Chapter 8: Human Rights in Jammu and
offensive against India has been conducted on two fronts ... sponsoring
terrorism in India and conducting a worldwide propaganda campaign. In the
context of Jammu and Kashmir, the propaganda disseminated by Pakistan has
concentrated on alleged violations of the Human Rights of the Kashmiris
by the Indian Government and its security forces.
The first and foremost Human Right is the right
to life, And it is the bounden duty of any State to take necessary action
to safeguard the life, property and dignity of its people. In the context
of Kashmir it is essential to examine who is responsible for the creation
of an environment where human rights can be violated. After all the Indian
security forces have been present in the State of Jammu and Kashmir since
1947 and never was any hint of any human rights violations of the people
voiced. On the contrary the presence of the Indian security forces state
has been a source of assurance to the people of a state that has been subjected
to repeated aggression by Pakistan. The people of Jammu and Kashmir, including
those of the Valley refused to be duped by Pakistan's blandishments in
the three wars with Pakistan- eloquent testimony to the people's faith
in the Indian security forces and the Indian polity.
What then is the new element that has been introduced
that has triggered off the whole debate on the question of Human Rights
in Jammu and Kashmir? The answer has been given by International Human
Rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Asia Watch who have
had to acknowledge the pervasive presence of terrorism in the Valley and
have documented the depredations of the terrorists.
The Vienna Declaration passed at the end of the
World Human Rights Conference in 1993, the resolution adopted by the Third
Committee of the UN General Assembly also in 1993, the Resolution 1993/48
adopted by the Commission on Human Rights, all stress the need for the
international community to combat terrorism and condemn terrorist activities
as a gross violation of Human Rights.
The real question that needs addressing is the
continuous assault on democratic institutions perpetrated by the armed
terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir acting at the behest of Pakistan.
Terrorists in training.
In his book "Future of political violence" General
Richard Clutterbuck states
".. The ultimate civil right, however, is
the right to live. A violent minority, whatever its politics, has no right
to kill, and no claim to such a right must ever be allowed to override
the right of the majority to live in peace.. ". It is precisely this
right that the a violent minority has arrogated to itself in the State
of Jammu and Kashmir.
The pillars of a free democratic society are
the judiciary, the press and free political activity.
Terrorists in training.
The Indian press has been lauded internationally
for its freedom. Freedom of expression is a norm in Indian society, jealously
guarded by the representatives of the Fourth estate. In fact Amnesty itself
has acknowledged that a great deal of its information has been culled from
the Indian media. But muzzling and manipulating the press has been a regular
practice followed by the terrorists in the Valley. Prominent media personalities
have been killed. Details of the repression of the media by the terrorists
are given in a separate chapter.
An independent judiciary has been one of the hallmarks
of Indian democracy. It has been a champion of Human Rights. At the height
of the forcible armed occupation of the Hazratbal Shrine by armed militants
in late 1993, it was the Indian Supreme Court that ordered the Government
to provide sustenance to the people inside the shrine. The independence
of the Indian judiciary has been lauded world wide ... and it is the representatives
of this institution who have been targeted by the terrorists.
There has been targeted killing of political leaders
and workers, including former legislators of the State. Three top political
leaders, Maulvi Mohd. Farooq, Chairman of the Awami Action Committee, (May
21, 1990), Abdul Jabbar, a former Minister (April 18, 1990) and Maulana Masoodi, State level National Conference leader (December 1990) were gunned
down by terrorists. Many former legislators of the Congress and the National
Conference have fallen victims to militants' bullets. Prominent citizens
and opinion makers have been selectively eliminated to prevent any scope
for dissent against the activities of the terrorists.
The minority community of Hindus has been selectively
targeted leading to an exodus from the Valley.
Refugee camp for Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu.
Countless civilians, including Muslims, have been
raped tortured and killed for being " informers" or for refusing to join
the ranks of the militants or to assist them. The oppression of civilians
by the terrorists has heightened as disenchantment with the latter's activities
A sustained effort has been made by the terrorists
to change the very tolerant character of Islam practiced for centuries
in the Valley. The Islam being introduced by the terrorists throws acid
on women who do not wear the "burqa", an all encompassing robe. 400 schools
have been destroyed and education disrupted so that children are "freed"
from the mainstream and turned into rabid fundamentalists, particularly
by the pro-Pakistan groups like the Hezb-ul-Mujaheddin.
Foreign mercenaries in Kashmir.
As disenchantment with militancy grows in the
Valley and on occasion the people of the Valley have voiced their opposition
to acts of terrorism, Pakistan has begun to send in armed foreign mercenaries
to re-inforce the "Jehad".
Humanitarian institutions such as hospitals in
the Valley have been subjected to intimidation with doctors being threatened;
hospital premises being used to hide weapons; doctors and nurses being
kidnapped and killed in order to compel obedience to the terrorists' diktats.
The situation has forced many reputable medical practitioners to leave
the Valley and to seek employment elsewhere.
