Rights activists take Kashmir killings to the UN

Srinagar, August 9, 2010 — The International People’s Tribunal On Human Rights And Justice In Indian-Administered Kashmir (IPTK) filed a complaint letter with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and submitted a 16-page dossier to Dr. Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, requesting an investigation into the killings of civilians in June-August 2010 in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The allegation documents a list of 51 civilians who were reportedly killed by military, paramilitary, and police forces in Kashmir between June 11 and August 8 of 2010.

The Special Rapporteur is expected to address the allegation to the Government of India, typically requesting a response within 60 days. We request that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights hold the Government of India accountable, investigate the conditions of repression in Kashmir, and ask that a minimum agenda for conflict resolution be followed.

The general context of the humanitarian crisis is described on Pages 1-6. The allegations pertaining to the specific killings are on Pages 7-16.

Whose Law and Whose Order?

Civilian killings by police, paramilitary, and military: Between June 11-30, 2010: 13 deaths: All Muslim boys and men Between of July 1-31, 2010: 13 deaths: 12 Muslim boys and men, 1 Muslim woman Between August 1-8, 2010: 25 deaths: 23 Muslim boys and men, 2 Muslim women Total civilian death count: Between June 11-August 8, 2010 = 51

Widespread peaceable protests across Indian-administered Kashmir dissenting the suppression of civil society by Indian forces have been continuously brutalized by the police, military, and paramilitary without provocation. Indian forces have acted with the knowledge and sanction of the Government of India and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, using human rights violations to maintain military governance. In numerous instances, the repeated repression by state forces provoked civilians to engage in stone pelting and to be in non-compliance with unremitting curfews. In certain instances civilians engaged in acts of violence, including arson. There have been no reports of deaths of military, paramilitary, and police personnel resulting from violent acts by civilians.

Each instance of civilian violence documented was provoked by the first and unmitigated use of force on civilians and/or persistent extrajudicial killings on the part of Indian forces. The cases recorded by IPTK are often interconnected — individuals protesting the actions of Indian forces, caught in the midst of the unrest, or mourning the death of a civilian killed, without provocation, by Indian forces, were fired upon, leading to other killings by Indian forces, more civilian protests, greater use of force by the police and paramilitary, use of torture in certain instances by Indian forces, more killings by Indian forces, larger, even violent, civilian protests, and further state repression. They tell a story of the web of continued violence in which civil society in Kashmir is confined.

In the deaths documented by IPTK, family and community members were largely unable to lodge First Information Reports (FIRs) due to unrest in their locality, or their requests to record FIRs were denied by the police. In most instances where FIRs have been lodged, the police have recorded them without consulting relevant stakeholders. At times, personnel from police stations whose officers were perpetrators of the crime, or personnel from neighbouring police stations, recorded the FIRs. Indian forces have threatened eyewitnesses. Civil society activists and media persons were denied access to localities in which the killing(s) took place.

Massive numbers of civilians have been injured in Summer 2010 by the Indian military, paramilitary, and police in Kashmir. Recent acts of stone pelting, and incidents in which civilians damaged state property and engaged in arson, have also caused injury to paramilitary and police personnel. Accurate, independently derived figures are not available. We note that stone pelting, and selective incidents of arson and violence are not causal to the violence that is prevalent in Kashmir today.

Along with civilians, Kashmiri journalists have been targeted by Indian forces. Arrests have been made on uncorroborated suspicion, as evidenced by the cases of Advocate Qayoom, Advocate Shaheen, and Muhamad Fazili. Police have engaged in extortion and demanded bribes from those in custody and those seeking to free the imprisoned.

Between January 1 and August 8, 2010, reportedly 84 civilians have been killed (66 were killed by Indian forces, including military, paramilitary, and police), 120 persons identified as militants have been killed, and 66 Indian forces personnel have been killed (34 were killed by militants, 16 committed suicide, 2 died in fratricidal killings, 8 died in grenade/mine explosions, and 6 were killed by unidentified gunmen). Fake encounter killings are utilized to enhance the supposition of cross-border terrorism. Cross-Line of Control infiltrations and insurgency into Kashmir are real and significant issues, even as the Indian state exaggerates these realities to escalate militarization.

During the humanitarian crisis that has subsumed the Kashmir Valley in Summer 2010, civil disobedience paralleled that of 1989 as well as 2008. State institutions, certain human rights organizations, and dominant media have asserted that civil society protests are being orchestrated by political interest groups in and outside Kashmir, with the objective of endorsing violence. Such contention refuses to recognize the inequitable historical-political power relations at play between the states of India and Pakistan and the Kashmiri peoples, and distorts the conditions that have provoked civilian youth to throw stones and selectively use arson and attack this summer.

Minimum Agenda for Conflict Resolution

The conditions for nonviolent civilian dissent are being eroded by the Indian state. The approach of the Indian state has been, and continues to be, neo-imperial and aggressively militaristic. The Government of India assumes that the people of Kashmir should respond with nonviolence to the violent methods of the state. More troops were recently moved into Kashmir, even as there were reported shortages of blood, groceries, and cash.

The recent protests in Kashmir evidence dissent to the present events and the confinement of civil society by Indian military and paramilitary forces since 1989, and the suppression of local demands for the right to self-determination since 1946. The Indian state has reiterated to the people of Kashmir that violence cannot lead to a resolution. The Government of India must recognize that its own violence is the primary deterrent to peace and justice in Kashmir.

As a body comprised of human rights defenders, IPTK is committed to peaceable methods of conflict resolution. In order to ensure interim conditions that are facilitative of nonviolent conflict resolution, and enable ethical civil society participation, we urge that the Government of India, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, and the military, paramilitary, and police be held accountable to a minimum agenda in Indian-administered Kashmir inclusive of the following:

  1. Immediate halt to, and moratorium on, extrajudicial killings, and the use of torture, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, and gendered violence by the Indian military, paramilitary, and police.
  2. Agreement to non-interference in the exercise of civil liberties of Kashmiris, including the right to civil disobedience, and freedom of speech, movement, and travel.
  3. Proactive demilitarization and the immediate revocation of authoritarian laws.
  4. Release of political prisoners.
  5. Detention and torture centres, including in army camps, be identified, made public, and dismantled.
  6. Instatement of a Truth and Justice Commission for political and psychosocial reparation, permitting spaces for acknowledging the culture of grief and the staggering corporeal and spiritual fatalities of the past two decades, to imagine and energize local and civil society initiatives in order to heal, and imagine a different future.
  7. Support of cultural, economic, and peace initiatives by disenfranchised groups, including half-widows, families of the disappeared, minority communities, and former militants.
  8. International and transparent investigations into torture, disappearances, gendered violence, unlawful deaths, and unknown and mass graves constitutive of crimes against humanity committed by the Indian military, paramilitary, and police.
  9. Open and transparent dialogue toward conflict resolution between Kashmir, India, and Pakistan, inclusive of Kashmiri civil society and leadership as primary stakeholders.

This post contains the text of a press release issued by:

Dr. Angana Chatterji (video of her recent testimony on human rights abuses in Kashmir)
Convener IPTK and Professor of Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies

Advocate Parvez Imroz
Convener IPTK and Founder, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society

Gautam Navlakha (video of Navlakha and Arundhati Roy at a forum in Mumbai, June 2010)
Convener IPTK and Editorial Consultant, Economic and Political Weekly

Convener IPTK and Vice-President, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society

Advocate Mihir Desai
Legal Counsel IPTK and Lawyer, Mumbai High Court and Supreme Court of India

Khurram Parvez
Liaison IPTK and Programme Coordinator, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society