Will India listen to an international outcry against Human rights violations in occupied Kashmir?

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch has condemned the use of pellet guns to disperse peaceful religious (Shia) procession in occupied Kashmir She said, “Time and again, Indian law enforcement’s use of [pellet] shotguns in Kashmir has resulted in shocking, grievous injuries of protesters and bystanders,”

She added, `The weapon causes “indiscriminate and excessive injury” and violates international standards and laws such as the UN’s Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms. …Indian leaders who claim that their policies are improving the lives of Kashmiris cannot disregard that security forces are maiming, blinding, and killing people. Pellets fired from shotguns have caused thousands of injuries, including loss of eyesight, in the decade since Indian authorities first deployed them in the region… International law bars any use of force, including against violent protesters, that causes indiscriminate or unnecessary harm’. Citing figures sourced from the data journalism website IndiaSpend, HRW said pellets blinded 139 Kashmiris between July 2016 and February 2019. Over 6,200 people were wounded by pellets – 782 with eye injuries – between July 2016 and February 2017, according to Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister of the region’ She categorically demanded, `

`The Indian government should cease the use of shotguns firing metal pellets and review its crowd control techniques to meet international standards’.

Outcry in foreign media: Indian forces fire pellets (called `bird shots’) with pump-action shot-guns against unarmed protesters or stone throwers, even women, and children five to eight years old. A New York Time report portrays a gruesome picture (“An Epidemic of ‘Dead Eyes’ in Kashmir as India Uses Pellet Guns on Protesters”, New York Times, August 28, 2016`) It says` the patients have mutilated retinas, severed optic nerves, irises seeping out like puddles of ink’. Doctors call them `dead eyes’. A similar report appearing in Washington Post is no less poignant ( In Kashmir, Indian security forces use pellet guns that often blind protester, Washington Post dated July 12, 2017).

Arrests, disappearances, custodial killings, and media gag: The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, also, has repeatedly voiced concern about human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir. Abuse of authority by Indian forces continued unabated with `new arrests, torture, besides harsh counterterrorism and sedition laws to clamp down on peaceful critics. On June 29, 2020, the authorities accused Mubeen Shah, a businessman, of sedition after he criticized the government for attempting to alter the Muslim-majority demographic status of Jammu and Kashmir by lifting residency restrictions. `The government announced a new media policy in Jammu and Kashmir that empowers the authorities to decide what is “fake news, plagiarism and unethical or anti-national activities” and to take punitive action against media outlets, journalists, and editors. The policy contains vague and overbroad provisions that are open to abuse and could unnecessarily restrict and penalize legally protected speech. International law provides that restrictions on freedom of expression must be necessary for a legitimate purpose, such as the protection of national security, public health, or the rights of others, and strictly proportionate to achieve that end. In April, the police opened criminal investigations against Gowher Geelani and Peerzada Ashiq, both journalists, and Masrat Zahra, a photojournalist, contending that their social media posts or reporting were “anti-national. On July 31, editor Qazi Shibli, previously held under the Public Safety Act, was questioned and detained’.

The HRW that the tourism-dependent economy had suffered the business loss of over US $2.4 billion, according to the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries. But no relief was provided. Losses have nearly doubled since the government imposed further restrictions to contain protests.

Other voices:

At least nine UN rapporteurs also called upon New Delhi to reconsider the closure of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in the disputed region. Their letter states, `We urge [India]…and local authorities in IIOJK to undertake prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into all alleged enforced disappearances…and take measures to identify the remains in each of the thousands of unmarked graves’.

According to the Kashmir-based Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons or APDP_ that looks after the families of forcibly disappeared people _there are at least 8,000 Kashmiris allegedly disappeared by Indian forces. These disappearances began in the 1990s even before the enactment and implementation of the Jammu & Kashmir Armed Forces Special Powers Act [AFSPA] in September 1990, which provides impunity for India’s armed forces. We also urge [India] to reconsider the closure of the SHRC or to promptly establish an equivalent independent body or bodies that could assist and guide official investigations and help ensure that they are in full compliance with international human rights norms.

After abrogating the special status of occupied Kashmir in August. 5 last year, `the SHRC as well as several other similar commissions were closed down by India to conceal rights violations in the Valley. India refused to let even a team of the UN human rights body to visit the region.

Last month, the UN experts sought “urgent action” on Occupied Kashmir as the region commemorated its first year of annexation by India.

The experts said, `If India will not take any genuine and immediate steps to resolve the situation, meet their obligations to investigate historic and recent cases of human rights violations and prevent future violations, then the international community should step up’. In another report on cases against Kashmiri journalists, the UN rapporteurs said: “India’s bid to prosecute Kashmiri journalists suggests a pattern of silencing independent reporting on the situation in IIOJK. The UN special rapporteurs asked the Indian government to investigate the alleged torture and custodial killings of several Kashmiri Muslim men since January 2019.’

Kashmir: India’s services chief confesses blinding protesters: Irked by international-media censures, Bipin Rawat, India’s ex-army chief, now Chief of Defence Services has tendered a funny explanation. He says, ` Most of the eye injuries are caused because those pelting stones bend to the ground to pick up stones and because pellet guns are fired at the legs they get to hit them in the eyes (Indian Express, January 17, 2020). Indian opposition took him to task for explaining how Kashmiris were being “radicalized”. They advised him to desist from dabbling in politics.

Through a host of draconian measures, India has gagged digital and voice protests in disputed Kashmir. It has barred local and foreign journalists from visiting Kashmir. Indian forces fire pellets (called `bird shots’) with pump-action shot-guns against unarmed protesters or stone-pelters, even women, and children five to eight years old.

Inference: Let India realise it can’t stifle Kashmiris’ dissent. To stifle the Kashmiri’s fighting spirit, the Dogra (1846-1947) punished even Kashmiri children who played with fork-slings (ghulail in Urdu) and stones (Muhammad Yousaf Saraf, Kashmiris Fight for Freedom, vol. 1, p. 50). The struggle for freedom goes on despite Indian forces’ reign of terror (abductions, custodial deaths, rapes, arson, and pellet shelling). `The Security Council should make clear that it opposes Mr. Modi’s brutal tightening of India’s control on Kashmir. While Mr. Modi may think he can control this volatile conflict on his own, he almost certainly cannot’ (The U.N. Can’t Ignore Kashmir Anymore, New York Times, October 2, 2019).