May 10, 2019
Using Human Shields In Kashmir
Kashmir is one unfortunate region of the world where human rights abuse does not jolt the global consciousness. Nor do the injustices and violations of human life by Indian military anger the world. In an investigation carried out by Reuters in the aftermath of a fight between Kashmiri separatists and Indian soldiers in Pinglan, a village in India-held Kashmir, the news agency has found and exposed some ugly practices of Indian forces: using innocent civilians as human shields in their encounters with Kashmiri freedom fighters.
The use of human shields is not permissible under customary international law. Many countries have inserted clauses in manuals for their soldiers putting restrictions on the use of civilians and prisoners to achieve military objectives. Even Israel that is, arguably, an apartheid state puts a prohibition on the use of civilians as human shields .
The excesses of Indian military and law enforcement agencies in the region have already converted the area in a war zone. But despite all the might that Indian forces have exercised so far to suppress the insurmountable courage and desire of Kashmiris for self-determination, Kashmiris’ spirit for freedom cannot be maimed. The Indian troops have come up with the idea of using innocent civilians as human shields to protect themselves from the anger of Kashmiris. The use of human shields exposes how little the Indian state respects the lives of civilian Kashmiris.
The use of human shields is a severe violation of human rights. Hardly two years ago, an image of a Kashmiri shawl weaver, Farooq Ahmad Dar, tied up to the front of a jeep as a human shield on the eve of elections in Indian held Kashmir surfaced. Though the world criticised the move widely, India cared little for denunciations.
Given that we are living in a world of images, this time there will be no uproar against the action of Indian forces at home and abroad the way the image of Mr Ahmad created. It is hard to see that any justice will be served to the families of the victims. The military spokesman lieutenant colonel Mohit Vaishnava, while rejecting the allegations of using civilians’ human shields , accepted that they do send civilians to mediate between the army and fighters.
However, a question one needs to ask is: do these civilians go to fighters for mediation willingly or are they coerced into it? Now that the report of Indian abuse of human rights and violation of customary international law comes from Reuters, which is an unbiased third party organisation in the present case, there is no reason for the world to remain a silent spectator.