Panel Discussion 13/10/2016
A one-day conference titled “HR Violations in IHK: Awakening Global Conscience” was organized by Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) on March 3, 2016 at Islamabad Hotel, Islamabad. The conference comprised of one working session, in addition to inaugural and concluding sessions. The speakers made presentations on various aspects of Human Rights (HR) violations in the Indian-held Kashmir (IHK). They made an effort in realising the gravity of the situation and with a view to highlight the difficulties of Kashmiris in the IHK, the speakers underlined the atrocities and HR violations being committed by the Indian security forces in the IHK and suggested recommendations for Pakistan government and other related national and international organisations to awaken global conscience on this burning issue. The conference focussed on the following main themes:
• State of HR Violations by Indian Security Forces in IHK: Background and Current Situation.
• World Response to HR Violations in IHK: Role of Major Powers, International Governmental Organizations (IGOs) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
• HR Violations in IHK: Different Approaches to Awaken Global Conscience.
Ms. Farzana Yaqoob, Minister for Social Welfare and Women Development, Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK), honoured the occasion as a special guest speaker while Ambassador (R) Ali Sarwar Naqvi, Executive Director, Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS), Islamabad, chaired the academic session of the conference. Following three speakers were invited to speak in the conference:
• Dr. Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, Dean, Faculty of Contemporary Studies (FCS), National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad.
• Ms. Shamsa Nawaz, Research Fellow, Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad (ISSI).
• Dr. Muhammad Khan, Head of Department, International Relations, National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad.
Human Rights (HR) are the fundamental rights of an individual. The violation of human rights is, therefore, against the basic principles of humanity. Unfortunately, these basic rights have been denied to the Kashmiris in the Indian Held Kashmir (IHK). The Kashmir issue is not just a political issue, but it is about the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people. It is basically a human rights issue of more than ten million Kashmiris.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions of 1948 and 1949, which clearly ask for holding a plebiscite in the state of Jammu and Kashmir to give right of self-determination to the Kashmiris, have not been implemented due to India’s intransigence. Because of non-implementation of the UNSC resolutions, Pakistan and India have already fought three wars over Kashmir. Even at bilateral level, in the last 67 years, India has been reluctant in holding a result oriented dialogue with Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue. It also does not accept any foreign mediation, claiming the state of Jammu and Kashmir as its integral part. Since 2007, the Kashmiris’ armed freedom struggle in the IHK, which started in 1989, has been turned into a political struggle to get rid of India’s occupation, but India is brutally trying to crush the freedom struggle by the use of force. Since 1989, India has deployed more than 600,000 security forces in the IHK with indiscriminate powers and immunity under Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act (TADA) and Public Safety Act (PSA).
Since 1989, the Indian troops have committed numerous HR violations in the IHK. According to the Kashmir Media Service report, from January 1989 to December 2015, 94,296 innocent Kashmiris were killed, with 7,038 custodial deaths. 132,448 individuals have been arrested and about 106,051 houses have been destroyed. Indian brutal security forces have made 107,545 children orphan, 22,806 women as widows and have gang raped 10,167 females in the IHK. Indeed, the human rights violations that include mass killings, forced disappearances, rape, torture, political repression and suppression of freedom of speech of the Kashmiris by the Indian Army, Central Reserve Police Force and Border Security personnel continue unabatedly in the IHK.
Despite repeated denials from India and its security forces, the regular annual reports of Human Rights Watch (HRW) have revealed numerous human rights violations by the Indian security forces in the IHK. The US State Department report of 2010 has also mentioned the extrajudicial killings of the civilians and suspects by the Indian Security forces in the IHK. The Act that gives immunity to security forces in the IHK is the AFSPA, which shields the armed forces’ personnel deployed in the IHK from prosecution on the grounds of HR violations. The experts in the UN Human Rights Committee have categorically stated that this Act is in violation of several Articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of people, to which India is also a signatory. They have long argued that this Act is unconstitutional and violates international humanitarian law.
