India’s gross human rights violations in Indian-held Kashmir (IHK) present a unique example of state terrorism. The purpose of state sponsored terrorism appears to be a massive effort to alter certain basic demographic facts which characterize the long-standing dispute of Kashmir.
Donald J. Hanle in his book Terrorism: The Newest Face of Warfare (1989) defines state terrorism as “a deliberate attempt to create terror through a symbolic act involving the use or threat of abnormal lethal force to influence a target group or individual.” State terrorism is broadly categorized in three forms: (a) through intimidation-where the government tries to anticipate and discharge opposition and dissent, frequently through control of the media and profligate use of police force, (b) as coerced conversion-where the government creates a complete change in a national lifestyle – as in the aftermath of the BJP-led government in India; and (c) via genocide-which is the “deliberate extermination of an entire class or the extermination of an entire ethnic or religious group, for ideological reasons.” The employment of lethal Indian force in IHK for weakening will of Kashmiris to resist, thus, qualifies the threshold of state terrorism.
India’s fabricated claim in Kashmir stands negated. Maharaja’s son revealed in his autobiography about Maharaja’s forced abdication and forced exile and recorded his grievances against the Indian state. Scholars like Alastair Lamb have also questioned the Indian version regarding the signing of a so-called Instrument of Accession in 1947. Like Maharaja’s son, Lamb confirms that the Maharaja was forced to sign dictated document after the Indian troops assumed control of Srinagar on October 27, 1947. So, the government of India conceded before the Security Council in 1948, that the question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir (State) would be settled by “a reference to the people.” The UN Resolutions of August 13, 1948, January 5, 1949, and January 24, 1957, affirmed that final resolution of the Kashmir dispute would be through a plebiscite.
The widely circulated image of the infant sitting on the body of his grandfather slain by Indian soldiers is one illustration of the gross human rights violations being perpetrated by the Indian forces
Despite this, India has pursued its irrational course of state terrorism in Kashmir. Since 1947, it has been adopting measures to change legal and political status of the State. On August 5, 2019, the BJP government finally withdrew the special status of the State conferred under Article 370 of the Indian constitution. By the so-called presidential order, all the privileges earlier available under Article 35-A – the state’s constitution, laws, flag have been eradicated in brazen infringement of the UN resolutions and India’s constitution. The Indian constitution does not allow variations in the territory of a state without the ‘concurrence’ of the ‘elected State Assembly.’ In the absence of that assembly, the president’s order is a scam on democracy and fraud on India’s constitution. It also makes a mockery of the UN resolutions.
To sponsor terrorism in Kashmir, India made repressive laws empowering its security forces to use of force, arrest, and detention without any charge and right to a fair trial. These draconian laws include the J&K Public Safety Act, 1990, the J&K Disturbed Area Act, 1990, and the Armed Forces (J&K) Special Powers Act, 1990. These laws give unfettered powers to police in ‘disturbed areas’ including shoot and kill with complete immunity. It resulted in indiscriminate and unprovoked firing on peaceful and unarmed demonstrators, extra-judicial killings and destruction and torching of property of Kashmiris.
India has also issued a new domicile law (Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization (Adaption of State Laws) Order 2020 and the Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure) Rules 2020 to relax the domicile rules and eligibility criteria for employment in the region. These actions are meant to accommodate military men and their families and non-Muslims into the region to diminish the Muslim majority in the state and to change the Muslim composition of the valley. These attempts are intended to change the electoral arithmetic of the state to ensure a majority in the legislative assembly for the Hindus.
With this background, Forum for Human Rights, comprising of prominent Indian jurists, former diplomats and academicians, highlights humiliations, torture, communication lockdowns, media censorship tools, and mass detentions in Kashmir. Ravaged by a brutal curfew, Kashmir continues to suffocate under unprecedented military presence. Thousands of Kashmiris have been imprisoned, tortured and made to disappear. The freedom of movement, assembly, association, speech and expression, the right to life, information, and religion are severely curtailed. The widely circulated heart-wrenching image of the infant sitting on the dead body of his grandfather slain by Indian soldiers is one illustration of the gross human rights violations being perpetrated by the Indian forces.
Kashmir is on the brink of political and demographic disaster. Indian human rights groups and international human rights organizations such as the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties, the Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported increasing human rights violations and atrocities by the Indian forces. The reports of the OHCHR on Kashmir released on 14 June 2018 and 8 July 2019 further confirm human rights violations in IHK.
In a nutshell, Indian government has unleashed a reign of terror in Kashmir right in front of the international community. It has violated each standard of international human rights law. Kashmir has become a classic case of the human search for freedom and justice. The UN and the international community need to stand for a fundamental principle of self-determination as per the UN resolutions and customary norms of international law. The world must not remain silent spectators to the blatant case of India’s state terrorism. Otherwise, the sanctity of international law will weaken.
The writer is an advocate in the Supreme Court of Pakistan