Sheema Zehra : The world is observing Human rights day today and the theme is Covid-19 but to Kashmir the theme has remained the same since the last 70+ years. Seems Covid isn’t any bigger problem to Kashmir with comparison to what Kashmir has witnessed in the past seven decades.
Are people in Kashmir safe?
According to JKCCS, 1,081 civilians have been killed by security forces in extrajudicial killings between 2008 and 2018. In 2018, 160 civilians were reportedly killed and 71 were allegedly killed by Indian security forces.
43 people were killed by armed group members or unidentified gunmen while 29 were killed by shelling and firing in areas along the Line of Control.
According to a UNSC report, in the first 3 months of 2019, 21 civilians were reportedly killed by various perpetrators including armed groups, unknown gunmen, Indian security forces and cross-border shelling by Pakistani security forces along the Line of Control.
According to data collected by rights group Association of Parents of Disappeared People (APDP), 8,000-10,000 civilians have been subjected to enforced disappearances in Kashmir. Hundreds of families have no idea whether the lost one is dead or alive.
PSA (public safety act) and UAPA (Unlawful activities prevention act) have evolved as important tools to suppress the rights of people in Kashmir and perform arbitrary and unlawful detention for up to two years without any charge or trial. At least 4,000 people were arrested and held under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
Police in Indian Kashmir have detained 144 children, including a nine-year-old, since early August, according to a report by Reuters.
Freedom in Kashmir
The detention of Political leaders and the president of the bar association in Kashmir reveal the freedom Kashmir is getting politically. Then, the abrogation of Article 35a and 370 without proper procedure and without any word from leaders of Kashmir has proven to be a disaster to the freedom in Kashmir. As per the World Freedom Report 2020 Indian Kashmir score drop is hugely seen from 49 to 28 this year. The report has moved the status of Kashmir from “Partly Free” to “Not Free”.
Jammu and Kashmir continues to face frequent internet blockades. In the first four months of 2019, Jammu and Kashmir experienced 25 instances of internet shutdown and then after August internet and other means of communication was completely shut down for 5 months. For the last 11 months no proper internet is available in Kashmir and people continue to survive on 2g internet.
To control the conflict in Kashmir and to diminish the daily rights of people in Kashmir different measures have been taken over the past years.
Let’s talk Tear Gases!
Tear gas is said to be a less lethal weapon but can be problematic if inadequately. It can also be harmful to children, pregnant women and elderly.
Is tear gas used systematically?
To avoid any problems mentioned above Amnesty International has given some guidelines to the use of tear gas:
“Tear gas may only be used in situations of more generalized violence for the purpose of dispersing a crowd, and only when all other means have failed to contain the violence.”
“It may only be used when people have the opportunity to disperse and not when they are in a confined space or where roads or other routes of escape are blocked.”
“People must be warned that these means will be used, and they must be allowed to disperse.”
“Cartridges with chemical irritants may never be fired directly at any person. If used, repeated or prolonged exposure should be avoided and decontamination procedures should be followed immediately.”
Are any of those guidelines followed?
Amnesty International has verified close to 500 videos of tear gas misuse in 22 countries and territories and one of those is Kashmir. Tear gas was used on students who were protesting peacefully, at funerals and without any warnings.
Pellet Guns! How is a pellet gun used?
According to Amnesty, in seven months after the killing of Burhan Wani in July 2016 over 6,000 people were injured by pellet guns, including 782 who suffered eye injuries.
1,253 people have been blinded by the metal pellets used by security forces from mid-2016 to the end of 2018 according to data collected from Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (where most pellet injuries are treated).
Since 2010, pellet guns have reportedly killed 14 people in Kashmir, according to Amnesty International.
CASO and AFSPA. Know a bit of them too.
Is CASO helping the people in Kashmir?
CASO (Cordon and search operation) was introduced in Kashmir in 1990’s but was reintroduced in 2017 as a military strategy to keep the security in check. But are Kashmiris secured by it?
Due to the Cordon and search operations a range of human rights violations including physical assault, invasion of privacy, collective punishment and destruction of private property have been witnessed in the valley.
More than 50 homes have been destroyed or ruthlessly damaged over the past year, as many as 22 were damaged on May 19 when cordon and search operation (CASO) was launched in Nawakadal, Srinagar. 5 days to Eid Ul Fitr and two militants along with three civilians were killed in the operation leaving nothing but smoke and tears.
According to a report in India Spent, between 2015 and early 2018, 105 houses were destroyed only in the Pulwama district, to the south of Srinagar. With these houses are destroyed years of perpetual memories of home, of joy, of laughter and of peace.
The powerful AFSPA
AFSPA (Armed Force Special Power Act) established in 1990’s gives absolute power to the arm forces to establish their control over the masses in Kashmir without being questioned or prosecuted. There has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government since the law was enforced in J&K nearly three decades ago.
No security forces personnel accused of torture or other forms of degrading and inhuman treatment have been prosecuted in a civilian court, according to national and international human rights organizations.