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UN Human Rights report accuses India of 'unlawful killings' in Kashmir from 2016-18

Gowhar Geelani | Updated on: 14 June 2018, 15:12 IST
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In a major embarrassment to the Narendra Modi-led government, the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights has released a detailed report on the situation of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018. It accuses Indian armed forces of “unlawful killings by using brute force, sexual violence against female-folk, use of one of the most dangerous weapons pellet-firing shotguns against civilian population.”

The Union Ministry of External Affairs rejected the report, saying: “It is fallacious, tendentious, motivated. It violates India’s sovereignty, territorial integrity. Protest conveyed. Deeply concerned that individual prejudices are being allowed to undermine the credibility of a UN institution.”

According to the report, a resolution "can only be brought about by meaningful dialogue that includes the people of Kashmir.”

The executive summary of the report, dated 14 June, 2018, stated that after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s killing in July 2016 in South Kashmir, “Indian security forces responded to protests with force, which led to casualties and a wide range of alleged related human rights violations throughout the summer of 2016 and into 2018.”

According to it: “... in responding to demonstrations that started in July 2016, Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries. Civil society estimates are that 130 to 145 civilians were killed by security forces between mid-July 2016 and end of March 2018, and 16 to 20 civilians were killed by armed groups in the same period…”

It also criticises pellets: “One of the most dangerous weapons used against protesters during the unrest in 2016 was the pellet-firing shotgun, which is a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun that fires metal pellets."

According to the report, the current round of civilian protests seems to involve more people than the past: “While Indian-Administered Kashmir has experienced waves of protests in the past—in the late 1980s to early 1990s, 2008 and 2010—this current round of protests appears to involve people than the past, and the profile of protesters has also shifted to include more young, middle-class Kashmiris, including females who do not appear to have been participating in the past…"

The report “covers both the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (consisting of the Kashmir Valley, the Jammu and Ladakh regions) and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir (Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan)”, but “the focus of the report is on the situation of human rights in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 to April 2018 over which period allegations of widespread and serious human rights violations were received, notably excessive use of force by Indian security forces that led to numerous civilian casualties.”

According to the report: “Over 1,000 people were detained under the PSA (Public Safety Act) between March 2016 and August 2017. Human rights groups had warned Jammu and Kashmir authorities that minors were being arrested under the PSA in 2016 and 2017.”

The report accused armed forces of obstructing medical services that had a severe impact on the injured and general civilian population.

The executive summary added that “widespread protests, long periods of curfew and frequent strikes in 2016 and 2017 had a cumulative impact on students and their right to education.”

In point number 13, the report accused Indian authorities of failure to “independently investigate and prosecute allegations of sexual violence by security forces personnel.”

According to the report: “There remains an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and to deliver justice for all people in Kashmir who have been suffering seven decades of conflict. Any resolution to the political situation in Kashmir should entail a commitment to ending the cycles of violence and accountability for past and current human rights violations and abuses committed by all parties and redress for victims. Such a resolution can only be brought about by meaningful dialogue that includes the people of Kashmir.”

Srinagar-based human rights defender Khurram Parvez described the UN report on Kashmir as “a path breaking report on human rights situation in Jammu & Kashmir.”

“This report is historical and symbolically a huge step leading to an acknowledgment of Indian government's role in massive human rights abuses. After UN resolutions on Kashmir, this report is an important addition. The report calls for UNHRC to appoint an International Commission on Inquiry on Jammu and Kashmir,” Parvez said.

“This welcome report reaffirms the demands of various domestic and international human rights organisations for Indian and Pakistani authorities to deliver justice for past and ongoing human rights abuses, and protect the freedoms of all people in Kashmir,”
Aakar Patel, executive director of Amnesty International India, said.

“Both India and Pakistan should fulfil their obligations under international human rights law and end the atmosphere of impunity in Kashmir by conducting effective, impartial, and independent investigations into human rights abuses by armed forces. They should also end the use of repressive laws and respect the right of all people to peacefully express their opinions,” he added.

The 49-page report highlights “a situation of chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces”.

First published: 14 June 2018, 15:12 IST
Gowhar Geelani

Gowhar Geelani is a journalist, commentator and political analyst from Srinagar. He was formerly with Deutsche Welle, Germany.