World human rights day and Kashmir

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 The restrictions put on citizens’ movement in Srinagar on December 10—celebrated as human rights day world over—have once again brought forth the fact that human rights mean little in Kashmir. Imposition of curfew, curbing public movement and using force against voices of dissent is the hallmark of International human rights day in Kashmir. In contrast, the day—in the rest of the world—is observed to protect the rights of the people.  That makes Kashmir quite differently exceptional.  It is not going overboard to say that animals have more rights than humans in Kashmir.

Not long ago when independent legislator Engineer Rasheed and his supporters led a march of animals-a mule, dog, goat and a cow with cards slung on their necks; animal rights have more rights than the people in Kashmir, he only but highlight what was evident. Srinagar municipality, a few years back, came up with a plan to restrict the growing dog population—which had grown to disturbing proportions (reportedly 2 lakh), the animal ‘lovers’ all across India made hue and cry against the plan. Many of them including BJP leader Manika Gandhi barged into Srinagar to protect the dogs. One has never heard Manika Gandhi or any other animal lover ever raising voice against the rights violations of humans in Jammu and Kashmir. In the past 27 years thousands of people have been killed, maimed and jailed by government forces. Around 10000 people are reported to have gone missing after their arrest by security forces, and nobody knows their whereabouts. The systematic killings continue unabated but discreet silence is maintained in the name of national interest. In 2008 and 2010 and 2016 around 300 persons, most of them young boys, were killed in disproportionate use of power by the police and CRPF to quell street protest. The brutality played in Kashmir streets was enjoyed like some action film. International human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Asia Watch besides some civil rights individual and groups within India have censured India for its decimal human rights record. The irony is that the violators of these rights have been given legal protection under Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSA). The Act was enforced in mid 90s to crush the armed rebellion launched by Kashmiri youth. We are told day in and day out that the war to restore peace in the state has been won yet the political and security establishment show little willingness to withdraw the Act. 

The concentration and powers of security forces continue to remain the same. The state government plays victim card on the issue of AFSPA and maintains that it is a central law that could be undone by central government only, which in no way is ready to give any concession to the state people on this issue. Legal experts have time and again said that revocation of AFSPA is a state subject.

Central government has little to do with. They say that all the state government needs to do is to withdraw the Disturbed Areas Act, which, in return, would render AFSPA null and void. Senior constitutional expert advocate Zafar Shah has all along been pleading that chief minister and his cabinet has all the powers to revoke DAA, without which AFSPA cannot remain in force. That is what the Tripura government did some years back. Without making noises through media, the Tripura government convened a meeting of his council of ministers and made the announcement regarding revocation of the Act.  It is very sad state of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir that any demand for revocation of AFSPA is seen as ‘anti national’.

Just a feeble mention of the demand gives belly bouts to the whole media, political and security establishments all across the country. On occasions it appears that some sections are deriving sadistic pleasure from the miseries of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and they want to keep them under check for ever.  Jammu and Kashmir is presently one of the most highly militarized regions in the world. The history of military violence—disappearances, shootings, extrajudicial killings, torture, arson, and rape—has touched virtually every home and family in Kashmir.

The total number of those killed, maimed, and otherwise harmed will probably never be known. To date, no one has been held accountable for these atrocities. Personnel responsible for such crimes enjoy impunity under AFSPA.

Soldiers who commit violence against women get away with it by invoking the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

People live in permanent fear worrying every moment for their lives property and honour. The PDP-BJP coalition government owes it to the people of the state to allow them to live a respectable and fear-free life. Since both the parties have agreed in their agenda of governance for phase-wise revocation of the law, it is time for them to act.

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