India’s failed Kashmir policy

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On July 14 of this year the United Nations Human Rights Office published a 49-page comprehensive report on the “Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir”, with a focus on developments in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. The report asserted that “impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice are key human rights challenges in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir”. It called for the “respect of the right of self-determination” of the people of Kashmir and pushed for inquiries into the vast allegations of abuse.

The Indian state moved quickly to dismiss the report as purely “fallacious, tendentious and motivated”. India questioned the “intent” of the report itself and accused the UN human rights chief of harboring “prejudice” against the Indian government. Several notable Indian journalists and commentators took to prominent Indian media channels vociferously denying any and all human rights violation charges and dismissing the UN report as “air-fairy”.

According to the UN press release, however the report contains 388 footnotes that list the sources used in its compilation.

In terms of precedent on the part of the Indian government, this steadfast denial is certainly a dangerous choice in policy.

Images of Farooq Ahmad Dar tied to the hood of a military jeep and paraded as a human shield are still fresh and impossible to deny. Astonishingly, again this year there were more reports from locals in the Samboora Village of Pulwama district of South Kashmir who claimed a group of civilians were taken as human shields by the Indian government forces during an ongoing Cordon and Search Operation. Consistent denial of such reports only emboldens perpetrators to act again, perhaps in worse and more horrific ways.

Rather than accepting responsibility and using revelations and evidence under the UN report to push the Indian government to act against violations of human rights in Kashmir, the Indian media it seems is more interested in working to counter arguments that hold the Indian state accountable for crushing Kashmiri protests with armored military vehicles—which happened during yet another protest in June. At this point it seems the Indian media’s denial is excessive and indiscriminate, whether it’s against reports of rapes, disappearances or mass graves. In rejecting the UN report, media analysts and commentators either are rejecting the occurrence of several of such violations and crimes, or come across as essentially standing in support of them.

So far India has denied the United Nations access to Kashmir. According to the UN report, the Indian government rejected the request to allow UN rights observers into Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan in contrast however granted access to UN rights observers to visit Azad Kashmir and monitor their side of rights abuses.

India is intent on keeping the Kashmir issue an “internal affair”. India has previously kept Hurriyat from starting talks with Pakistan, saying the Kashmiri people have no grounds in talks with the country over the conflict. It is important now however for India to introduce a change in its Kashmir policy. There is a need to start the dialogue process, with both Pakistan and Hurriyat. It is pertinent now to reevaluate previous policy positions and seriously consider the United Nations report. Committing to any future policy course in favor of coming to a peaceful and stable solution will require punishing perpetrators of human rights violations. It is time for India to put its policy of perpetual denial to rest.

TACSTRAT ANALYSIS