Human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir

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This article is about Human rights abuses in Indian-administered portion of Kashmir. For human rights abuses in the whole of Kashmir, see Human rights abuses in Kashmir.

Human rights abuses in the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir state are an ongoing issue. The abuses range from mass killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual abuse to political repression and suppression of freedom of speech. The Indian Army, central reserve police force, border security personnel and various separatist militant groups[1][2] have been accused and held accountable for committing severe human rights abuses against Kashmiri civilians.[3][4][5] Revised figures from Indian sources state the number of civilians killed due to the Kashmiri insurgency has been estimated to range from 16,725 [6] to 47,000 civilians while 3,642 civilians were killed by security forces .[7][8][9][10] India accuses the Pakistan Army for abusing human rights in Jammu and Kashmir by violating ceasefire and keep on killing Kashmiri civilians,[11][12][13][14][15] a claim which is totally rejected by Pakistan who blames Indian army for the violation of LoC.[16] Diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks revealed that the ICRC had briefed US officials in Delhi in 2005 about the use of torture from 2002-2004 by security forces against hundreds of detainees suspected of being connected to or having information about militants.[17][18]

Militant violence led by Jammu Kashmir Liberation front has caused ethnic cleansing of several hundred thousands of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits, who before their exodus comprised an estimated 3% of the Kashmir valley's population.[19] According to Asia Watch, the militant organisations forced the Hindus residing in the Kashmir valley to flee and become refugees in Delhi and Jammu. There is controversy regarding whether pandits left due to fear of violence or were encouraged by the government to leave in order to undermine the support for militant movements.[20] It is claimed that Kashmiri militants have been assisted and supported by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The chief perpetrators were the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front and the Hizbul Mujahideen. Ethnic cleansing continued till a vast majority of the Kashmiri Pandits were evicted out of the valley after having suffered many acts of violence, including sexual assault on women, arson, torture and extortion of property.[3][19] Some of the separatist leaders in Kashmir reject these allegations. The Indian government is attempting to reinstate the displaced Pandits in Kashmir. The remnants of Kashmiri Pandits have been living in Jammu, but most of them believe that, until the violence ceases, returning to Kashmir is not an option.[21]

In a 1993 report, Human Rights Watch stated that Indian security forces "assaulted civilians during search operations, tortured and summarily executed detainees in custody and murdered civilians in reprisal attacks"; according to the report, militants had also targeted civilians, but to a lesser extent than security forces. Rape was regularly used as a means to "punish and humiliate" communities.[22] A 2010 US state department report stated that the Indian army in Jammu and Kashmir had carried out extrajudicial killings of civilians and suspected insurgents. The report also described killings and abuse being carried out by insurgents and separatists.[23] In 2010, statistics presented to the Indian government's Cabinet Committee on Security showed that for the first time since the 1980s, the number of civilian deaths attributed to the Indian forces was higher than those attributed to terrorist actions.[24] The Indian Army claims that 97% of the reports about the human rights abuse have been found to be "fake or motivated" based on the investigation performed by the Army.[25]However, a report by the US State Department said, " Indian authorities use Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to avoid holding its security forces responsible for the deaths of civilians in Jammu and Kashmir."[26]

Indian Armed Forces[edit]

