Kashmir: From Paradise to Hell

Community Correspondent Sajad Rasool has brought us many stories from Kashmir. They tell us a very different story of the ongoing crisis, a perspective seldom reflected in mainstream media and by policy makers. For Human Rights Day, he has written the following piece to explain the magnitude of the violations in Kashmir. The views expressed below are his own. Every year the world celebrates 10th December as International Day of Human Rights. Conferences, seminars, debates are held across the globe to ensure protection and promotion of human rights, which is guaranteed by the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And yet, Human Rights abuses continue in Indian Administered Kashmir. Human rights violations in J&K range from Killings, torture, rapes, disappearances, forced displacement to suppression of the right to freedom of speech. They are perpetuated by the Indian State, Army and renegades created by State to fight local militants. The ongoing human rights abuses in Kashmir is the biggest tragedy in the era of so called ‘ongoing democracies’. The presence of 1 million Indian troops makes Kashmir not only the most militarized zones in the world. Living here often feels like living in a large prison with a population of 1.2 Crore. India claims that the J&K region is an integral part of the republic but the presence of a strong anti-India resentment among Kashmiris denounces this. The period of the 90’s is considered to be the most volatile and brutal period of Kashmir’s history. It was the time when local Kashmiris started an armed struggle against the Indian occupation. The locals involved in ‘armed struggle’ declared that they were fighting for the just cause of freedom from illegal Indian occupation. Between the ongoing conflict is caught a common person, who is victimized by the forces, the only sin they suffer for is being a ‘Kashmiri’. Kashmir, where fathers have been tortured in front of their kids and mothers raped in broad day light, sons brutally killed in front of their parents, properties burnt to ash and people oppressed by those meant to protect them. Today, every home has a story of brutality to narrate. Everyone has suffered in one way or the other. The daily routine in a Kashmiri’s life will involve being frisked; their houses could be searched anytime. Schools and colleges may remain shut for months on end during strikes and clashes between militants and armed forces. Generations of children suffer the consequences—emotional scars, interrupted educations. It is the place where rulers have ‘legitimized the violence’ and violation of rights of ruled by passing draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Public Safety Act (PSA), and Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), etc. Indian Army and other state run anti-insurgency forces have carried out thousands of extra judicial killings of innocent civilians and Militants. More than 1,00,000 people have been killed in a period of 25 years of violence. The law is in existence despite its widespread criticism by the world human rights organizations like Amnesty. The law not only enables Indian forces to detain anybody without trial but also authorizes them to kill anyone on mere suspicious activity, frisk anybody and “carry out any inhuman thing they wish to.” It is a weapon, which guarantees them ‘right to kill’. Members of the UN Human Rights Committee have pointed out that provisions of the act – including impunity from prosecution – were highly dangerous and encouraged violations of the right to life. More than 8000-10000 people have been made to forcibly disappear to later on be killed in fake encounters and dumped in hundreds of mass graves. 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. 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. According to a study by the Medecins Sans Frontieres, Kashmiri women are among the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the world, with 11.6% of respondents saying they were victims of sexual abuse. According to another report: 17,000 people, mostly women have committed suicide during the last 20 years in the Valley. Student Activist Aala Fazili elaborates. Rape, has always been used as a tool by Indian forces to subjugate masses. There are hundreds of cases, from the Kunanposhpora (Kupwara) mass rape (in which more than 100 women of a single village were gang-raped by Indian soldiers during a night in 1991) to Shopian double rape and murder case in 2009 (in which two local women were raped and later on murdered by Indian forces). Special Operation Group (SOG) created in J&K in 90’s and Indian forces have been responsible for custodial massacre of hundreds of innocent Kashmiris for cash rewards and promotions. Torture used as a tool to crush the struggle has been so wide spread that even small children and women used to be victimized. A research by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) found that Indian Army were physically abusing detainees by beatings, electrocutions and sexual interference. 681 of the 1296 detainees they interviewed claimed torture. In this entire scenario the one of the most surprising and painful facts has been the way the Indian media has reported on the Kashmir. So far the role of Indian news channels and print media have usually spoken the language of the Government. The violations of Human Rights in all its forms continue till date. With the shift from ‘Armed struggle’ to Mass uprisings of 2008 and 2010, the HR abuses are being done in other ways. The people who participate in anti India rallies and the people involved in stone pelting cases are being subjugated in a more criminal way of psychological and physical tortures. Thousands of minor’s have been arrested and tortured in the past three years which in turn has incited a strong anger against Indian rule. A hate campaign against Kashmir and Kashmiris has remained a focal point of Indian mainstream media. This has shaped a terrible image of Kashmiris among the Indian and often global community increasing the divide between us and them. Such policies of media bury hundreds of the stories that have a deep human element. Giving rape and custodial killings colour of ‘national interest’ goes against the ethics of Journalism and is unjustified. For someone like me, who works in the field of community media, these aspects are glaring. I see a more vibrant community or alternate media that tell Kashmir’s untold stories as the only way to fill the vacuum left by the mainstream media. They are free of corporate control and therefore unbiased. This is a major driving force in my own work. State Terrorism if not stopped, draconian laws if not repealed, victimization and oppression if not ended, it will definitely give birth to a new spell of violence in the Valley, which will lead to its complete destruction.  
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