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Paradise on Fire: Violation of Human Rights in Kashmir – by Sanman Kaur Grewal

August 18, 2010 | By

by Sanman Kaur Grewal*

Following armed hostilities in 1947-1949 between India and Pakistan and intervention by the international community, the region once known as the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir was divided. Commencing no later than October 1947, the Kashmir dispute has proved the most protracted territorial dispute in the United Nations era. An implacable, deadly struggle is going on half a world away in India’s mainly Muslim territory of Kashmir, where Indian military and Para-military forces are trying to crush forces seeking independence or union with Pakistan. Continuous conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir is leading to violation of human rights, birth of rebels and destruction of peace in the name of unity and integrity of India.

Kashmir’s political status has been in dispute since partition of sub-continent on August 15, 1947. During British rule over India, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was one of more than 50 autonomous princely states owing allegiance to Britain. At the time of independence, the rulers were advised to join, by means of an instrument of accession, either of the two new dominations, India or Pakistan, bearing in mind their state’s geographical position and the religion of their inhabitants. In October 1947, prompted a local Muslim uprising that drew armed support from Pakistan, the Hindu Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir chose to place his mostly- Muslim subjects under the jurisdiction of India, and then called in Indian troops who recaptured most of his lost territory.

In January 1949, a United Nations-brokered cease-fire left Kashmir divided by a military cease-fire line (Line of Control) into the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan controlled Kashmir known as Azad Kashmir and the Northern Territories. . Shakti Bhatt  states “Indian government has steadfastly held on to its official stand that Kashmir is undisputedly an integral part of India and Pakistan on the other hand blames India of acquiring it through fraud and violence“ (2003, p. 215). For past 60 years, Indian and Pakistani forces have continuously confronted each other over this tense cease-fire line, with their bitter rivalry exploding into war in 1965 and 1971 (Kargil war), and nearly providing the flashpoint for a third conflict in 2001 possibly involving nuclear weapons.

Although both sides contributed in spreading violence in Kashmir, but the violence caused by India’s military and the Para- military forces allied with them, is even more destructive and abhorrent. Unlike any other great democracy, Indian soldiers are not held to any higher state of conduct. In Kashmir, poorly trained military troops are torturing civilians by extra judicial killings, murders and rapes which is leading to spread of lawless state terrorism. It’s surprising that India still claims itself to be world’s largest democracy.

India’s human rights violations in Kashmir are systematic, deliberate, and officially sanctioned. India has never prosecuted even one of its 700,000 military and paramilitary personnel there for human right abuses, and its laws grant legal immunity for any actions aimed at suppressing Kashmiri dissent or support for self-determination. Information compiled by various human rights organizations like London based Amnesty International, New York-based Asia Watch and other humanitarian organizations establishes that a massive complain of brutal oppression has been launched by the Indian army since January 1990. Various estimates are given of the death toll of civilians so far. Making due allowance for unintended exaggerations, the figure into tens of thousands. Countless individuals had been maimed and thousands of women molested and assaulted. Not a word of condemnation has been uttered at the United Nations; not even a call on India to cease and desist from committing its atrocities.

The overwhelming presence of Indian military and paramilitary forces in Kashmir reminds Kashmiris that they are not free and are being enslaved by Indian forces. This feeling of being slave leads to the birth of rebels in the valley. These rebellions are no other than common people who are victim of continuous torture and abuse by the military and paramilitary forces of Indian government. These people are killed ruthlessly as the government recognizes them as terrorists, but government never wants to accept that it itself is responsible for the birth of rebels in the valley. It’s very natural that after tolerating continuous violation of human rights, one raises his voice to achieve his basic freedom. Usually targets of military shots are common people (shopkeepers, children, women, school going students, etc.) who had not even touched any weapon or something that would spread terror or any kind of violence. They are being shot and then left for bleeding, after their death they are being recognized as terrorists by the so-called democratic nation.