Thousands of Kashmiris have reported to be killed by Indian security forces in custody, extradjudicial executions and enforced disappearances and these human right violations are said to be carried out by Indian security forces under total impunity.[27][28] Civilians including women and children have been killed in "reprisal" attacks by Indian security forces. International NGO's as well as the US State Department have documented human rights abuses including disappearances, torture and arbitrary executions carried out during India's counter terrorism operations [19] United Nations has expressed serious concerns over large number of killings by Indian security forces.[29] Human Rights groups have also accused the Indian security forces of using child soldiers,[30][note 1] although the Indian government denies this allegation.[5] Torture, widely used by Indian security, the severity described as beyond comprehension by amnesty international has been responsible for the huge number of deaths in custody[31] The Telegraph, citing a WikiLeaks report quotes the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that Indian security forces were physically abusing detainees by beatings, electrocutions and sexual interference. These detainees weren't Islamic insurgents or Pakistani-backed insurgents but civilians, in contrast to India's continual allegations of Pakistani involvement. The detainees were "connected to or believed to have information about the insurgents". According to ICRC, 681 of the 1296 detainees whom it interviewed claimed torture. US officials have been quoted reporting "terrorism investigations and court cases tend to rely upon confessions, many of which are obtained under duress if not beatings, threats, or in some cases torture."[32] Amnesty International accused security forces of exploiting the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that enables them to "hold prisoners without trial". The group argues that the law, which allows security to detain individuals for as many as two years "without presenting charges, violating prisoners’ human rights".[33]

Indian Army[edit]

The soldiers of the 4th Rajputana Rifles of the Indian Army on 23 February 1991 launched a search operation in a village Kunan Poshpora, in the Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir and allegedly gang raped 53 women of all ages.[34] Later on an interview of victims and eyewitnesses was documented into a short film Ocean of Tears which was prevented from its broadcast.[35][36] Nevertheless, the Indian committee that led a thorough investigation concluded that the allegations were "grossly exaggerated" and the incident was "a massive hoax orchestrated by militant groups and their sympathisers and mentors in Kashmir and abroad as a part of sustained and cleverly contrived strategy of psychological warfare and as an entry point for reinscribing Kashmir on the International Agenda as a Human rights issue."[37] However, Human Rights organisations including Human Rights Watch have reported that the number of raped women could be as high as 80 .[38][39][40] The Indian Army is also accused of many massacres such as Bomai Killing, 2009, Gawakadal massacre, 2006 Kulgam massacre, Zakoora And Tengpora Massacre, 1990, Sopore massacre. They also didn‘t spared the health care system of the valley. The major hospitals witnessed the crackdowns and army men even entered the operation theatres in search of terrorist patients.[41]

Border Security Force[edit]

On 22 October 1993, the 13th Battalion of the Border Security Forces was accused of arbitrarily firing on a crowd and killing 37 civilians in Bijbehara[42][43] The number of reported dead and wounded vary by source. Amnesty International reported that at least 51 people died and 200 were wounded on that day.[44]

The Indian government conducted two official enquiries and the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) conducted a third. In March 1994 the government indicted the Border Security Force (BSF) for firing into the crowd "without provocation" and charged 13 BSF officers with murder.[42] In another incident which took place at Handwara on 25 January 1990, 9 protesters were killed by the same unit.[45]

Central Reserve Police Force[edit]

During the Amarnath land transfer controversy more than 40 unarmed protesters were killed by the personnels of Central Reserve Police Force.[46][47] At least 300 were detained under Public Safety Act, including teenagers.[48] The same practice was again repeated by the personnels of the Central Reserve Police Force, during the 2010 Kashmir Unrest, which resulted in 112 deaths, including many teenager protesters at various incidents.[49]

Special Operations Group[edit]

The Special Operations Group was raised in 1994 for counter terrorism. A volunteer force, mainly came for promotions and cash rewards, comprising police officers and policemen from the Jammu and Kashmir Police.[50] The group is accused of torture and costodial killings.[51] A Senior Superintendent of this group and his deputy are among the 11 personnels, who were convicted for a fake encounter, which killed a local carpenter, and was labelled as a millitant to get the promotions and rewards.[52][53]

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958[edit]

In July 1990 Indian Armed Forces were given special powers under an Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) that gives protection to Indian Armed Forces personnel from being prosecuted. The law provides them a shield, when committing human rights violations and has been criticised by Human Rights Watch as being wrongly used by the forces.[54] This law is widely condemned by human rights groups.[55][56] United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay has urged India to repeal AFSPA and to investigate the disappearances in Kashmir.[57]

“All three special laws in force in the state assist the government in shielding the perpetrators of human rights violations from prosecution, and encourage them to act with impunity. Provisions of the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act clearly contravene international human rights standards laid down in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as members of the UN Human Rights Committee have pointed out. One Committee member felt that provisions of the act – including imunity from prosecution – were highly dangerous and encouraged violations of the right to life“.