According to the Guardian, in September 2015, an 800-page report titled: “Structures of Violence: The Indian State in Jammu and Kashmir”, prepared by two human rights groups: the International Peoples’ Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), reveals that more than 900 individuals, including 150 officers of the rank of major and above in the Indian security forces have been involved in the human rights violations between 1990 and 2014 in the IHK. In 2010, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in a briefing to US officials unearthed details about abuses in the detention cells run by the Indian Army as well as by local police and paramilitary troops in the IHK. Similarly, the Amnesty International has criticized India for lack of accountability on account of HR violations by the Indian Security Forces during the last 25 years of Kashmiris freedom struggle in its latest report titled: “Denied: Failures in accountability for human rights violations by security forces personnel in Jammu and Kashmir.”
Unfortunately, the world has become a silent observer on HR violations in the IHK. Over a long period of last 25 years, muted action of world’s major powers, the UN and the majority of the world’s regional organisations and other countries to out rightly condemn the HR violations in the IHK have only encouraged India and its security forces to continue committing HR violations in the IHK. Had the major powers, the UN and majority of the world’s regional organisations and other countries pressurised India on this issue, the people of the IHK would have suffered much less. Although the permanent way to end countless HR violations in the IHK is the resolution of Kashmir dispute in the light of the UNSC resolutions; however, as an immediate measure, there is a need to withdraw a major part of India’s security forces from the IHK and to abolish the draconian laws for making the Indian security forces answerable for HR violations. To address the issue of HR in the IHK on priority basis, the international community should forthrightly condemn the HR violations by Indian security forces in the IHK and should pressurise the Indian government for taking aforementioned measures in this context immediately.
Ambassador Sohail Amin, President, IPRI, in his welcome address, said that the Kashmir issue was about the grant of rights of self-determination to the Kashmiri people. Kashmir dispute had all along been a priority issue in Pakistan’s foreign policy. It was also one of the oldest disputes on the UN agenda. The United Nations Security Council’s resolutions of 1948 and 1949 that stipulated the holding of a plebiscite in the state of Jammu and Kashmir could not be implemented during the last 67 years due to India’s intransigence and India continued to negate the UN resolutions on Kashmir.
He said that human rights were fundamental rights of an individual. The violation of human rights was, therefore, against the basic principle of humanity. He deplored that these basic rights had been denied to the Kashmiris in the IHK. More than 60000 security forces personnel had been deployed by the Indian government in the IHK to crush their indigenous struggle to get their right to self-determination.
He went on to say that the Indian troops deployed in the IHK, who had been committing human rights violations in the IHK, were enjoying immunity under the draconian laws such as AFSPA, POTA, TADA and PSA. The experts in UN Human Rights Committee (UNHCR) had categorically stated that the AFSPA was unconstitutional and violated the international humanitarian law. The regular reports of Human Rights Watch (HRW) had been focusing on the brutal behaviour of Indian security forces, which included mass killing, forced disappearance, rape, torture, political repression and suppression of freedom of speech of the Kashmiris. Unfortunately, these disclosures had failed to awaken the conscience of the international community as we had witnessed a muted response from major powers although human rights were claimed by them to be one of their core values. The international and regional organizations who considered them to be the champions of human rights protection had not responded to the calls of Kashmiris against whom the Indian security forces were committing atrocities. He deplored that the world had more or less become a silent observer of human rights violations in IHK.
In the end, he suggested that the solution of the Kashmir dispute had been laid down in the UNSC resolutions on the issue. The international community must put pressure on India to abide by these resolutions. International community must impress upon India to withdraw its security forces from the IHK and abolish the draconian laws so as to make the Indian security forces answerable on human rights violations.
Ms. Farzana Yaqoob, in her address as a special speaker, said that when she listened to people talking about Kashmir, it seemed that Kashmir was either a dream or dune. The only difference between them was that dreams came when eyes were closed and dunes could be seen with open eyes. She said that Kashmir was neither of these two, rather it was a reality. Reality had some grassroots, it had a lot of history, and that history made it important, whether it was brutal or not. She opined that the Kashmiris were very passionate and that was because they considered themselves a nation, which had its own history, culture, and language.
She informed that the EU Parliament had EU-Kashmir week every September, which was the recognition of the diaspora that was at work there. Also, the UK diaspora went and talked to parliamentarians, i.e. their lords, their Kings and Queens.