SUBVERSION OF DEMOCRACY
An assessment of the Human Rights situation in
the State of Jammu and Kashmir must take the involvement of Pakistan in
providing sanctuary, arms and training and finance to terrorists to operate
in Indian territory as its starting point since, having created a situation
of armed terrorism and subversion of the democratic polity, Pakistan now
seeks to exploit the resulting situation by raising the bogey of Human
Lord Howe speaking in the British House of Lords
on the question of human rights observed "... the important question of
human rights ... is an inevitable and legitimate question for societies
such as our own that are struggling with the uneven balance between, on
the one hand, the forces and agencies of Government charged with the uncomfortable
duty of upholding the rule of law- all of whose decisions are open to challenge,
open to appeal, open to debate . . . and on the other hand terrorists who
are subject to no such constraints; they act as self appointed prosecutors,
self appointed judges, self appointed jury and self appointed executioners.."
Democracy, with its concomitant principles of
freedom of expression and faith is the surest protector of human rights.
Dwelling on human rights, when the very institutions which can guarantee
human rights are the target of terrorism spawned and supported from across
a State's borders, is self destructive. It diverts attention from what
should be the primary focus - the preservation of the human rights of
all citizens, not only a gun wielding minority.
The Government of India is extremely conscious
of the need to protect the human rights of all its citizens.
When India became free in August 1947 it gave
itself a representative Government, chosen on the basis of adult suffrage.
Its Constitution drew inspiration from the French and American Constitutions
while retaining the best of British Conventions which ensure the rights
to Freedom and Liberty. It inherited a judicial system from the British,
which is based on natural justice and the principles of jurisprudence.
India, has been in the forefront of the struggle
against colonialism and apartheid. It is a signatory to the Universal Declaration
on Human Rights, and has acceded to the two International Covenants on
Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
in 1979. In fact the Indian constitution guarantees almost the entire gamut
of Civil and Political Rights, and the Directive Principles of State Policy,
which form a part of the Constitution, require the Government to promote
social and economic rights.
Strange then that India should come under criticism
for alleged violations of Human Rights.
No one disputes the fact that at times, faced
with the violence perpetrated by the terrorists, some violations have been
caused by the security forces also. The question arises have the excesses
been condoned? What are the safety valves? The institutions of democracy
- the legislature, the judiciary and the press - have played a vital role,
in putting a break on the executive and ensuring the Human Rights are not
violated with impunity. The Parliament of India and the State Legislatures
keep the Executive under close scrutiny. India has an independent Judiciary
and a free Press. Alleged excesses have been exposed in the Press, and
taken up by the Legislatures and in some cases followed up suo-moto by
the Judiciary. In the recent past, the country has also seen the emergence
of many non-Government organizations, which have taken up the cause of
Human Rights. And more importantly a National Human Right Commission was
set up recently.
The Indian Security Forces have had to fight the
terrorists, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, under very difficult conditions
with grave danger to their lives. Whenever they are under pressure, the
terrorists resort to a deliberate disinformation campaign making all types
of wild allegations against the Security Forces, to demoralize them and
deflect the thrust of their operations.
One of the allegations leveled against India is
that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Terrorists and Disruptive
Activities (Prevention) Act confers immunity on the Security Forces for
"anything done or purported to be done" under the Act. Such conclusions
are grossly irrational. The special powers conferred on the members of
the Armed Forces do not keep them out of the purview of the law of the
land. They are accountable for their actions.
All allegations against the security forces are
investigated fully and pursued vigorously. Most of the allegations made
against the Security Forces have been found to be inaccurate, highly exaggerated
and fallacious. Punitive action has been taken whenever proved to be true.
Despite the fact that over 700 security force personnel have lost their
lives in encounters, grenade attacks and mine explosions, action has been
taken against 174 personnel of the Security Forces. The punishment ranged
from imprisonment upto 10 years, dismissal from service, suspension and
forfeiture of seniority.
Because of orchestrated propaganda, an impression
has gained currency that the Government of India is not seriously concerned
about the violation of Human Rights. This is not true, and the impression
needs to be dispelled. A National Human Rights Commission was established
through an ordinance, and later confirmed by an Act of Parliament in 1993.
The Human Rights Bill provides for the setting up of Human Rights Commission
at State levels too.
The National Human Rights Commission has come
into being with a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India as
its Chairman. The Commission has also taken cognizance of the recent events
in the Valley, and has invited information about the violent incidents
in such sensitive spots like Bijbehara.
Allegations of Human Rights violations have been
leveled against India by Pakistan to gain international support in its
proxy war against India. The method followed is simple. Whenever they are
under pressure, the terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir resort to a deliberate
disinformation campaign, making all types of wild allegations against the
Security Forces. Besides the threats of killing, extortion and kidnapping,
the terrorists often browbeat the ordinary citizens, into making bizarre
allegations. Based on the stories inspired by the terrorists and also on
a few occasions when Security Forces may have overstepped their limits
many Human Rights organizations have published exaggerated reports of alleged
excesses. The reports published in the local Press in the Valley under
threat of militants are fed to agencies across the border who use it in
their anti-India campaign. They are also used by international Human Rights
In Kashmir alone action has been taken against
174 officers and men of the Security Forces. They include imprisonment
upto 10 years for 67 members of the Security Forces, (ii) dismissals, removal
from service, or compulsory retirement for 16 personnel (iii) reduction
in rank or loss of seniority for 7, (iv) other departmental penalties for
44 personnel and (v) suspensions and arrests pending enquiry for 36 personnel.
But while the institutions of Indian democracy
make the government apparatus answerable for human rights violations, is
there any similar mechanism for controlling the terrorists? Debating the
human rights issue without answering this pertinent question will remain
a futile exercise devoid of any relevance to the conditions in Jammu and