Archive for the ‘Conflict and Peace’ Category

The daughter of one of Kashmir’s most prominent politicians has pleaded with the international community to act over an unprecedented clampdown on millions of people in the territory, warning that Kashmiris are being “caged like animals” and treated as “cannon fodder”.

Speaking to the Guardian while under house arrest, Iltija Mufti, the daughter of the former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, said as many as 25 armed security personnel had surrounded her house last week. All entrances to the house have been locked, she said, defying a communications ban by the Indian government.

Mufti said no legal basis had been provided for her detention but she had been told her previous comments to the media, criticising India’s actions in Kashmir, had angered officials. She said she had been denied a lawyer and prevented from seeing visitors.

Her mother was placed under house arrest hours before the Indian government made a dramatic announcement on 5 August that it would withdraw Kashmir’s special status. She is understood to have been taken to a makeshift jail. About 500 people have reportedly been detained, ostensibly to prevent unrest.

Mufti said she feared that speaking to the media might result in her being jailed, but she had chosen to call for action before a closed-door UN security council meeting on the matter, expected to be held on Friday.

“I’ve quite clearly been told: first of all we make sure you don’t get your voice out, and you’re not heard, and if you do, be ready to suffer the consequences,” said Mufti, who managed to speak to the Guardian from her home. “Those consequences will be that you will be detained indefinitely and that I won’t have the right or access to even a lawyer.

I feel really scared for my life. I don’t think I am safe any more because I don’t trust this government. The way they have gone after even elected representatives is quite frightening.”

Her mother had argued in favour of a shared future with India – a view many in Kashmir believe has now been completely discredited.

Delhi’s decision strips the disputed state of Kashmir and Jammu of any elements of autonomy, removing its constitution and flag, and scrapping laws that prevented outsiders from buying land. The state will also be split in two. Many Kashmiris believe the changes pose an existential threat, and the demography of the country’s only Muslim-majority state will be altered.

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On Friday, the Jammu and Kashmir chief secretary, BVR Subrahmanyam, said “a few preventive detentions” of individuals had been made, “in accordance with the provisions of the law”.

He also said restrictions on landlines would be eased over the coming days. It is not clear when mobile phone services will be restored.

Millions of people across Kashmir have been under an unprecedented communications blackout since 5 August, with no internet, mobile or landline services, as part of measures described by a UN official as draconian.

There are fears for the most vulnerable residents in Kashmir. Mufti said people in the state were being treated as “cannon fodder”, did not have access to medical supplies and were probably running out of food.

“Let them go, let them free,” she said.

Kashmir is a volcano waiting to erupt, she said. “There’s palpable anger … the day this curfew is lifted I feel like all that anger is going to spill out on to the streets of Kashmir. And it’s not going to be good.

“People are so angry. They are fuming at the way they were stripped of their rights … and to add insult to injury you have tied them up like they are animals. But they are not animals; they are humans beings,” she said.

The communication blocks had debilitated an entire population, she added. “Not only have they massacred our state and cleaved it into two parts, they have also stripped us of our dignity.”

Subrahmanyam said that 12 of the 22 districts of the state were functioning normally with some limited night-time restrictions in five of these. However, communication blocks mean it is not possible to independently verify this.

He added that restrictions would be lifted in the next few days, with some schools opened after the weekend. Restrictions on movement would be removed on an area-by-area basis, he said.

On Thursday, Mufti wrote to India’s home minister, Amit Shah, asking under what legal grounds she had been detained. “Is it a crime to articulate the pain, torment and indignity we’ve been subjected to?” she wrote.

Outside her home, Mufti said, a military van waits at the front gate. “Every time that I step out into the garden for fresh air there is a man who intercepts them on a walkie talkie and lets them know that I’ve stepped out,” she said. Three to four female officers, who she believes are there to grab her if she attempts to run, were also present.

It is more than 11 days since her mother was arrested.

“I miss her terribly and there are times when I dream of her and imagine us in happier times.” India can no longer claim to be the world’s largest democracy, she said: “Not after what Kashmiris have had to endure in the past two weeks.”

