The murder of Kashmir Rising editor, Shujaat Bukhari, is a direct consequence of the ruinous policies that have made India-held Kashmir a seething cauldron of rage and despair.
At last, however, in the first-ever report by the UN’s Office of the High Commission of Human Rights about the disputed region, the suffering of its people at the hands of the Indian government has found expression on the global stage, where it deserves the attention it has scarcely received from the rest of the world.
The report, which calls for a high-level UN investigation, documents the grotesque human rights violations in IHK since 2016, when the murder of Burhan Wani by the Indian army triggered the latest uprising.
Excessive force has resulted in hundreds of deaths and injuries; use of pellet-firing shotguns has left many protesters with vision impairment. Other depredations include enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions — including of minors — torture, rape, etc. There is seemingly no end to the dehumanisation of the local population at the hands of a state determined to break them.
The special laws in force in IHK enable this violence. As the report rightly notes, they allow the security forces to act with total impunity, and “jeopardise the right to remedy for victims” — in other words, it is a staggeringly unequal conflict.
Predictably, India has rejected the UN agency’s findings out of hand as being “fallacious, tendentious and motivated”, a reaction that displays the same arrogance and myopia as that which drives its policies.
While Pakistan too has come in for its share of criticism, the report implicitly concedes that the situation in Azad Kashmir bears little resemblance to the calamitous conditions in IHK. Certainly, the OHCHR was constrained by the lack of access to both sides of the Line of Control. However, it has relied upon material already in the public domain and accessed through right to information laws, and has used what it describes as a “reasonable grounds” standard of proof to arrive at its findings.
The fact is, what has been transpiring in IHK has been documented by many of those living that reality every day; it is only that the world chose not to see it. For a country like India that aspires to a seat at the UN Security Council and similar decision-making bodies, the only befitting response to the report should be an unequivocal commitment to act on it.
Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2018