Dr. Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema spoke on “State of HR Violations by Indian Security Forces in IHK: Background and Current Situation” and said that Kashmir was the unfinished agenda of partition. He highlighted that all princely states including Kashmir were given the option either to join India or Pakistan. He said that the states were to decide their future on the basis of two principles: geographical proximity or the aspirations of people of the respective territory. He identified that Kashmir was forcibly acceded to India and had been denied the right of self-determination. He emphasized that the Indian government had been violating its own constitution by not holding a plebiscite in Kashmir and had been successfully and covertly manipulating it by creating strong pro-India lobbies, especially in the Washington. He talked about human rights violations and referred to black laws that had been enforced in Kashmir. He mentioned these laws as PSA, Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act 1990, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act 1990, AFSPA 1990, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2002, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Ordinance 2004, and National Security Act. He mentioned four factors that contributed to lack of progress in the resolution of Kashmir: first, Indian government’s unwillingness to take corrective measures. Second, lack of interest on the part of great powers. Third, India had been taking advantage of prevailing conflict situation in South Asia and linking Kashmir with terrorism. Fourth, lack of interest by the United Nations on human rights violations is also among the factors that hinder the resolution of Kashmir.
Ms. Shamsa Nawaz spoke on “World Response to HR Violations in IHK: Role of Major Powers, International Governmental Organizations (IGOs) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).” She said that more than 700,000 military and para-military forces were deployed in the IHK with one soldier for seventeen people. She said that human rights record of Indian soldiers had been characterized by arrests, tortures, rapes, forced disappearances, thousands unmarked mass graves and extra-judicial killings. She identified that only a handful of cases had been reported. She highlighted that European Parliament in 2008 passed a resolution urging Indian government to investigate mass graves. She mentioned the AFSPA that enabled Indian security forces to arrest persons without warrant just on the basis of suspicions and allowed them to use force even to cause death. She highlighted that the UN had criticized this act on the basis that it had no place under International Law. She further elaborated that section (7) of the AFSPA denied permission to prosecute members of the army on human rights violations. She identified that states were reluctant to criticize India for grave human rights violations. She suggested that the UNHCR should notice structured violence committed by Indian security forces in the IHK.
Dr. Muhammad Khan presented his views on “HR Violations in IHK: Different Approaches to Awaken Global Conscience”. He said that the massive human rights violations in IHK at the hands of Indian security forces and Indian manipulation over the demography of occupied state needed serious reconsiderations at the level of state and society in Pakistan by devising different strategies and approaches to Awaken Global Conscience.
He said that the human security constituted security of individual, communities and societies. The right to live was explicitly guaranteed in international law to every individual, regardless of cast, creed, faith or geographic identity. The provision of human rights and security were categorically stated both in International Law (IL) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Human security situation in Indian occupied Kashmir was ironically an ignored fact by international community. Despite having a global prohibition on torture even during the times of national emergency, deaths through torture of Kashmiri youth had been a common phenomenon in the IHK. He said that since 1990, torture, hostage-taking, and rape had been prominent abuses in the IHK. He informed that from 1990 to 2015, the human rights violations in the IHK included deaths 113,000, custodial killings 6,969, arrests/detention 117,345, destruction and razing of houses 105,861, children orphaned 107,351, women widowed 22,728, and women gang raped 9,920. But Kashmir dispute itself and the human rights violations in the state could not attract the global attention as given to other international disputes like Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, etc. This is mainly because the neutral observers and international media had no access to the IHK as India had totally banned the movement of outsiders into the state.
He said that the PSA permitted people to be detained for a period up to two years on vaguely defined maintenance of public safety. This law permitted the authorities to detain any individual without trial. As noted by the Human Rights Committees and Amnesty International, provisions of the PSA were in total violation of the ICCPR. According to Amnesty International Annual Report-2015, widespread impunity prevailed for violations of international law in Kashmir including unlawful killings, extrajudicial executions, torture and the enforced disappearance of thousands of people since 1989. About TADA, he said that it allowed authorities to arrest and detain people just on mere suspicion and people could be remanded up to 60 days. Amnesty International found that TADA was in complete violation of international human rights laws as it did not guarantee freedom of expression or security for a fair trial. On AFSPA, Dr. Khan was of the view that as per this Act, the army and paramilitary forces in the IHK had the power to shoot to kill any individual who was violating or behaving in contravention of it. It prohibited the assembly of five or more persons. All these laws made the Indian security forces, operating in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, immune from prosecution for acts committed while exercising powers. Human rights organizations and Amnesty International had shown serious concern over these “cruel laws”, which contravened the right to life. He said that as per Amnesty International: “The AFSPA violates India’s international legal obligations and several fundamental rights, including the right to life, the right to liberty and security and the right to remedy. This law has alienated people and is an impediment to achieving peace, and an obstacle to justice.”
