DESPARDES — A second report by the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Kashmir, has highlighted an increase in human rights violations in Indian-occupied Kashmir, a year after it first called for investigations on the “grave situation”.
The second report, which covers the period May 2018 thru April 2019, was released on Monday, incidentally on the third death anniversary of Kashmiri youth leader Burhan Wani who was killed in a staged encounter by Indian security forces in the occupied valley– normal life came to a standstill in Kashmir today due to a shutdown call by local leaders.
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The 43-page update reveals that not much has changed over the year: around 160 civilians were killed in 2018, which is believed to be the highest number in over one decade. Last year also registered the highest number of conflict-related casualties since 2008, the update noted.
The first such report (released in 2017/2018) had urged the Human Rights Council to consider the findings of the report, including the possible establishment of an international commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.
The second report released today said a majority of the civilian killings recorded in 2018 were due to excessive use of force by Indian security forces against civilians. This is similar to the pattern found by OHCHR from July 2016 to March 2018.
It mentioned Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) findings that 1,081 civilians have been killed by security forces in extrajudicial killings between 2008 and 2018.
According to the 43-pages report, Indian security forces continue to use pellet-firing shotguns in the Kashmir Valley as a crowd-control weapon despite concerns as to excessive use of force and the large number of incidental civilian deaths and injuries that have resulted.
The 12-gauge pump-action shotgun firing metal pellets is one of the most dangerous weapons used in Kashmir, it said.
At Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, where most pellet shotgun injured are treated, 1,253 people have been blinded by the metal pellets used by security forces from mid-2016 to the end of 2018.
The so-called “cordon and search operations”, a much-criticized military strategy employed by the Indian security forces in the early 1990s, was reintroduced in the occupied Valley in 2017. According to national and international human rights organizations, cordon and search operations enable a range of human rights violations, including physical intimidation and assault, invasion of privacy, arbitrary and unlawful detention, collective punishment and destruction of private property
There is also no information about any new investigation into excessive use of force leading to casualties. There is no information on the status of the five investigations launched into extrajudicial executions in 2016. The Indian-administered Kashmir did not establish any investigations into civilian killings in 2017, the report said. “No prosecutions have been reported. It does not appear that Indian security forces have been asked to re-evaluate or change their crowd control techniques or rules of engagement”.
Authorities in Indian-Administered Kashmir continue to use various forms of arbitrary detention to target protesters, political dissidents and other civil society actors, it said.
The occupied Kashmir valley “continues to face frequent barriers to internet access as the authorities continue to suspend arbitrarily internet services.”
Last year, OHCHR had released its first-ever report on Kashmir, documenting wrongdoing and urging action to reduce long-standing tensions in the Himalayan region considered the most militarized zone in the world and nuclear flashpoint between warring India and its western neighbor Pakistan.
According to the UN, India requested the report not be published and dismissed the findings as “fallacious, tendentious and [politically] motivated” — similar wording to New Delhi’s rejection of the 2018 report. Pakistan again “welcomed the report”, the rights office said.
Commenting on the report, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson said, “The only solution to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute is to grant the people of IoK the legitimate right to self-determination as recognized by the numerous United Nations Security Council Resolutions, which is essential for the security and stability of South Asia and beyond.”
The FO also cautioned against equating human rights violations in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) with environment in Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).