UN report on alleged human rights violations in Kashmir is tilted heavily in Pakistan's favour, ignores need for army action

After the United Nations on Thursday released a report on the state of human rights in Kashmir, the Government of India was quick to reject it. The Opposition, too, unanimously condemned it.

The problems with the report begin right from its title — 'Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir: Developments in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018, and General Human Rights Concerns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan'.

File image of Narendra Modi at the UN. AFP

File image of Narendra Modi at the UN. AFP

With this title, the UN has indicated its support for the Pakistani side. This is for the simple reason that India does not recognise 'Azad Kashmir' — the Pakistani version of what India calls Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Even etymologically, this phrase makes little sense because 'Azad Kashmir' would mean a free portion of Kashmir, which it is not. The area is under the control of Pakistan, and Kashmiris who live there are regularly abused by the military and deprived of their basic human rights. The report also recognises the constitutional impediments in the governance structure of the Pakistani state, which rob residents of the so-called Azad Kashmir of their basic rights.

The motivations behind publishing the report can be contextualised by the fact that it dedicates 33 pages on alleged human rights violations by India and a mere seven on the same by Pakistan. Ironically, the report is heavily critical of India, while recognising that the authors could not completely assess the situation in the Pakistani side because of restrictions imposed by its government.

Interestingly, the UN report calls terrorists organisations 'armed groups' and its terrorists 'leaders'.

Extreme criticism of India and the need for AFSPA

The report lays huge focus on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and subsequent human rights violations by security forces with the application of this law. As is often the case, the law is criticised instead of the support for separatism in Kashmir, and the UN report was no different.

It must be emphasised is that this law is a dire necessity for the Indian Army to operate inside the geographical and legal limits of the Indian state. The armed forces are typically trained to serve in wars, and hence, their primary training is to kill. In this context, the army is different from the police and administration and needs legal backing to operate within the country.

Kashmir has been often called the 'most dangerous place in the world'. Let it be made clear that it was Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, not the work of the Indian armed forces, that brought the region this tag. The Indian Army was deployed in Kashmir to counter the insurgency unleashed by Pakistan's rogue intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Militancy preceded the deployment of the Army in Kashmir with the implementation of AFSPA.

Militant action in Kashmir orchestrated by ISI

Merely a day after the UN report was released, two incidents proved its infantile nature. First was the killing of the journalist Shujaat Bukhari and the second was the abduction and subsequent killing of Indian Army soldier, Aurangzeb. There is little doubt that Aurangzeb's murder was the handiwork of ISI-backed militants to avenge the killing of militant Sameer Tiger. The Hizbul Mujahideen — believed to be behind the atrocity — also released a video of his torture. Bukhari was killed along the lines of the murders of Mirwaiz Molvi Farooq and Abdul Ghani Lone. It is an open secret now that the ISI had orchestrated their murders.

Such is the atmosphere Pakistan has created  that Indian forces are expected to tackle. It was always a covert but full-fledged war, and never merely insurgency, in Kashmir, and it would be highly unfair to demand that the armed forces function without AFSPA.

Moreover, the Supreme Court has neither read down nor struck down the law, which it examines routinely on the touchstone of the Constitution. Therefore, a UN report is not something that should be used as an instrument to patronise India.

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Updated Date: Jun 18, 2018 09:13:03 IST

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