By Sheshu Babu*

Living with deformity is very difficult. The degree of difficulty varies with the intensity of disability and its impact on people. One of the vital parts of human body is the eye. So, a disease or injury to the eye or eyes has a significant impact on lives of people. The use of pellets in Kashmir has caused loss of sight to many people, specially children and youth who are facing physical and psychological problems.
According to a study by the Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience, Kashmir,at least 85% of pellet victims have developed psychiatric disorders. The study titled ‘Psychiatric Morbidity in Pellet Injury Victims of Kashmir Valley’ puts depression at the top of the list with 25.79% suffering from this disorder followed by adjustment disorder with 15.79%, post-traumatic stress disorder (9.21%) and anxiety disorders (9%).
Doctors examined 380 pellet victims after the uprising of 2016. Among the victims, 92.92% have eye injuries and 70% other injuries.

Serious problem

The study may not be comprehensive but it certainly reflects the gravity of the problem and need for serious attention. The victims are mostly students and youth who dream of bright future. Their aspirations have been cut short by using ‘non- lethal’ weapons and inflicting ‘ lethal’ damage.

The victims who lost partial or total vision need help from parents, close relatives and friends as well as ophthalmologists and psychiatrists. The problems faced by blind from birth and those who lost vision due to pellet injuries are different. The pellet victim has to adjust to new conditions.
The person frequently thinks of the condition when he or she could see the world and move freely before darkness engulfed throwing normal life out of gear. This state causes enormous mental trauma and leads to deep pessimism and depression. Therefore, people close to the victim should keep constant vigil and give assurances and kind words of optimism to cheer and come out of the bouts of deep depression.
Society should come forward and accept the victims by inviting them to parties and meets so that their loneliness is driven out. They should be given training in vocational and non- vocational jobs for independent living with freedom.
Many women affected by pellets face added suffering of patriarchy, oppression, apathy and indifference from society. They need the help of psychiatrist all the more. There have been cases of married women abandoned by their husbands. They need protection and support.

Activists and volunteers

Since little can be expected from the present government, the role of activists, volunteers and human rights organizations becomes very crucial. It is deplorable that pellet guns are still being used despite causing suffering to thousands of Kashmiris. The number of affected persons is rising.

Recently, pellet victims held a protest and demanded ban on use of pellet guns under the banner of the  Pellet Victims Welfare Trust. People from all over the country should join them in solidarity and bring pressure to stop using such methods causing misery to young lives in the state. Rehabilitation and medical care should also be included in the demands by the victims.

Police Deny Claim Of Slain Civilian’s Dad

Srinagar:

The father of the civilian killed during an encounter late Thursday night in Pulwama district has accused security forces of “using his sons as human shields”. Brothers Rayees and Younis Ahmed Dar were dragged out of their house late Thursday night (May 16) by security forces as the family prepared for ‘sehri’ at about 2.30am, Jalaluddin Dar said.

He said armymen used his sons to flush out militants holed up in a neighbouring house that belonged to Ghulam Hassan Dar. “My wife, my daughter-in-law and I… we tried to resist but the soldiers took me out of the home as well,” the 67-year-old said.

“I told them I’ll come with you, let my sons go, but they took me as well. They took my sons in different directions. I was taken in another. They ordered my sons to ask our neighbours to come out of their houses,” Jalaluddin recalled.

Younis, who was also hurt, said, “No sooner had Rayees knocked on the door of the house next to ours, another man, masked, told Rayees and me to go to the house of Ghulam Hassan Dar, which is the third house from ours. I was a little distance away. The moment Rayees knocked on Ghulam Hassan’s door and asked them to come out, lights in the house went out. Gunshots were heard from inside. This perhaps killed the soldier from the search party. In the exchange of fire, my brother was killed, I took a bullet on the thigh.”

In Thursday’s encounter, security forces killed two Jaish terrorists at Dalipora village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama. A police officer had initially said three soldiers and two civilians, brothers Younis and Rayees Ahmad Dar, were injured. But Rayees died at the encounter site, and his brother Younis was taken to a nearby hospital from where he was referred to a Srinagar hospital, the officer said. All three terrorists were killed. Jalaluddin added: “The soldiers ordered me to lift an armyman who I carried on my back till some 200 yards away from the site though it was still dangerous.”

