The first United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir released Thursday is a damning indictment of how the situation has unravelled in the Kashmir valley post the killing of Burhan Wani, a ‘commander’ of the separatist Hizbul Mujahideen, on July 8, 2016.
‘In responding to demonstrations that started in July 2016, Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries. Civil society estimates are that 130 to 145 civilians were killed by security forces between mid-July 2016 and end of March 2018, and 16 to 20 civilians were killed by armed groups in the same period. One of the most dangerous weapons used against protesters during the unrest in 2016 was the pellet-firing shotgun, which is a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun that fires metal pellets,’ the report says.
But then it argues 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. “Special laws in force in the state, such 5 as the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 (PSA), have created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardize the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations."
Noting that “Over 1,000 people were detained under the PSA between March 2016 and August 2017,” it says “human rights groups had warned Jammu and Kashmir authorities that minors were being arrested under the PSA in 2016 and 2017.” The attacks and obstruction of basic medical services in the aftermath of the Burhan Wani killing had a severe impact on the injured and general civilian population in Kashmir, already reeling from “ days-long curfews and communications blockades” which too impeded or denied access to medical care.
Noting that the state Government suspended mobile and internet services on multiple occasions, it said in 2016, the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir imposed restrictions on freedom of expression, targeting media and journalists. “Widespread protests, long periods of curfew and frequent strikes in 2016 and 2017 had a cumulative impact on students and their right to education.”
Impunity for enforced or involuntary disappearances in Kashmir continues as there has been little movement towards credibly investigating complaints including into alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region, it says. “Authorities have failed to independently investigate and prosecute allegations of sexual violence by security forces personnel."