— A clipping from a report published by the Amnesty International, 1995.[58]

In the recent revelations on 24, September 2013 made by the former Indian army chief General V. K. Singh said that, the state politicians of Jammu and Kashmir are being funded by the army secret service to keep the general public at calm and this activity is there since the partition. He also stated that the secret service paid a bribe to a politician to topple the state government which was pushing for AFSPA repeal.[59][60]

According to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in an area that is proclaimed as "disturbed", an officer of the armed forces has powers to:[61]

  • Fire upon or use other kinds of force even if it causes death, against the person who is acting against law or order in the disturbed area for the maintenance of public order, after giving such due warning.
  • Destroy any arms dump, prepared or fortified position or shelter or training camp from which armed attacks are made by the armed volunteers or armed gangs or absconders wanted for any offence
  • To arrest without a warrant anyone who has committed cognizable offences or is reasonably suspected of having done so and may use force if needed for the arrest.
  • To enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests, or to recover any person wrongfully restrained or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances and seize it.
  • Stop and search any vehicle or vessel reasonably suspected to be carrying such person or weapons.
  • Any person arrested and taken into custody under this Act shall be made over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station with the least possible delay, together with a report of the circumstances occasioning the arrest.
  • Army officers have legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under that law. Nor is the government's judgment on why an area is found to be disturbed subject to judicial review.
  • Protection of persons acting in good faith under this Act from prosecution, suit or other legal proceedings, except with the sanction of the Central Government, in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.[61]

Fake encounters[edit]

Hundreds of civilian's including women and children have been reported to be extrajudicially executed by Indian security forces and killings concealed as fake encounters.[58] Despite government denial, Indian security officials have reportedly confessed to human right watch of widespread occurrence of fake encounters and its encouragement for awards and promotions[62] According to a BBC interview with an anonymous security person, 'fake encounter' killings are those in which security personnel kill someone in cold blood while claiming that the casualty occurred in a gun battle. It also asserts that the security personnel are Kashmiris and "even surrendered militants".[63] In 2010 three men were reported missing proceeding these missing reports 3 men claimed to be militants were killed in a staged gun battle the army also claimed they had found Pakistani currency among the dead. The major was subsequently suspended and a senior soldier transferred from his post.[64] In 2011, a Special Police Officer and an Indian Army Jawan were charged by the Kashmir police for murder of a civilian whom the duo had killed in an encounter claiming that he was a top Lashkar-e-Taiba militant.[65]

Disappearances[edit]

Indian security forces have been implicated in many reports for enforced disappearances of thousands of Kashmiris where the security forces deny having their information and/or custody. This is often in association with torture or extrajudicial killing. The number of men disappeared have been so many to have a new term "half-widows" for their wives who end up impoverished. Human right activists estimate the number of disappeared over eight thousand, last seen in government detention.[58][62][66] These are believed to be dumped in thousands of mass graves across Kashmir[67]

Mass graves[edit]

Mass graves have been identified all over Kashmir by human right activists believed to contain bodies of thousands of Kashmiris of enforced disappearances.[68][69] A state human rights commission inquiry confirmed there are thousands of bullet-ridden bodies buried in unmarked graves in Jammu and Kashmir. Of the 2730 bodies uncovered in 4 of the 14 districts, 574 bodies were identified as missing locals in contrast to the Indian governments insistence that all the graves belong to foreign militants[68][70] According to a new deposition submitted by Parvez Imroz and his field workers asserted that the total number of unmarked graves were about 6,000.[71] The British parliament commented on the recent discovery and expressed its sadness and regret of over 6,000 unmarked graves.[72] Christof Heyns, a special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, has warned India that “all of these draconian laws had no place in a functioning democracy and should be scrapped.”[71][73]