J&K police have denied the family’s claim. “As police and security forces were evacuating civilians from the neighbourhood around the target house, the hiding militants fired indiscriminately. One Army jawan, Sepoy Sandeep, was killed and one civilian Rayees Dar also lost his life,” a police statement said.

Rayees Dar (26, in pic) was killed in the Pulwama encounter on Thursday. His brother Younis took a bullet on the thigh

 

GENEVA (14 June 2018) – There is an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and abuses and deliver justice for all people in Kashmir, who for seven decades have suffered a conflict that has claimed or ruined numerous lives, a report by the UN Human Rights Office published on Thursday says.

The 49-page report – the first ever issued by the UN on the human rights situation in Indian-Administered and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir – details human rights violations and abuses on both sides of the Line of Control, and highlights a situation of chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces.

“The political dimensions of the dispute between India and Pakistan have long been centre-stage, but this is not a conflict frozen in time. It is a conflict that has robbed millions of their basic human rights, and continues to this day to inflict untold suffering,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“This is why any resolution of the political situation in Kashmir must entail a commitment to end the cycles of violence and ensure accountability for past and current violations and abuses by all parties, and provide redress for victims,” he said.

“It is also why I will be urging the UN Human Rights Council to consider establishing a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir,” said Zeid.

Noting the continuing serious tensions in recent weeks, including those stemming from a series of incidents in Srinagar, he called on Indian security forces to exercise maximum restraint, and strictly abide by international standards governing the use of force when dealing with future protests, including ones that could well occur this coming weekend.

“It is essential the Indian authorities take immediate and effective steps to avoid a repetition of the numerous examples of excessive use of force by security forces in Kashmir,” Zeid said.

The UN Human Rights Office – which, despite repeated requests to both India and Pakistan over the past two years, has not been given unconditional access to either side of the Line of Control – undertook remote monitoring to produce the report, which covers both Indian-Administered Kashmir and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir.

The main focus of the report is the human rights situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 – when large and unprecedented demonstrations erupted after Indian security forces killed the leader of an armed group – to April 2018.

Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries, the report says, citing civil society estimates that up to 145 civilians were killed by the security forces between mid-July 2016 and the end of March 2018, with up to 20 other civilians killed by armed groups in the same period.

One of the most dangerous weapons used against protesters in 2016 – and which is still being employed by security forces – was the pellet-firing shotgun. According to official figures, 17 people were killed by shotgun pellets between July 2016 and August 2017, and 6,221 people were injured by the metal pellets between 2016 and March 2017. Civil society organizations believe that many of them have been partially or completely blinded.

“Impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice are key human rights challenges in the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” the report says, noting that the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978 (PSA) have “created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardize the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations.”

The AFSPA prohibits prosecution of security forces personnel unless the Indian Government grants prior permission to prosecute. “This gives security forces virtual immunity against prosecution for any human rights violation. In the nearly 28 years that the law has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government,” the report says.

There is also almost total impunity for enforced or involuntary disappearances, with little movement towards credibly investigating complaints, including into alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region.

Chronic impunity for sexual violence also remains a key concern in Kashmir.  An emblematic case is the Kunan-Poshpora mass rape 27 years ago when, according to survivors, soldiers gang-raped 23 women. “Attempts to seek justice have been denied and blocked over the years at different levels,” the report says.

The report also points to evidence that the armed groups that have operated in Jammu and Kashmir since the late 1980s have committed a wide range of human rights abuses, including kidnappings and killings of civilians and sexual violence. Despite the Government of Pakistan’s denial of any support for these groups, the report notes that a number of experts have concluded that Pakistan’s military continues to support their operations across the Line of Control.

The report also examines a range of human rights violations in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir which, according to the report, are of a different calibre or magnitude and of a more structural nature. In addition, the report says, restrictions on freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and in Gilgit-Baltistan have limited the ability to obtain information about the situation.