He informed that Kashmir University was not allowing students to discuss the Kashmir issue in the campus. The students were not even allowed to conduct research on the sufferings of Kashmiri people and Kashmir issue, which was attaining the attention of the world in the present geopolitical scenario. He highlighted the changing milieu in the IHK lately by the successive Indian governments. The new Indian strategy over Kashmir was to do away with the Kashmiri identity, i.e. Kashmiriyat through demographic changes. This is meant for dividing the people on communal and ethnic lines, subsequent demise of right of self-determination, and state’s merger into Indian Union through abrogation of Article 370.
He identified different approaches to awaken global conscience through projecting Kashmir as a humanitarian issue, diplomatic and Political efforts, mobilizing Kashmiri diaspora, media campaigning, social media, visits of affected Kashmiri families to various international capitals, making inroads into academic and social sectors of world’s advance capitals. For all this to happen, he suggested that the indigenous Kashmiris should take a lead.
Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi in his keynote address as a Chair of the session, said that Kashmir conflict had political, social and humanitarian aspects and Kashmir issue had always come up on the bilateral agenda of talks between India and Pakistan. He said that he could infer two things from that: first, Pakistan was firm on its stand to take up issue of Kashmir and second, it could not compromise on its stance for any reason, as no condition and demand on the part of Indian government had ever been accepted. As far as humanitarian aspect of Kashmir is concerned, he provided statistical data and highlighted that there had been more than 7,038 custodial deaths, 107,545 children had orphaned and 22,806 women had widowed, but the world community remained silent. He identified that not a single member of Indian forces had ever been tried for committing grave human rights violations as they had been given greater immunity by classifying the areas as “disturbed areas.” He highlighted the indifference of international media about human rights violations in the IHK. He said that India had been linking the issue of Kashmir with terrorism but Pakistan needed to highlight the fact that Kashmir was an issue present on the agenda of the UN much earlier than discourse on terrorism got prominence.
• Kashmir is an “unfinished agenda of Partition”, which the Indian government has been successfully and covertly manipulating by creating strong pro-India lobbies, especially in Washington. The projection of Kashmir as a territorial dispute is also a part of Indian nefarious campaign to defy the Kashmiris their plebiscite right. By using different tricks, India blocked Kashmiris’ right to self-determination enunciated by the UN Security Council resolutions. There is a need to highlight that by not holding plebiscite in Kashmir, the Indian government is not only violating the UN resolutions but also violating its own Constitution.
• Pakistan should continue to maintain consistency and firmness over its Kashmir policy and play an active role in highlighting the human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir at international forums. Along with adopting effective and proactive diplomacy for resolving Kashmir issue by drawing from the UN resolutions, Pakistan should also highlight the humanitarian aspects of human rights violations in the IHK. Besides this, the Kashmiri people should be given unqualified moral support for getting their right to self-determination.
• There have been severe human rights violations in the IHK of multidimensional in nature ranging from “mass killings” to “forced disappearances” and from “torture” to “rape” to “political suppression” and “restrictions on freedom of speech”. For the last twenty-five years, the AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir still continues to feed a cycle of impunity for human rights violations. Absence of accountability of Indian Security Forces Personnel for human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir is the main obstacle to justice faced in several cases of human rights violations. Section 7 of the AFSPA, grants virtual immunity to members of the security forces from prosecution for alleged human rights violations. There is a need to highlight the fact that human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir have an institutional support of India as the laws framed by Indian government in the shape of PSA, TADA and AFSPA, are facilitating arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings with complete impunity for security forces. The international human rights organizations should pursue India to abolish these black laws, being contradictory to international laws.
• Although in the past, the international community and media neglected the Kashmir issue, especially the widespread human rights violations by India but now in the changing international situation, Pakistan should renew its efforts in highlighting the importance of resolving Kashmir issue. IGOs and NGOs should play a vital role in holding the Indian state accountable for its appalling and unchecked human rights violations characterized by arbitrary arrests, killings, disappearances and electrocutions. Rape is being used as a tool to suppress and demoralize families. Silence over the human rights violations in the IHK is dangerous for regional peace. If the inhumane treatment of Kashmiris continues, with no condemnation from global players, the political aspirations of Kashmiri youth could be exploited by the extremist elements.