Extrajudicial killings by security personnel[edit]

In a 1994 report, Human Rights Watch described summary executions of detainees as a "hallmark" of counter-insurgency operations by Indian security forces in Kashmir. The report further stated that such extrajudicial killings were often administered within hours of arrest, and were carried out not as aberrations but as a "matter of policy".[74] In a 1995 report, Amnesty International stated that hundred of civilians had been victims of such killings, which were often claimed by officers as occurring during "encounters" or "cross-fire".[75] A 2010 US state department report cited extrajudicial killings by security forces in areas of conflict such as Kashmir as a major human rights problem in India.[23]

Torture and sexual violence[edit]

Indian security forces and police have been accused of the systematic use of torture. US officials first showed concern regarding the widespread use of torture in 2007 where they presented evidence to Indian diplomats. Human rights groups state that 150 top officers have participated in torture as well as sexual violence and that the Indian government was covering up such acts.[76][77]

Suicide[edit]

According to a report, 17,000 people, mostly women, have committed suicide during the last 20 years in the Valley.[78][79][80][81] According to a study by the Medecins Sans Frontieres,

“Women in Kashmir have suffered enormously since the separatist struggle became violent in 1989–90. Like the women in other conflict zones, they have been raped, tortured, maimed and killed. A few of them were even jailed for years together. Kashmiri women are among the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the world. ‘Sexual violence has been routinely perpetrated on Kashmiri women, with 11.6% of respondents saying they were victims of sexual abuse’,”[82]

At the beginning of the insurgency there were 1200 patients in the valley‘s sole mental hospital. The hospital is now overcrowded with more than 100,000 patients.[78]

International response[edit]

Kashmiri insurgents[edit]

Reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists have confirmed Indian reports of systematic human rights violations by militants which claim Jammu and Kashmir to be part of Pakistan.[19] The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) has also been blamed of carrying out human rights violations, ranging from kidnapping to ethnic cleansing of several hundred thousand Hindu Kashmiri Pandits.[19] A 2010 US state department report blamed separatist insurgents in Kashmir and other parts of the country of committing several serious abuses, including the killing of security personnel as well as civilians, and of engaging in widespread torture, rape, beheadings, kidnapping, and extortion.[23]

In August 2000, militant groups killed 30 Hindu pilgrims in what became known as the 2000 Amarnath pilgrimage massacre.[83] The Indian government blamed the Lashkar-e-Taiba for the killings.[84][85] The BBC writes that "hundreds of Hindu labourers ha[d] been leaving the Kashmir Valley" in August 2000 due to targeted killings against Hindu workers.[83]

The rapes by Islamic militants have been reported since the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. On 22 October 1947, Pashtun militants invaded Baramulla in a Pakistan army truck, and raped women including European nuns.[86] In March 1990, Mrs. M. N. Paul, the wife of a BSF inspector was kidnapped, tortured and gang-raped for many days. Then her body with broken limbs was abandoned on a road.[87]

On April 14, 1990, Sarla Bhat (27), a Kashmiri Pandit nurse from the Soura Medical College Hospital in Srinagar was gang-raped and then beaten to death by Islamic terrorists. Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) took responsibility for the crime, accusing Bhat of informing the police about the presence of militants in the hospital.[88][89]

On 6 June 1990, Girija Tickoo, a lab assistant at the Government Girls High School Trehgam, was kidnapped and gang raped for many days. Then she was sliced at a sawmill.[90]

Prana Ganjoo was abducted with her husband in Sopore. She was gang-raped for a number of days before the both were killed in November 1990.[91]