Among the issues highlighted in the report is the constitutional relationship of these two “distinct territories” with Pakistan. AJK has effectively been controlled by Pakistan throughout its entire history. Pakistan’s federal authorities also have full control over all government operations in Gilgit-Baltistan, and federal intelligence agencies are reportedly deployed across both regions.

The impact of Pakistani counter-terrorism operations on human rights is detailed in the report, which notes the concerns of the UN Human Rights Committee at the “very broad definition of terrorism laid down in the Anti-Terrorism Act.” The report quotes a respected national NGO that found hundreds of people had been imprisoned under the Act in Gilgit-Baltistan, and that it was being used to target locals who were raising issues related to people’s human rights.

Among its recommendations, the report calls on India and Pakistan to fully respect their international human rights law obligations in Indian-Administered and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir respectively.

India should urgently repeal the AFSPA; establish independent, impartial and credible investigations to probe all civilian killings since July 2016 and all abuses committed by armed groups; and provide reparations and rehabilitation to all injured individuals and to the families of those killed in the context of security operations. Similarly, the PSA should be amended to ensure its compliance with international human rights law, and all those held under administrative detention should either be charged or immediately released.

The report urges Pakistan to end the misuse of anti-terror legislation to persecute those engaging in peaceful political and civil activities and those who express dissent. The sections of the AJK interim constitution that limit the rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, and peaceful assembly and association should be amended. Any political activists, journalists and others convicted for peacefully expressing their opinions should be immediately released. The constitutions of AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan should also be amended to end the criminalization of Ahmadiyya Muslims.

ENDS

The full report is available on the India and Pakistan pages on the OHCHR website.

B-roll video of the High Commissioner speaking about the report here.

Audio of the High Commissioner here.

For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville – + 41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org or Liz Throssell – + 41 22 917 9466 / ethrossell@ohchr.org.

2018 is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70thanniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rightswww.standup4humanrights.org.

 

Shujaat Bukhari is the editor of the newspaper ‘Rising Kashmir’ and was given police protection since an attack on him in 2000.

Senior Kashmir Journalist Shujaat Bukhari Shot In Srinagar, Injured

Shujaat Bukhari was shot by unidentified gunmen in Srinagar.

SRINAGAR:  Shujaat Bukhari, the editor of Rising Kashmir was attacked in Press Colony in the city, just outside his office. He was reportedly hit by multiple bullets. The journalist and his two security guards have been injured and taken to hospital.
This is the first attack on a journalist in a long time in Kashmir.

shujaat bukhari shot

Shujaat Bukhari was shot while coming out of his office in the heart of Srinagar.

“He is a dear friend and worked with us for more than two decades. He has been critically injured,” said NDTV’s Nazir Masoodi.

Shujaat Bukhari was given police protection since an attack on him in 2000.

On 15 March 1929, Sir Albino Banerjee, a Bengali Christen, who for two years had been  Foreign and Political Minister of   Maharaja Hari Singh had observed that the rulers had been treating “Mohammadan population” worst than “cattle.”  Ninety years later, when the idea of governance in the world has undergone a sea change,andcolonialism has crashed themindset of those in the corridors of “hegemonic authority” in the state has not changed. That the ‘ruling elite’ even in the second decade of the twenty-first century considered the people of Kashmir as wild quadrupeds weremanifest in 2010when for silencing the dissenting youth it introduced guns meant for hunting of animals. And allowed troops to use the same with impunity in the state.Ironically, the pellet gun with its single cartridge spewing about five hundred lead-pellets on a finger touch was added to the deadly arsenal of the state as a ‘non-lethal weapon’by the ‘central government’.Of course with the consentof Omar Abdullah thethen chief of the unified military command in the state.  The   5.5 mm wadcutter, domed (round nose), hollow point and pointed lead pellets are deadlier than those used in air guns for animals. Intriguingly, Kashmir is the only place where this weapon is used for controlling thecivilian protest.

