By Fahad Shah
Even though United Nations rapporteur on human rights violations Margaret Sekaggya visited Kashmir on January 19, India has failed to deliver justice to human rights violation victims in the Kashmir valley since the armed rebellion erupted twenty years ago.
The special rapporteur to assess the condition of ‘human rights defenders’ in the Kashmir Valley is appointed by the Geneva based Human Rights Council. She arrived in India on Jan 11 on the invitation of the central government. Margaret will file a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva likely in March.
Margaret is a lawyer from Uganda, was appointed Special Rapporteur in March 2008 by the UN Human Rights Council. Upon the conclusion of her visit to Armenia from 14 to 18 June 2010, she issued the statement based on her findings, “I wish to make the following preliminary recommendations,” her first point was, “Ensure that the right to hold peaceful, open and public demonstrations is freely available to all individuals without undue restrictions.” The question to be debated is would there be same recommendations after her Kashmir visit and would that bring any positive change in the Kashmir conflict?
The separatist leader, Syed Ali Geelani have many hopes from the United Nations as he said that if the UN rapporteur is serious, she should visit the jails and families of the victims of “Indian state terrorism”. “It is not only the human rights defenders but every section of the society in Kashmir including children and aged, have suffered at the hands of troopers and police.” It has to be seen will the rapporteur be successful enough to disseminate the message of human rights violations from Valley.
It would have been remarkable for Indian human rights organisations both independent and official to locally give some respite to the victims. Justice delayed is justice denied. Most of the human rights violation cases in Kashmir region are either not brought to justice or are unknown to world. In the recent shocking leaks of whistle blowing website Wikileaks, a U.S. diplomatic cable written five years ago concluded that the government of India condoned torture of suspects held in detention centres in Jammu and Kashmir. It described a confidential briefing from a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross. In interviews with nearly 1,500 detainees over a three-year period, it had received reports that included sexual abuse, stretching and the use of water and electricity.
“In 852 cases, detainees reported what ICRC refers to as “IT” (ill-treatment): 171 persons were beaten, the remaining 681 subjected to one or more of six forms of torture: electricity (498), suspension from ceiling (381), roller (a round metal object put on the thighs of sitting person, which prison personnel then sit on, crushing muscles — 294); stretching (legs split 180 degrees — 181), water (various forms — 234), or sexual (302),” cables revealed.
While the region was going through graveyard calm since the summer protests faded, the Indian government has decided to reduce the number of central forces in Kashmir. It was communicated by the Home Secretary of India, GK Pillai saying that 25% of troops will be pulled out from populated areas in the next 12 months as a confidence building measure as soon as possible depending on the ground situation. Even though Indian Army chief, General V K Singh has opposed the central government move. He said, “We have not yet felt that we have to cut down our forces. If they want to cut down paramilitary and police forces, I won’t say anything.”
According to estimates more than half a million Indian troops are present in the region fighting a two decade rebellion against Indian rule. While from the other side of Line of Control (LoC), the United Jehad Council (UJC), an amalgam of nearly 12 militant groups has decided to lend a positive response if the Indian government comes up with a sincere offer for talks for a resolution of the Kashmir issue. This may reserve some peace for the Valley in coming times but the separatist groups mostly from Syed Ali Geelani camp are showing some brewing protest responses.
Adding to the grave human rights violations last year during the summer protests in which 113 people got killed at the hands of Indian forces, a three minute video clip triggered an outrage against the forces. The clip allegedly showed some young Kashmiri boys being paraded naked by the paramilitary forces and local police in some village of North Kashmir. The clip titled ‘Indian Army repeating Abu Ghraib in Kashmir’ was uploaded by a user on the intervening night of September 6-7 on a social networking site. Though, paramilitary forces denied any such actions. “There is not even one percent truth in the video. It has been manipulated to malign the image of our men. I categorically deny its contents,” Prabhakar Tripathi, spokesman of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), a paramilitary force stationed in valley, told journalists. In the clip, authenticity of which is yet to be established, security forces are hurling choicest abuses at the youth being paraded. The stripped youth are also forced to raise their hands leaving their private parts uncovered.
So far no one has been prosecuted here for such crimes. Even Amon Leopold Göth, the commandant in Hitler’s Army was hanged in public for parading Jews naked in a concentration camp in Poland. Torture centres in Kashmir like SOG Cargo building, Papa 2, and Hari-Niwas have been always shadowed and hardly any woe tale comes to world. India always rejects any such claims of torturing detainees in Kashmir but the suffered people are still in poignant past. India has never been able to give space to any special justice courts here. No courts for ten thousand disappeared persons. No justice for custodial killings. No trials in rape cases. Kashmir is keenly looking forward to the world community for justice.
Also published in: Counter Currents