Friday, March 27, 2009

Human Rights Situation In Kashmir

Kashmir Watch, March 27

Human rights situation in Kashmir is as bleak as it has been during the last two decades. The gross violation of basic human rights are continuing unabated, says Ghulam Nabi Khayal, who presented this paper at the National Seminar on Kashmir organised by Jamia Millia University, Delhi last week.

The track record of human rights situation in Jammu & Kashmir, particularly during the last two decades, does not merit any praise or appreciation. It is quite heart rending that the human rights charter adopted by the United Nations has been thrown to winds in this strife torn border state by all those who hold a gun in their hands.

The worst and most horrific period of gross violation of the human rights across Kashmir Valley has been during early nineties when only a few incidents of indiscriminate gunfire opened by the forces on unarmed civilians resulted in the killing of about three hundred people including old men, women and children. The excessive use of force was wantonly witnessed when the funeral procession of Mirwaiz Molvi Farooq, who had been gunned down on 21 May 1990 allegedly by the militants, was fired upon by the forces killing about 40 persons on spot. The forces did not spare even the coffin of the late Mirwaiz and several bullets were found having been pumped into his dead body.

This gory incident was so shocking that the former prime minister, Chander Shekhar said in the Parliament, “we must hang our heads in shame.” The required action followed quickly by shifting of Jagmohan, the most controversial Governor of the State, during whose tenure Kashmir was seen bathing only in blood.

According to a conservative survey conducted by a few local groups, there are as many as ten thousand widows spending their days of life in penury, misery and prolonged agony. Their husbands, whether militants or otherwise, are no more and this is not their fault that they have been left at the mercy of Allah.

Several so called organisations, NGOs, numbering about five thousand, claim to be the saviors of this miserable lot of the fair sex but they have failed to help out even a small number of them though these fake organisations have been receiving huge funds of money for this very purpose both from Delhi and Islamabad. This criminal negligence towards a suffering community has obviously given rise to social evils in the Valley where the hapless widows are naturally forced to be exploited in different immoral ways to earn their two square meals.

The irony of the fate is that the widows of slain militants are categorically denied permission to perform Hajj pilgrimage which they could do after managing the required money. Also, a valid passport is not issued to them under instructions from the Central government. Their fault, depriving them of a very pious religious performance, is yet to be defined. Why should they be punished for a sin they never committed?

The present scenario across Kashmir is a little brighter for, the militants are not seen indulging in anti social and objectionable activities, also due to the fact that a majority of them has been physically eliminated by the forces during the last two decades of unprecedented armed uprising.

At the same time, and unfortunately, a number of surrendered militants, locally nicknamed as Ikhwanis or renegades, are still at large to harass people by way of arson, kidnappings for ransom, molestation of women and even brutal killing of common people. These heinous crimes mostly take place in far off villages in the Valley and are hushed up as not reported due to the social taboos of the Kashmiri Muslim society. These renegades function directly under the Rashtriya Rifles of the army and the official patronage is available to them so acrimoniously that they are neither hauled up nor are they brought to justice for crimes they are committing unabated.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December1948, says among other things in its Article Number three that “every one has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” These basic guarantees offered to the human being by Almighty God and by the UNO are to a large extent, not available to a common man in Kashmir despite the horrifying fact that About 100,000 people in the State have already been done to untimely death in this turmoil.

As far as the conditions prevailing in various prisons, where Kashmiri suspects or hardcore militants re lodged, are concerned, they can be described as inhuman and nothing else. Even today, scores of detenues are languishing in jails all over the country, from Jammu up to Koimbatore, without being tried in a court of law for the crime they have allegedly committed. Some of these prisoners are there behind the bars for more than 15 years now and no legal procedure has been adopted to facilitate for them a fair trial in an impartial court of law.
My own newspaper Voice of Kashmir has been receiving letters full of pathos and miseries faced by these detained youths in different jails in the country wherein they narrate woefully hair raising tales of torture and inhuman treatment meted out to them by their interrogators. The UN human rights declaration clearly states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Probably, this charter does not apply to the forces operating in Jammu & Kashmir state.

It is rather imperative to point out here that while talking about the activities of the militants and the security forces, one cannot apply a similar yardstick to them. Militants took up gun but were never answerable to any one.

On the contrary, the armed forces and the paramilitary troops are supposed to be bound by unflinching discipline, moral, ethical and legal obligations. Their reported violations of basic rights are not therefore acceptable under any circumstances.

There are also complaints pouring in regularly that Kashmiri youths who are out in the Indian states to earn their livelihood are subjected to victimisation by the police. They are physically manhandled all over. Even hotels in different cities are instructed to avoid providing accommodation to the Kashmiri visitors.It was on 13th of this month that three Kashmiris were taken into custody in Maharashtra for no obvious reasons.

Several state regimes have publicly admitted that on occasions, forces in Kashmir overstep their brief and that the guilty shall be punished. One has yet to ascertain beyond doubt whether any erring soldier was ever awarded deserving punishment.

The present situation across the State is comparatively conducive to rub off black scars of this menace from the face of Kashmir.

Firstly, all detunes jailed for their involvement in militancy or on suspicion, must be tried properly in a legal court to affirm or nullify their alleged crime. Only then, can their fate be decided in a democratic way.

As a member of one working group constituted by the Honourable Prime Minister in 2007, I had strongly advocated that those frustrated Kashmiri boys who had crossed over to Pakistan administrated Kashmir to receive training in use of arms, are now quite eager to return home, join their separated families and spend rest of their lives peacefully.

Their comeback should be facilitated both by the Central and the State governments. Constant police surveillance can be there to check their routine activities. Gradually, they will themselves turn to a normal life.

There should be a strict ban imposed on the forces for their resorting to reckless use of force while dealing with the peaceful protesters. The declaration of zero tolerance assured by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh before the Kashmiri people should be adhered to in letter and spirit.

As was repeatedly demanded by the previous government headed by Mufti Mohammad Sayed, the Indian paramilitary forces, now largely the Central Reserve Police Force, be withdrawn from the cities and towns to be replaced by the State police. This will undoubtedly reduce instances of human rights violations being committed all over the State. This popular demand has not met with any positive response. Needless to mention here that the imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in force in the State since 1990 does not empower or authorise the State authorities to initiate any inquiry against the forces including the army, the BSF, the CRPF and other paramilitary troops.

The author can be reached at: gulkhayal@yahoo.co.uk

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