In 2010, summer hundred and twenty-sixchildren and youth were killed by thetroops and the state police, thousands wounded and injured,  some fired with pellets in the face and eyes lost their vision. The state using all coercive tactics in its arsenal and brute force in dealing with the situation that across the world was recognized as Kashmir ‘Intifada’had stirred the international media and caused editorials and reports in almost 1800 newspapers and web portals across the globe. It also had pin pricked the conscience of scores of conscientious citizen and writers in India. The killings of children, the insensitivity of the state and the impunity that soldiers have been enjoying under the Armed Forces Special Powers Actdeeply moved some writers and set them to rethink about New Delhi’s policies in Jammu and Kashmir.In fact, many of them  concluded  that “after six decades of effort, Kashmir’s alienation looks greater than ever before.” Some of themthrough their writings had endeavored to update the knowledge ofa new generation about the Kashmir problem that had caused four wars between India and Pakistan andtaken atoll of ‘country’s economy-  half ofthe population of India’s population has been living below the poverty line.Swaminathan S Aiyar had written, “Many Indians say that Kashmir legally became an integral part of India when the Maharaja of the state signed the instrument of accession. Alas, such legalisms become irrelevant when ground realities change. Indian kings and princes, including the Moguls, acceded to the British Raj. The documents they signed became irrelevant when Indians launched an independence movement.  The British insisted for a long time that India was an integral part of their Empire, the Jewel in its crown, and would never be given up. Imperialist Blimps remained in denial for decades. I fear we are in similar denial on Kashmir.”

The uprisings during the summers of 2008, 2009 and 2010, had convinced even a section of leadership in India like P. Chidambaram, the then Home Minister that the laws like the AFSPA, seen as the darkest of darklaws by people of the state need tobe withdrawn. Nevertheless, the lessons learned that the coercive tactics and brutish handling of the resistance instead of improving the situations complicate itfurther, andthe dialogue was the only way forwardof resolving the problem by adoptinga policy of denying even an inch of space to the voices of the dissent in the statewere unlearned after 2014. Instead of instilling some faith in youth through hate media blitzby some televisions channels they have been and are being driven to the wall.

In the recent past 2016 has been the grisliest year, the New York Times had rightly observed that in the history of Kashmir it would pass as the year of “Dead Eyes Epidemic.” In that year thousands of children with ‘eyes ruptured’ by lead pellets fired by paramilitary troops and police ‘armed with pump-actionshotguns’were brought to the hospitals- in fact, hospitals could not accommodate all those injured with pellets.   More than thirteen hundred suffered impaired vision,andhundreds of others pelleted to blindness pushed into darkness for rest of their life. From important newspapers in the world to the Amnesty International to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights every organization concerned about the human rights violations raised their voice against blinding of children and demanded to ban of the pellet guns. Even, the National Human Right Commission defending human right records of India before the UN Commission on Human Rights had described the use of pellet gun during 2016 turmoil as “controversial.”

For past three years, the UN Human Rights Commission has been showing concern about the human rights situation in the state and asking Islamabad and New Delhi for providing unbridled access to the state on both the sidesof the transitory dividing line.  Interestingly, despite,   voices raised in various international forums against the use of pellet gun on civilian protestors and blinding of children as young as four years, boys and girls nightmares of ‘epidemic of dead-eyes’  continue to haunt people. In fact, the ground situation during past three years has not changed.   Roughlysixty to seventy peoplewerehit with pellets, many in the face and the chest in past twenty days in April only.  Hardly, there is a day when stories with headings like “Kashmir’s many Inshas and their dark, shattered lives” or “Kashmir pellet injuries bring back memories of 2016” are not reported in the newspapers.

New Delhi, despite having assured abandoning the use of the pellet has not so far responded to the clarion calls from international human rights organizations. Troops continue to empty shotguns on juvenile protestors as shooting ducks.   In this tormenting bizarre scenario some days back a word of experience was distinctly visible in the statement of Army Chief, candidly saying that not the gun but ‘dialogue’ was a way forward. It is high time, for the present dispensation in New Delhi to pick up the word of experience and make a beginning for initiating a dialogue with all the internationally recognized contestingparties to the Dispute by revoking the AFSPA and retreating the pellet gun.

Z. G .MUHAMMAD
Columnist and Writer
Srinagar,
Kashmir.
www.peacewatchkashmir.com