Human Rights and the Razor Wire""

Recently after quite some time there was a three day long shut down in Kashmir. It was the occasion of the death anniversaries of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat. The authorities being apprehensive of a mass protest had imposed what many newspapers called "Razor Wire Restrictions". During the agitations of 2008, and 2010 the word "Undeclared Curfew" had assumed a normal usage. Every time there was a call for a protest or a march, the authorities would impose undeclared curfew. The curbs imposed on the movement of people were the same as are normally imposed after a magistrate issues an order for imposition of curfew to maintain law and order. A pet phrase was that restrictions under section 144 are being strictly enforced. In fact, imprisoning people in their homes and stopping all movement had become the SOP or the standard operating procedure of Police to curb every type of freedom of expression guaranteed under the constitution.

Ironically, the Indian judiciary poured burning oil on the wounds of Kashmiris by commuting the death sentence of Rajiv killers to life imprisonment a year after the surreptitious hanging of Afzal Guru. The judgement vindicates the popular belief in Kashmiri that everyone in India is against Kashmiri Muslims. They are loathed in every possible way and all sorts of punishments, physical as well as mental are inflicted on them. For the first time US State Department have come out with the details of human rights violations in Kashmir. The authorities are totally curbing the freedom of expression in Kashmir as per the report released by the US State Department on the situation of Human Rights in India. The report was released by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry while celebrating the 65th anniversary of the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights". The very fact that the US which had virtually forgotten Kashmir due to their economic interests has admitted to these grave violations of human rights by formally releasing the report indicates the gravity of the situation. The report has highlighted all the instances of Human Rights violations in this 68 page report. All the claims of zero tolerance to the violation of human rights by various agencies including the security forces get automatically nullified. One cannot fool all the people all the time. The truth has the habit of coming out into the open in spite of all the covers and facades put up to suppress it.

The authorities in Kashmir have worked out many novel ways of curbing the freedom of expression. On all such occasions when some leaders give a call for a march to protest human rights violations the most visible thing apart from the gun trotting soldiers are the bundles upon bundles of what the local press calls the "Razor Wire". This is a special kind of barbed wire which has very sharp razor pieces embedded in it. It is called the "Concertina Wire". The manufacturer of this kind of barbed wire must have made a huge fortune as it is used not by metres but by kilometres in Kashmir. During the night preceding the protest day almost all main crossings, roads, and lanes in down town are barricaded by bundles of the "Razor Wire". At vulnerable points armoured vehicles are positioned. Srinagar and other major towns give impressions of some sort of a war having been declared against the common people who get imprisoned in their own homes. Most of the leaders continue to be under perennial house arrest. These measures have now been fine-tuned by the authorities and the people too have got used to these. However, to an outsider these give a shock and realisation that Kashmir is under "Siege"!

Apart from these curbs there have been many other gruesome incidents such as rapes, disappearances and killing in fake encounters. Kunan Poshpora and Pathribal are two stark examples of human rights violations. The perpetrators of the Pathribal incident have been given a clean chit by the army in spite of the fact that the security personnel involved had been indicted by none other than the India’s premier investigating agency, CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation). In the other case, the security forces were declared innocent by a top journalist! The question of hundreds of mass graves still hangs fire as no one is willing to take off the lid from this massacre.

The irony of the situation is that the global watch dog of peace, the UN Security Council has turned totally deaf and blind in case of Kashmir. There is a dispute about Kashmir which is still on its agenda. The biggest mockery is the presence of a large number of foreign military observers as part of the UNMOGIP (United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan) in Kashmir. They were supposed to be monitoring the ceasefire line presently called the Line of Control. This assignment they have given up long back due to the refusal of the Indian side to co-operate with them in this task. Being part of the UN set up they could not be expected to ignore all the daily happenings here. However, it seems that these people have been influenced by the three monkeys extolling the Gandhian philosophy of "See No Evil; Hear No Evil; and Speak No Evil". Normally they should have been reporting all these human rights violations to their headquarter in New York. On the contrary they are enjoying their stay of a free holiday in Kashmir and allegedly making lot of money by selling some imported goods and indulging in smuggling across the Line of Control!

Admitting indirectly the existence of a serious human rights situation in Kashmir by US though welcome is not enough. Sincerity about genuine concern can be seen only if something is done to ameliorate the situation. There is no one in a better position to do so than the "Global Cop" having the UN Security Council as its handmaiden. However, the million dollar question is will they do it? Nancy Powell’s meeting with Narendra Modi, the RSS candidate as India’s next Prime Minister casts serious doubts about it.