• The Indian efforts of systematically eroding the Kashmiri identity through demographic changes, allocating large areas of land to Hindu Pundits and dividing the people along communal and ethnic lines should be highlighted in print and electronic media to restrict Indian nefarious designs in Kashmir.
• The biggest challenge, Kashmiris faced in the post-9/11 era, was that their indigenous legitimate freedom movement was equated with terrorism. It was noted that since 2003, the nature of Kashmiri Freedom struggle has been peaceful but there was no change in the attitude of Indian Security Forces, which not only continued their atrocities but their discrimination has further expanded against the people of Kashmir. It is an imperative to highlight this point at various forums that the freedom struggle in Kashmir was nothing to do with terrorism. In spite of brutal use of force by the security forces, Kashmiri youths did not opt for the armed struggle. Actually, it was just Indian propaganda to malign the genuine peaceful uprising of the Kashmiri people by linking it with terrorism.
• The role of overseas Kashmiris, in highlighting the violation of human rights in Kashmir, is commendable. There is a need to further refine their role in a systematic and coordinated manner in awakening global conscience on Indian human rights violations in the IHK and its unlawful occupation of the State ever since 1947. Political leadership of Kashmir should visit major capitals of various countries for creating awareness on human rights violations among global leadership. Further, Pakistan’s Foreign Office may facilitate the participation of Kashmiri leadership at various sessions and meetings of organizations under the UN, relating to protection of human rights being held from time to time.
• Although Kashmiris have extended full support to India-Pakistan peace process, yet they are not included in the dialogue process. India should realize that there would be no sustainable solution of the Kashmir issue without taking into consideration the aspirations of the Kashmiris and the right of self-determination given to them by the UNSC resolutions. Pakistan should uphold its political, diplomatic and moral support for the Kashmiri freedom struggle.
• On one hand, India has not ratified the “International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance” and on the other, it is not allowing UN Special Rapporteurs/Working Groups to visit Jammu and Kashmir to monitor the human rights violations. In the absence of justice, there can be no peace or normalcy in the region. The leadership in Jammu and Kashmir should demand India to ratify the “International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance” so that United Nations Special Rapporteurs could visit Kashmir to prepare their reports on the status of human rights in the IHK. The immediate need is to put an end to the atrocities in the IHK. The UN Security Council needs to stand by the Kashmiri people, and provide them with justice. Stringent measures are needed to pressurize India to stop its state sponsored terrorism and abide by the international treaties on human rights. Further, neutral observers and international media should be allowed in Kashmir. This would enable the world to see for itself the sufferings of the Kashmiris. It would be an eye opener for the pro-Indian activists who wittingly or unwittingly portray the so called Indian democratic and secular credentials.
• To awaken the conscience of the international community over the ongoing human rights violations in IHK, efforts at the domestic, regional as well as global levels are needed. The civil society and the international humanitarian organizations need to play their due role.
• Pakistan’s diplomatic missions need to project the Kashmir issue to the world. Special Kashmir cells in key Pakistani missions should be established for this purpose. Pakistan mission at the UN should highlight the Indian violations of the UNSC resolutions over Kashmir, and it should be highlighted that India as a violator of Security Council resolutions is ineligible to attain the coveted status of Security Council membership.
• There is also a need for Pakistan to have a comprehensive media strategy to highlight Kashmir issue into its true perspective. The private TV channels should be encouraged to cover the stories of human rights violations in the IHK.
• Kashmiris’ right of self-determination has been embedded in the UN resolutions, therefore, Kashmir would remain on UN agenda and these resolutions would remain relevant until the right of self-determination is exercised by Kashmiris through a fair and impartial plebiscite in Kashmir. Pakistan, instead of adopting bilateral approaches, should adopt a legal and human rights approach on Kashmir issue. There is a need for developing a unified approach on Kashmir. The unity among Kashmiri leadership both in the AJK and the IHK is required for the success of freedom struggle. In this respect, intra Kashmiri dialogue should be encouraged.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the speakers and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.