of multiple graves which, because of their proximity to Pakistan controlled-areas, are in areas not accessible without the specific permission of the security forces. The Indian authorities put the figure at less than 4.000, claiming that most of these went to Pakistan to join armed opposition groups. A state police report confirmed some deaths in custody of 331 persons, and also 111 enforced disappearances following detention since 1989." In December, 2009 International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian Administered Kashmir (IPTK) in collaboration with APDP produced another report called, "Buried Evidence" (www.kashmirprocess.org) in which IPTK has put the number of unmarked and massgraves at 2700 (having 2943 bodies) in Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora districts.

Unlawful killings, draconian-like laws, arbitrary arrests and high levels of torture are direct violations to international humanitarian laws and are viewed as international crimes. The extraordinary license of 'shoot to kill' is renewed with installation of every new government. In order to confuse, these alleged have participated in intimidation of witnesses and complaints and other questionable practices. There have been unfair evidential burdens which families face in proving 'disappearances' and extrajudicial executions because the state government exclusively controls the 'evidence archives' necessary to prove violations-which it rarely turns over. Harassment has immorally imitated witnesses which has caused complainants to withdrew cases after repeated abuse. Officials & bureaucrats in Kashmir are champions in shifting the burden of proof to refute the allegation of violations. The failure to deliver justice where the agencies have found that criminal acts have occurred is an obvious indictment of all draconian powers including 'Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Powers Act' and 'Disturbed Area Act. These laws enacted , such as DAA and AFSPA, should be revoked, which authorize excessive use of force beyond the limits of human rights protection bodies.

Tariq Ali, an eminent activist and philosopher, wrote on London Review of Books in 2008, "The website India Defence noted in September 2008 that ‘Maj-Gen Avi Mizrahi paid an unscheduled visit to the disputed state of Kashmir to get an up-close look at the challenges the Indian military faces in its fight against Islamic insurgents. Mizrahi was in India for three days of meetings with the country’s military brass and to discuss a plan the IDF is drafting for Israeli commandos to train Indian counter terror forces.Their advice was straightforward: do as we do in Palestine and buy our weapons. In the six years since 2002 New Delhi had purchased $5 billion-worth of weaponry from the Israelis, to good effect." When states act like warlords, their visions of democracy, economic development, tolerance and peace seem like a shameful rebuke. The actual reality is that the basic human rights including right of a fair trial, right of liberty, right of choice & right of freedom have been subjected to a cruel treatment in Kashmir. Under International Humanitarian Law, it is a crime because the previous innumerable cases have not been solved or filed, victims haven't been compensated and the tradition of gun totting violence by the state machinery continues.

Also, the State Human Rights Commission should be strengthened. That will help the institution to immediately respond to requests for necessary measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders and civil society activists. It will also strengthen and enforce laws and policies that protect detainees from brutal torture and other mistreatment. An installation of a United Nations Truth Commission is vital, taking the grave history of abuse into consideration. It would clarify incidents of killings, torture and disappearances in order to build a robust record of abuses, by institutionalizing responsibility. It will identify individuals at senior levels who were involved in planning and executing such abuses. Governments here suffer from a 'conflict of interest' that has led to omitting of key perpetrators and embezzling evidence during investigations.

In order to remedy violations, government should provide compensation to victims and their beneficiaries based on spectrum of rights violations , which they have suffered, such as free admissions in schools, universities, colleges, special provisions in job recruitment, health assistance for physical and mental harm incurred by victims and their families, expunging criminal records of false cases filed against victims and their family members, developing memorials that commemorate and acknowledge innocent victims of the counterinsurgency abuses. And last but not the least, they should determine the 'final fate' of disappeared and killed.

We should salute the efforts of all Human Rights defenders who have silenced all uncivilized critics and have helped the society by exposing these barbaric facts to a higher degree, because there has been a failure of deliverance. The media needs to play a key role in facilitating justice as well, unlike overheating their forums with propagandist evasions. There should be a 'genuine course of action' which should meet obligations to investigate violations, take appropriate measures ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted and duly punished. People have been struggling for truth and justice since late 1980's. A long lasting peace perhaps would be the biggest tribute to families who have been victimized through violence. People should build intense pressure for action to raise the cost of human rights abuse.

(Naveed Qazi is an independent blogger and social activist. He runs the intellectual activism group, Insights: Kashmir)



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