The international human rights watchdog Amnesty International, has released a report on the alleged abuses by the armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir calling for the revoking of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and investigations into the human rights violations in the state.
The London based group released the 72-page report on the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the Act in the insurgency-hit Kashmir. The detailed report was on the basis of 58 case studies of alleged excesses by the Indian army in the state and urged the government for a probe by an ‘independent and impartial authority’. According to the report, ‘impunity’ and ‘lack of political will’ was the reason for problems in Kashmir that would only aggravate the ‘violence and alienation, making it more difficult to combat abuses by armed groups”. Amnesty International condemns the Indian government’s response to the reports of human rights violations saying that it ‘failed to deliver justice’ for the victims and their families. Not a single security force personnel accused of rights abuse in the region has been prosecuted in a civilian court since the law was introduced in 1990. The report specified that the lack of accountability therefore led to other serious abuses.
AFSPA gives legal immunity to the army officers who often misuse the law by detaining suspects in custody without trial, and forcefully entering and searching premises and making arrests without a warrant. The army and paramilitary forces can shoot at sight in case of any suspected insurgency and also seize property. The highly controversial law has been for years hurting the sentiments of people in the region. The human rights groups have condemned the law repeatedly demanding its repeal. Despite the requests, the governments in power as well as the army refused to revoke the law arguing that it was required to track down armed militants and suppress insurgencies.
The government, in November 2014, had deported Christine Mehta, a researcher with Amnesty International, for her report on AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir thereby hindering the process. She was hired by Amnesty International to study the abuse of power and human rights in the region and had been carrying out her research for almost three years. According to Mehta, the government agencies have frequently tried to intervene in the research process pressurizing her to edit the report. Mehta’s revelations reiterate the Centre’s stance on the matter. The media as well as the government institutions remained silent signaling a bleak future for Kashmir. The army according to the report had caused the death of 3642 civilians. Not even single security personnel were prosecuted in court. Between 1990 and 2011, 43, 550 people were killed including 5367 army personnel besides the number of civilians disappeared or gone missing. A report by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) revealed that around 8000 people were found missing from Srinagar alone since 1989. In 2011 August, the Kashmir state Human Rights commission found 2730 unidentified bodies from unmarked graves in four different districts of the state.
The policy of the Sena and the politicians in “taking out a thorn with another thorn” also led the radical youth to the abode of terrorism out of their anger and disappointment. Terrorism and sectarianism cannot be curbed by harsh laws and anti-human outlook and Kashmir is a perfect example. The government should be willing to sincerely implement justice and recognize the fundamental rights and needs of the people in the region. The faith of the people is as important as the army’s willpower. It is only when the Kashmiris become a part of us that the anti-terrorist movement triumphs completely. Repealing AFSPA is therefore a good start. An unconstrained and unbiased investigation about the Kasmiris killed or gone missing, could help bring justice to the victims and their families. The Home Minister Rajnath Singh should adopt steps that would improve the security situation in the state rather than abstaining from his duties by issuing ineffectual statements.