Written By: Nazia Parveen
India, a country with a population of around 1.324 billion, claims to be the largest democracy in the world. It aspires to become a secular and liberal global superpower and considers itself a ‘shining’ model for undemocratic regimes in its backyard. The situation on ground is otherwise, i.e., the difference between India’s actions and words. Today ethnic cleansing by the Indian Army is at its peak, (from Dalits to Kashmiris, no one is safe from India’s use of force) in different areas including Kashmir. Whenever any journalist tries to point out the brutalities of Indian Army he is labeled as a terrorist like Kamran Yousuf, 24, a local photographer/journalist who is in jail for this ‘crime’ since September 2017.1 Since the Kashmiri people intensified their struggle for their independence, rape has been used as a tool of subjugation by the Indian military; rape of Kashmiri women, men and even children by the Indian forces routinely goes unpunished. Number of reports and surveys have been published on the international level in this regard, which shows the real face of Indian forces. Few of these reports are discussed in the succeeding paragraphs.
A survey conducted by Médecins Sans Frontières2 in the year 2008 says women living in Kashmir are among the worst sufferers of sexual abuse in the world. 11.6 percent of respondents, out of a total 510 individuals/samples included in the study said they had been sexually abused. Survey also concluded that the number of people who had witnessed rape in Indian Occupied Kashmir was far higher than other conflict zones in the world. 13 percent of respondents reported having witnessed incidents of rape since 1989, and 63 percent reported having heard about rape since that year.
Recently an article published in Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) with title “Kashmir’s #MeToo: where both women and men are victims” on February 23, 2018 quoted that 300 men from the Indian Army were deployed to contain militancy in the valley and conduct raids on houses in Jammu & Kashmir’s Kunan village and hamlet Poshpora. There, on February 23, 1991, “as many as 100 girls and women were raped, nearly 100 men were tortured, and countless houses looted. The exact number of the victims has yet to be confirmed definitively…. Nearly three decades later, there has been no justice, and the sexual violence faced by men remains simmering in silence. According to the article Papa II was a notorious army camp, where men were made to strip naked and stand together for hours. Army personnel gave electric shocks to their genitals, while verbally mocking them about their ‘loss of manhood’.3
According to the Human Rights Watch report published in 1993, Indian Army used rape as a tool of retaliation against the civilian population of Indian Occupied Kashmir.4 While in another report by the Human Rights Watch published in 1996, Indian army personnel in Indian Occupied Kashmir used “rape as a counterinsurgency tactic”.5 In other words, rape was used as an essential element of the Indian Army strategy to counter the freedom fighters in the Indian Occupied Kashmir.
Indian Army reportedly raped 882 women in 1992 alone. Humanitarian Law Project/International Educational Development verified more than 200 war rapes in the Valley and Doda district in January 1994 alone.6
Indian leaders seldom practice domestically what they preach internationally. Though committed to parliamentary procedures, Nehru never let go of the British-created colonial state and its well-oiled machinery of repression. As early as 1958, Nehru’s regime introduced the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)–the forerunner of repressive legislation that today sanctions murder, torture and rape by Indian soldiers in the north-east of India as well as Jammu and Kashmir. It was during Nehru’s time in office that the Indian troops and paramilitaries were unleashed on indigenous peoples in India’s northeastern states in the 50s and 60s. It was also Nehru who in 1961 made it a crime to raise questions about the territorial integrity of India, making it punishable with imprisonment. Human rights groups have long documented serious abuses by members of the Indian military, including torture, extrajudicial killings, and enforced disappearances. According to the Amnesty International (July 2015 report), “India has martyred 100,000 people in Jammu & Kashmir. More than 8,000 persons disappeared while in the custody of Indian military & police.”7
Hindu nationalists have banded together in a bid to justify India’s intensified military occupation of the Muslim-majority Kashmir. Indian armed forces continue to commit human rights violations in Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir state, and in the northeastern states that are home to many ethnic minority groups.8 Recently, a number of videos appeared on the media and internet showing the draconian and merciless Indian Army beating youngsters who were bleeding badly. One such example is of the Indian Army Major (Major Gogoi) who tied up a young protestor to his jeep for hours during a patrolling mission in the Valley. Rather than punishing him for this barbaric human rights violation, the Indian Army Chief awarded him with a medal of ‘bravery’. Even Indian media raised this issue as human rights violation, but nothing happened on state level nor was any step taken on national level to address this issue. Every day young Kashmiris disappear, and no one knows where they go, few have their dead bodies mutilated while some never come home. The conflict has so far left more than 100,000 Kashmiris dead at the hands of the Indian Army in the name of counter-terrorism efforts. The question here is how many protestors are there in the valley? Are 700,000 soldiers needed to fight these unarmed protestors? The answer certainly is no. In fact, India has deployed this huge military force to suppress the freedom struggle through sheer use of force.