Since 1991, reports of rape by Islamic miltants have increased, and there have been many cases of the militants threatening to kill the family unless a woman is handed over to the militants. According to the HRW, the rape victims of militants suffer ostracism and there is a "code of silence and fear" that prevents people from reporting such abuse. According to the HRW, the investigation of case of rape by militants is difficult because many Kashmiris are reluctant to discuss it for the fear of violent reprisals.[88]

The increase in number of rape cases has resulted in an increased number of abortions, leading to one case of murder of doctor. The doctor was accused of being an informer by the Islamic groups Hezb-ul Mujahidin and Al Jehad.[88]

In January 1991, Zarifa, daughter of Mohammed Sultan was forcibly asked to "marry" a militant. Her brother Bashir Ahmed was killed when the family refused, and the girl was taken away.[87]

On 30 March 1992, armed militants demanded food and shelter from the family of the retired truck driver Sohanlal (60) in Nai Sadak, Kralkhud. The family complied, but the militants raped Sohanlal's daughter Archana. When he and his wife tried to stop them, Sohanlal was shot dead. His elderly wife was also raped. Then both the women were also shot dead.[88]

There have been many cases of militants raping the young girls by forcing them into temporary marriages (mutah in Islamic law) - these ceremonies are called "command marriages".[92] Shamima Ansari was forced to marry a Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Farooq Ansari in Kishtwar in 2000. In 2005, a 14-year-old Gujjar girl Roubia Kousar was abducted from Lurkoti village by the Lashkar-e-Taiba militants, and forced to marry one of them. She was gang-raped by her "husband" and his militant friends.[92] In December 2005, 15-year-old Zaitoon Bano of Bajoni (Doda district) was forced to marry a Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militant Nazir Ahmed, after her family was threatened with death.[92] In 2009, a cleric Mohmmad Farooq was arrested for raping a 12-year-old girl in Poonch district.[93]

Many civilians have been killed due to the insurgency beginning from its outbreak in 1989. The number of civilians killed due to the Kashmiri insurgency has been estimated to range from 16,725 [6] to 47,000 civilians.[7][8][9][10]

Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits[edit]

The Hindu Kashmiri Pandits, a small but prominent group, had been a favoured section of the population during Dogra rule (1846–1947). About 20 per cent of whom had left the Kashmir valley by 1950 after the land reforms.[94] began to leave in much greater numbers in the 1990s. According to a number of authors, approximately 100,000 of the total Kashmiri Pandit population of 140,000 left the valley during that decade.[95] Other authors have suggested a higher figure for the exodus, ranging from the entire population of over 150,000,[96] to 190,000 of a total Pandit population of 200,000,[97] to a number as high as 253,000.[98] The US government has reported on the terrorist threat to Pandits still living in the Kashmir region.[99] In addition, around 100,0000 Hindu refugees in Jammu who arrived from Pakistan during the partition of India have been denied citizenship, residential rights, the right to own property or vote in elections by the Indian government. These migrants, classified as West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs), have complained of second-class treatment by the state,[100] while separatist Hurriyat leaders of Kashmir are also opposing settlement of West Pakistan refugees and they are against government's efforts to giving those refugees citizenship rights.[101][102][103]

The alleged rigging of the 1987 Assembly Elections by the ruling party,National Conference,[104] saw the rise of an armed rebellion among Kashmiris associated with the Muslim United Front (MUF), a conglomerate of several Muslim political organisations opposed to National Conference. During the eruption of the armed rebellion, the insurgents are reported to have specifically targeted the Pandits, with torture and killings.[21] Reports by Indian government 219 Kashmiri pandits were killed from 1989 to 2004 and around 140,000 migrated due to millitancy while over 3000 stayed in the valley[105][106] The local organisation of pandits in Kashmir, Kashmir Pandit Sangharsh Samiti after carrying out a survey in 2008 and 2009, claimed that 399 Kashmiri Pandits were killed by insurgents from 1990 to 2011 with 75% of them being killed during the first year of the Kashmiri insurgency.[107][108]