The following excerpt has been taken from the journal Pro and Con (2004, pp. 264-267). In 2003, President Parvez Musharraf addressed to the UN General Assembly “India cites cross-border terrorism in order to reject dialogue. It knows full well that the Kashmiri struggle is indigenous. It is India that violates international law by refusing to implement Security Council Resolutions and by perpetrating gross and consistent violations of human rights in Kashmir. Once again, I invite India to join Pakistan in a sustained dialogue to resolve the Kashmir dispute.” In reply to the president of Pakistan, Indian President Mr.Atal Bihari Vajpayee had nothing to say except “We totally refuse to let terrorism become a tool of blackmail. When the cross-border terrorism stops, or when we eradicate it, we can have a dialogue with Pakistan on the other issues between us.” This conversation clearly proves that India does not want to look at problems of Kashmir; instead, it just wants to keep hold on Kashmir forcibly forever.

The role of press in Kashmir is also an important topic in continuous dispute. The Indian press is a great reason behind the fact that inspite of high scale violations of human rights in Kashmir the public opinion remained silent up to large extent. In her book, Kashmir: A Tragedy of Errors, Tavleen Singh has gone so far as to state that the press was the main reason why the alienation of Kashmir began. There is no doubt in the fact that reporting fairly on Kashmir situation is really dangerous as the Indian government does not want to represent its true picture in front of the world. So press is just working like a slave for the government. This is the reason behind regular news on Kashmir just focus on death of military personnel or militants. No newspaper gives the account of death of ordinary people in the valley or rapes and murders.

A south Indian writer, Teresa Joseph (2000, pp. 53) states “Although human rights organizations, both national as well as international, and also other media sources have documented in detail gross human rights violations in Kashmir by both the militants and the security forces, the general reader does not get any such picture of the situation from the mainstream Indian press.” So it can be easily concluded that Indian press has never tried to figure out the true picture of Kashmir.

The issue of Kashmir is becoming more complicated day by day. Since 1989, around 1 lakh Kashmiri people have been killed in fake encounters and this number dwarfs the killings in Northern Ireland, Palestine, Bosnia, and Kossovo which have brought the world to tears and revulsion. Killings in Kashmir have become so commonplace that they are reported like car accidents in the United States. There is nobody to reprobate Indian government for making the beautiful Kashmir a hell. The most perplexing phenomenon regarding this situation is that it has been allowed to arise and persist in a territory which, under international law, does not belong to any member state of the United Nations and whose status is yet to be decided by the people of its land. It is interesting to note that when Kashmir issue erupted in 1947-48, the United States of America stated that future status of Kashmir will be decided by people of the territory but now while Kashmir is undergoing such a miserable condition, the United States is silent on this issue. Actually India declares itself the world’s most populous democracy and offers support to America in pursuing terrorists. In exchange, the United States remains silent when India kills innocent Kashmiris who crave self-determination and its achievement through peaceful protest.

If the silence persists, there would be only this explanation that a Kashmiri life is viewed as less worthy than other lives. Indian government has given complete rights to its military forces to kill or abuse people in Kashmir in whatever way they want to in order to suppress the movement for freedom. After killing the ordinary people, government states them as terrorists and there is nobody to investigate the causes and effects of conditions caused in Kashmir. As long as India continues to isolate Kashmir from the rest of the world, it will never end violent acts on that unfortunate land and restore the rights and freedom of the people of Kashmir. Brown and Davidson suggest that “The U.S. should recognize that the Kashmir dilemna is an instance in foreign policy in which there is a national interest, the diffusing of a potential nuclear war, and a humanitarian concern, ending the murders of civilians by atleast one side of the hostility” (1994, p. 2)

The following questions are on mind of every Kashmiri person: For how many years will children in Kashmir grow up in fear and shadow of guns of the security forces? When will they be allowed to play in kinder gardens freely as the normal children do? How many Kashmiri girls are still to be raped or molested before achieving freedom? What number of women is required to be widowed before living a peaceful life in Kashmir? Is there anybody who can answer the above questions? The Indian government seriously needs to think about the answer of above questions. The solution of sufferings of these sufferings is both urgent and vital. It is far more serious area than any other area in the world. For finding a right solution of problem, three parties need to interact with each other and create an environment of understanding among them. These three parties are the Government of India, the Government of Pakistan and the Government of Kashmir. Although, the most important party is the people of Kashmir as their decision will be a right decision for humanity and human freedom. The only thing that governments of India and Pakistan needs to forget is their self interests and try to make the life of people of Kashmir beautiful by giving them their fundamental rights and freedom for life.

Criminal Justice Department, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, U.S.A.

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