By Nasreen Jehan (real name withheld on the request of writer)
New Delhi, India: “Kashmiri men, women and children are facing abductions, extra- judicial killings and rapes conducted by para-military forces and also by Indian Army”.
This is stated in the “Annual Review of Human Rights situation in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir (read as Indian Occupied Kashmir) released on Tuesday December 31, 2019 by Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons and Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society Srinagar explains how Kashmiri men, women and children are facing abductions, extra- judicial killings and rapes of Kashmiris by Indian Army.
This report on the situation of human rights in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir (Read as Indian Occupied Kashmir) covers the period from 1 January to 31 December 2019.
Report says that there continued to be no trace of the fate of more than 8000 disappeared persons in Jammu and Kashmir and the families of these victims suffer incessantly as the Government and its institutions could not provide any relief to these families.
Neither any enquiry nor any policy has been introduced to establish truth behind the thousands of victims of enforced disappearance in Jammu and Kashmir.
Note: Read J&K’ and Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir as Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK)
The Report indicates that:
The year 2019 will be remembered as a landmark year in the annals of J&K’s chequered history as the last vestiges of J&K’s limited autonomy were permanently revoked by the Government of India on August 5, 2019. The decision was taken unilaterally without any consultation with the people of Jammu and Kashmir in violation of Article 1.1 of ICCPR, which lays down that, “All peoples have the right of self-determination.
By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” The government of India not only did not consult with people of J&K or their representatives in a decision which they regard as ‘beneficial for the future of J&K’ but threw the entire leadership – both pro-India and pro-resolution political leaders in jail.
The decision was also accompanied by a military siege in which nearly one hundred thousand troops were deployed in the state – especially in Kashmir valley, manning streets, alleys and all major city and town squares. A strict curfew was enforced accompanied with a total communication blockade – in which all mobile phone services, internet services, and postal services were shut.
Reports of allegations of mass arrests, torture, killings, use of excessive force, harassment and intimidation emerged soon after the abrogation of Article 370 which this report documents.
The year witnessed extrajudicial executions of at least 80 civilians in J&K, besides killings of 159 freedom fighters and 129 armed forces. Among 80 civilians killed in 2019, 12 are women.
In 2019, as in the past, children continued to be victims of state violence in J&K as 8 children were killed in various incidents of violence. Besides becoming victims of extra-judicial executions, children also faced illegal and unjust detention, sexual abuse, ill-treatment, including torture, at the hands of armed forces during detention and fear of further reprisals.
The year also saw targeted violence against non-local workers post the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, during which at least 14 non-local workers were killed by unidentified gunmen and several others were injured.
While the government of India has refused to acknowledge any civilian killing, the documented cases of killings by JKCCS and APDP post August-5 at the hands of state forces state otherwise. JKCCS and APDP have been able to document at least six killings at the hands of the Indian armed forces following the abrogation of the Article 370 on August 5.
The use of pellet shotguns, first introduced in Kashmir 2010, continued throughout 2019. The excessive use of force by the Indian armed forces, especially the firing of pellets and teargas shells resulted in at least 6 deaths in 2019. This year 4 people died due to pellet injuries and 3 died due to inhalation of excessive tear and pepper gas.
Continuing with the policy of “operation all out”, that has been going on in Kashmir since 2017, Indian armed forces carried numerous encounters with freedom fighters in different areas leading to killings, severe injuries and destruction of civilian property. A total of 87 encounters took place in Jammu and Kashmir leading to killings of 150 freedom fighters and 29 personnel from Indian armed forces and J&K Police.
In 2019, at least 195 Cordon and Search Operations (CASOs) and Cordon and Search Operations (CADO’s) were conducted in J&K which resulted in the killing of 159 militants (read as Freedom fighters).
The frequent instances of CASOs have led to multiple human rights violations of the civilian population, including harassment, molestation, detention and use of excessive and indiscriminate force.
According to the data compiled by JKCCS and APDP, at least 87 encounters took place between Indian armed forces and the militants (freedom fighters) following CASOs in the year 2019. During CASOs, vandalism and destruction of civilian properties was reported through-out the year.
While the Government of India claimed in Parliament on November 20, that ‘5,161 persons were detained since August 5 out of whom 609 were under detention while rest were released’, – there is no clear statement on how many were booked under PSA. As per data obtained by JKCCS and APDP through J&K High Court Registry, as many as 662 fresh Habeas Corpus petitions (challenging detentions under PSA) were registered in 2019 out of whom the majority (412) were registered post August 5, 2019.
The abrogation of the Article 370 has also lead to the winding up of various Commissions including the Jammu and Kashmir State Information Commission (SIC) and the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and Consumer Commission. This again has led to the closure of the information and justice sought by people which in turn lead to the continual denial of justice to the people.
In the year 2019, the judicial processes have not resulted in adjudication of any human rights violation cases, either leading to prosecution of any perpetrators or ordering of any serious inquiries on the human rights violations. The orders of the Jammu Kashmir High Court have been subservient to the Executive, even in the cases where preventive detention orders were quashed, the police on their own reasoning determined whether the detainee has to be released or re-arrested in another detention order.
In 2019, several restrictions were put in place on the pretext of maintaining law and order and in the name of “national security”. Restrictions on movement and assembly were imposed 9 times this year till July 31, under Section 144 Cr.P.C in different areas of J&K.