Kashmiri separatists believe that the then Governor Jagmohan encouraged the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley by deliberately creating an atmosphere of paranoia. This, they claim, was done to "facilitate the counter-insurgency" operations and suppressing the anti-Indian uprising in Kashmir. The mass migration of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley started on 19 January 1990 immediately preceding the first massacre of Kashmiri Muslims at Gawakadal. The Gawakadal massacre was followed by eight other major massacres and allegations of fake encounters, enforced disappearances, tortures and crackdown operations.[109][unreliable source?]. Pro-India commentators have refuted this version as a false allegation "to hide the truth".[citation needed]

The violence against Kashmiri Pandits was condemned and labelled as ethnic cleansing in a 2006 resolution passed by the United States Congress.[110] It stated that the Islamic terrorists infiltrated the region in 1989 and began an ethnic cleansing campaign to convert Kashmir to a Muslim state. According to the same, the population of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir had declined from 400,000 in 1989 to 4,000 in 2011.[111]

The CIA has reported nearly 506,000 people, about half of which are Pandit Hindus are displaced due to the insurgency.[98][112] The United Nations Commission on Human Rights reports that there are roughly 1.5 million refugees from Indian-administered Kashmir, bulk of whom arrived in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and in Pakistan after the situation on the Indian side worsened in 1989 insurgency.[113]

Post-1989, Kashmiri Pandits and other minority groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been targets of jihadi elements which India alleges and blames on the Inter-Services Intelligence.[114] The Kashmiri Pandits, a community of Hindu Brahmins, then comprising 5% of the population of the state were the primary targets of Islamic militants, who also sought to also eliminate Kashmir's record of 5000 years of Hindu Sanskrit culture and scholarship as well as the tolerant indigenous multiculturalism referred to as Kashmiriyat.[115] As many as 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits are estimate to have fled the state due to being targeted and threatened by militant groups.[116] In 1989, attacks on Pandits escalated and Muslim paramilitaries selectively raped, tortured and killed Kashmiri Pandits, burnt their temples, idols and holy books. The Pandits fled en masse from the state after which their houses were burnt by militants and their artwork and sculptures were destroyed.[115]

Other minorities such as Kashmiri Sikhs were also targeted. According to Chitkara, the killing of Sikhs near Anantnag in 2001, by the Jehadis was aimed at ethnic cleansing. Hindus have migrated from most of the Kashmir valley, Sikhs who form a very small percentage could be forced to migrate in the wake of such killings.[117] The Lashkar-e-Taiba has been blamed by Indian government for the Chittisinghpura massacre, which killed 36 Sikhs at the time of Clinton‘s visit to India.[118] Many local Sikh bodies refute this version and claim that the act was perpetrated by Indian armed forces with Hindu sectarian leanings.[119][120][unreliable source?]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Indian Government claims that even though children can join the armed forces, they are not formally enrolled into regular service before the age of 18. [..]In Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian army has armed local Village Defence Committees (VDC) – primarily Hindus – in Doda, Udhampur and the border districts to assist security forces in anti-insurgency operations.(HRW, Behind the Kashmir Conflict: Abuses by Indian Security Forces and Militant Groups Continue, op. cit.; Bukhari, S., "Militants kill 19 in Jammu", The Hindu, 21 July 1999.) So far more than 15,000 inhabitants, reportedly including teenagers, have joined these self-defence groups.("Jammu & Kashmir: the new vigilantes: despite lack of proper training and sophisticated arms, Village Defence Committees are proving invaluable in the fight against militancy in the state", India Today, 11 October 1999.)

    At the Asia-Pacific Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers in May 2000 the representative of the state government of Jammu and Kashmir denied the involvement of children in VDCs. He acknowledged that there may have been some instances of young boys taking up arms to defend themselves under attack, but that there was "no policy to encourage young boys to become members of the Village Defence Committees."

References[edit]

Notes

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