The innocent Kashmiri civilians are targeted through the use of pellet guns. Those who are fighting for their right of self-determination are being treated as terrorists. Thousands of the Kashmiri youth have lost their sight because of pellet guns used by the Indian Army against them. According to a report by an Indian Paper, The Hindu, “14% of pellet gun victims in Kashmir are below 15.”9 As per the records obtained from Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh’s (SMHS) hospital it was found that since July 2016, at least 1209 persons with pellet injuries in one or both eyes have been treated there. Of these, 77 persons have had both eyes severely damaged while 21 lost sight in one eye. Apart from those blinded, the unselective use of pellet guns has led to 16 fatalities and 7,000 injuries .10
In Indian politics today, minority rights related issues are increasingly taking a central stage, whether in the shape of demands for increased political representation or the calls for providing protection to many religions and cultures in the country.
Minorities in India have lived under continual and ever-present threat from the Hindu majority government in power. The BJP government’s rise to power has only exacerbated the problem as the party represents Hindu Fundamentalists whose aim is to establish ‘Ram Raj’ in the country.
Since India has become independent there have been a number of riots against the Muslim, Sikh and Christian communities. Hindu fundamentalists have strongholds in majority of the areas and they are the largest community in India. By using that power of majority, hundreds of churches and mosques have been demolished by these fundamentalists with the connivance of Indian government.
The story of Indian army brutalities is perpetuating even today. Indian Army has been given free hand in the Valley under AFSPA. India has tried everything in its power to silence Kashmiris’ call for independence–from using force to the appointment of an interlocutor–old strategies to show the world they are taking positive steps to solve the Kashmir issue. However in reality, the sufferings of people in Kashmir are increasing day by day.
Although Pakistan supports the Kashmir movement on every level and has stood by the freedom struggle, now it is time for the international community to stand up for the rights of those human beings who have been suffering for decades for pursuing their fundamental right of ‘freedom’.
However, the current dilemma is the silence of the international community on the killings and suffering of Kashmiri freedom fighters. On one hand despite Pakistan’s efforts to curb terrorism (wherein fighting the war on terror Pakistan has lost thousands of lives), the decision of putting Pakistan’s name on grey list by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is ironic. While on other hand a country run by a prime minister, who stood by in silence (showing connivance) during the Gujarat riots in his tenure as the chief minister, is given a free pass with regards to his inaction on the human rights violation in IOK and ethnic cleansing in India. This dual standard in international politics shows the bitter reality of selfish behavior for furthering and protection of one’s own interests.
The brutalities in Kashmir remain a challenge and a burning question for the collective human conscience. The international community, particularly the West that always champions the aspirations of ‘liberty, freedom and human rights’, can not connive in this crime against humanity. In this age of mass media, no reality can remain hidden, if so, then how should these leaders of the world–particularly the visiting prime ministers and presidents of the European countries including USA–charm India by ‘mocking display of their dancing prowess’ and yoga poses. These double standards are the worst hypocrisy shown by these men and woman of international stature. Indian brutalities against Kashmiris are a ‘crime against humanity’ and the international leadership showing support to Modi’s government is actually abetting his acts of crime and terror. ‘The white man’s burden’ is once again being used to promote the white man’s economic interests in the huge consumer market of India. However, the basic human rights values of Kashmiri peoples shall haunt the collective conscience of those leaders who today are charming Modi’s government under any pretext. Anyone to answer?
1 Desk, E. (2018, February 16). J&K Journalist Arrest: Real Reporter Should Cover Government’s Development Activities, Says NIA. Retrieved from Kashmir Essence: http://kashmiressence.news/jk-journalist-arrest-real-reporter-should-cover-governments-development-activities-says-nia/
2 Deb, S. (2015). Child Safety, Welfare and Well-being: Issues and Challenges. Springer India.
3 Borpujari, P. (2018, February 24). Kashmir’s #MeToo: where both women and men are victims. Retrieved from TRT World: https://www.trtworld.com/opinion/kashmir-s-metoo-where-both-women-and-men-are-victims-15433
4 Impunity, H. R. (1993). The Human Rights Crisis in Kashmir. Human Rights Watch.
5 Watch, H. R. (1996). India's Secret Army in Kashmir. Human Rights Watch.
7 International, A. (2015). India: “Denied”: Failures in Accountability for Human Rights Violations by Security Force Personnel in Jammu and Kashmir. Amnesty International.
8 Mishra, P. (2017, August 11). India at 70, and the Passing of Another Illusion. Retrieved from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/11/opinion/india-70-partition-pankaj-mishra.html?mtrref=www.google.com.pk&assetType=opinion
9 Ashiq, P. (2016, August 22). 14% of pellet gun victims in Kashmir are below 15. Retrieved from The Hindu: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/14-of-pellet-gun-victims-in-Kashmir-are-below-15/article14583549.ece
10 Ahmad, M. (2017, September 14). Losing Sight in Kashmir: Amnesty Report Highlights Trauma of Pellet-Gun Victims. Retrieved from The Wire: https://thewire.in/177431/losing-sight-in-kashmir-amnesty-report-highlights-trauma-of-pellet-gun-victims/