In the morning of August 5, a strict curfew was imposed in J&K including in Ladakh. While curfew was lifted from Ladakh and Jammu regions after a few days, it remained in effect in Kashmir and was lifted in a phased manner. But the restrictions under Section 144 continued. Pertinently, the state authorities invoke Section 144 Cr.P.C. to stop people from assembling for press conferences, seminars, book/report releases, etc. Permissions from government (District Magistrates) prior to organising any event are required.
The intention of the legislation of Section 144 Cr.P.C. was to provide “temporary” provisions to ensure the maintenance of public order and safety in urgent and grave circumstances. However, since 1989, Section 144 Cr.P.C. has been permanently in place in Kashmir. The permanent imposition of Section 144 is a clear violation of fundamental rights and manifests how India has imposed permanent state of emergency in J&K.
In 2019, media continued to be at the receiving end of the pressure, intimidation and harassment by the authorities, with several incidents of beating and thrashing of journalists. Besides physical assaults, journalists in 2019 also faced reprisals for filing stories on contentious issues.
Following a precedent set in the previous years, the government trampled people’s right of religious freedom in the disguise of maintaining peace and order.
In 2019, no prayers were allowed in the historic Jamia Masjid for 24 Fridays. The Jamia Masjid was kept under complete lockdown from August 5 to December 18, for 19 consecutive weeks.
During the month of Ramadhan, congregational prayers on two Fridays were not allowed. A centuries old tradition of Khoja Digar, a special prayer held at Naqshband Sahab shrine in old Srinagar City, was disallowed for the first time this year on November 2.
On the occasion of Eid Milad, which is traditionally celebrated in Kashmir by thousands of people observing night long prayers in Hazratbal shrine, only a small gathering of people was allowed as restrictions were put in place to prevent people from reaching to the shrine and assembling in large congregation.
In 2019, the right to access information continues to be severely restricted in J&K as part of the ongoing counter-insurgency measures by the government of India as there were 55 instances of internet blockades recorded in the year 2019.
Prior to the August 5 decision of the Indian government to revoke Kashmir’s autonomy, internet services were blocked a total of 54 times from January 1, 2019 to August 4, 2019. However, on the intervening night of August 4 and 5 –the government enforced the 55th internet shutdown of the year and which to date is the longest running (149 days till 31st December 2019) internet blackout not just in Kashmir but in the entire world.
Serious cases of sexualized torture and gendered violence were reported post August 5. The Independent reported on September 1 a case of torture from Parigam area in Pulwama district in south Kashmir.
Mohammad Yasin Bhat and 11 other men were detained during the cordon and search operation and tortured. They were stripped naked and kept in a queue on the main road. All of them were electrocuted in their genitals.
When the physical torture ended, they were made to lie face down on top of each other, in a pile. Many cases of gender based violence were reported during cordon and search operations and night raids post August 5, some of which have been documented by JKCCS and APDP.
In the first quarter of 2019, at least 18 cases of destruction of civilian properties were reported in Jammu and Kashmir, in the next three months of April, May and June instances of destruction of civilian properties began to be reported less due to unknown reasons.
Due to the restrictions and communication blockade enforced on August 5 by the authorities, the allegations of destruction and vandalism of civilian properties by armed forces during night raids were not reported.
However, while surveying several areas in many districts of Kashmir valley, where it was possible to visit in light of restrictions imposed post August 5, people generally complained of destruction and vandalism of civilian property by forces personnel. JKCCS and APDP has documented several cases of vandalism and destruction of civilian properties at the hands of armed forces.
Kashmiris living in India – be it students, businessmen or professionals, continue to remain prone to all kinds of harassment from state forces, right-wing student groups and from general public. In 2019, at least 43 incidents of attacks on Kashmiris across India were reported throughout India, with 42 of them alone in the first quarter of 2019, in the aftermath of the Pulwama bomb blast in which around 48 Indian soldiers were killed.
In 2019, five political activists, and one relative of an elected Sarpanch, were killed in various incidents of targeted violence in J&K. While two were from Peoples’ Democracy Party (PDP), the rest of the three belonged to BJP, RSS and Congress respectively.
Violence against persons with disabilities continues to be report in J&K. In 2019, there was one reported incident of a mentally challenged person in Kashmir shot at and injured by armed forces. In the data compiled by JKCCS and APDP, in the last sixteen years i.e. from 2003 to 2019 at least eighteen killings of persons with mental disabilities were witnessed in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir.
In the months following the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, several incidents of violence against non-local workers occurred in J&K. In these violent incidents, as many as 14 non-local workers, who were mostly drivers, were killed by unidentified gunmen. Among the 14 killings – 11 were shot dead, two killed in grenade explosions and one person died in cross firing. This was, perhaps for the first time, that in one year over ten non-locals were killed in violence in Kashmir.
The incidents of grenade explosions at public places continued this year. In 2019, in 15 incidents of grenade explosions at public places four civilians were killed while 160 were injured.
Similar to last year, the trend of suicides and fratricides among Indian armed forces stationed in J&K saw an uptick as this year, 19 armed forces committed suicide while 3 CRPF personnel were killed in a fratricidal incident by a CRPF trooper in Udhampur district of Jammu.