Tensions in Kashmir after a deadly suicide bombing earlier this year are having a severe impact on human rights in the region, a United Nations report released on Monday said.
The UN rights office said that India and Pakistan failed to improve the situation in Kashmir and have not taken any concrete steps to address the numerous concerns raised in an earlier report by the rights body.
What the latest report says
Last year, the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released its first-ever report on Kashmir, documenting the wrongdoing by India and Pakistan and urging action to reduce long-standing tensions.
The new report on Monday said, “A UN human rights report on the situation in Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir from May 2018 to April 2019, says the number of civilian casualties reported over the 12-month period may be the highest in over a decade.”
Arbitrary detentions: The report, by the UN Human Rights Council, says that arbitrary detentions during search operations by Indian troops are leading to a range of human rights violations.
No probe into excessive use of force: Despite the high numbers of civilians killed in the vicinity of gun battles between security forces and militants, “there is no information about any new investigation into excessive use of force leading to casualties”, it said.
AFSPA: The report was also critical of special legal regimes used by India in Kashmir, saying accountability for violations committed by troops remains virtually non-existent.
The report says that in nearly three decades that emergency laws have been in force in Jammu and Kashmir, there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government in a civilian court.
It called for the repeal of special powers protecting troops from prosecution.
Hate crimes: The United Nations also flagged a spike in hate crimes against Kashmiris in the rest of India following the February attacks, calling on India to do more to prevent the violence.
India slams report
MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar in New Delhi said the update of the earlier OHCHR report is “merely a continuation of the earlier false and motivated narrative” on the situation in J-K.
Kumar also asserted that the report’s assertions are in violation of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and ignore the core issue of cross-border terrorism.
“A situation created by years of cross-border terrorist attacks emanating from Pakistan has been ‘analysed’ without any reference to its causality,” Kumar said.
“The update seems to be a contrived effort to create an artificial parity between the world’s largest and the most vibrant democracy and a country that openly practices state-sponsored terrorism,” he said.
“We have registered our strong protest regarding the update with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The release of such an update has not only called into question the seriousness of OHCHR but also its alignment with the larger approach of the United Nations,” Kumar said.
Expressing “deep concern” that the report seems to accord a legitimacy to terrorism that is in complete variance with UNSC positions, Kumar said, “the UNSC had, in February 2019, strongly condemned the dastardly Pulwama terror attack and subsequently proscribed Masood Azhar, the self-styled leader of terrorist entity Jaish-e-Mohammed. However, in the update, terrorist leaders and organisations sanctioned by the UN are deliberately underplayed as ‘armed groups’.”
“The legitimisation of terrorism has been further compounded by an unacceptable advocacy of the dismemberment of a UN member state”, the MEA spokesperson said.
India follows the policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism and will take all measures to protect its territorial integrity and sovereignty against cross-border terrorism, Kumar said.
“Motivated attempts to weaken our national resolve will never succeed.”
Asserting that the entire state of J-K is an integral part of India, Kumar said Pakistan is in illegal and forcible occupation of a part of the Indian state, including the so-called “Azad Jammu and Kashmir” and “Gilgit-Baltistan”.
India has repeatedly called on Pakistan to vacate these occupied territories, he said.
The report, by distorting India’s policies, practices and values, has undermined its own credibility, he said.
The report’s failure to recognise an independent judiciary, human rights institutions and other mechanisms in J-K that safeguard, protect and promote constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights to all citizens of India is “unpardonable”, Kumar said.
“Even more so, as it belittles constitutional provisions, statutory procedures and established practices in an established functioning democracy,” Kumar said.
The “prejudiced mindset” of the update has also chosen to willfully ignore the determined and comprehensive socioeconomic developmental efforts undertaken by the Indian government in the face of challenges posed by terrorists, he added.
Pakistan welcomes report
Pakistan Foreign Office, however, welcomed the report, but said there was no comparison between Kashmir and the PoK.
While appreciating the report’s efforts to document the alleged human rights violations in Kashmir, Pakistan reiterated that “there is simply no parallel” between the human rights situation in the Valley and the prevailing environment in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan.
It claimed that unlike Kashmir which is the “most militarised zone in the world”, PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan remain open to foreign visitors.
The Foreign Office said that solution of Kashmir was essential for the security and stability of South Asia and beyond.
(All inputs from Reuters and PTI)