Article Movement & Migration

Kashmir: under the shadow of draconian laws

Kashmir has seen unending mass destruction from the Partition of India. It has seen the deadliest times as a conflict hit region in the form of Human Rights violations and the denial of basic rights

Kashmir issue - the background

British, when left Hindustan (comprising of undivided India and Pakistan), while dividing it into two countries, left a dispute on a piece of land in between them know as Kashmir, commonly known as Masla-E-Kashmir (Kashmir Issue), throughout the subcontinent and with the passage of time has developed into a wound. Though, India is visibly taking this issue lightly and at certain points, turning to show up the aggressive behavior towards Kashmir, according to the British MP David Ward “Indian government has been quite aggressive in terms of its stance towards Kashmir which is opening up a whole new area of uncertainty”

Kashmir has always been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan. Given its disputed nature, both the countries have fought several wars, which has resulted in mass destruction on both the sides.

The Kashmir problem was born when Pakistan came into the existence, to be precise, soon after the bloody and horrific partition in 1947 when . Taking into account the principles of partition: Religion and the boundary of the states. Kashmir should have been the part of Pakistan, given the fact that the majority of the populations was of Muslims and the large part of its boundary touched the newly created Pakistan but, the internal manipulation of various leaders in Kashmir, including the Maharaja (King) of the state of Jammu and Kashmir by India gave rise to a situation where the Maharaja signed the instrument of accession with India. Thus, soon after this the disputed nature of the state came into being with a party making it a point that the state of J&K has acceded to the union of India and on the contrary the another party accusing that there has been the breach of principles which were the foundation of the partition. Both the countries took up the issue in United Nation (UN) and in order to the term the state as ‘Disputed Territory’ the United Nation Security Council’s resolutions came into being. India which immediately raised the Kashmir issue in UN general assembly, today state all such resolutions as irrelevant by changing its stance on the disputed nature of the state of J&K. Today India is not ready call Kashmir a disputed territory—-calling it an integral part of Indian union.

The internal resistance, which firstly came as an armed struggle and then took the shape of peaceful struggle against India, was subsequently born in Kashmir to challenge India’s claims of Kashmir being its integral part. Such resistances were born from time to time like: soon after the state was made the part of Indian union by the King without consulting its subjects a resistance was born which stood against the decision and then in 1980’s 1990’s and it continues till date. The struggle is on but on the nature of the resistance has changed and that is from violent to peaceful. The fact remains that the support to such resistive forces was given from across the border as Pakistan wanted the resistance forces to keep on challenging forcible and unjust accession of the state. While India directly and indirectly worked for the elimination of the basic elements of such resistances which stood against India.

The resistance in Kashmir has seen both the phases i.e the violent and the peaceful one. The armed one started from 1987-2000 and from 2000 to date the resistance has been peaceful and it is being said that armed one was to shift the focus of international community towards Kashmir and the peaceful one is to carry it to the next level. The armed struggle hasn’t completely vanished yet from Kashmir against India but their presence can be felt every now and then in the state however, the peaceful resistance of the people has occupied the central stage as we can see on the streets of Kashmir the people can been seen protesting peacefully in a constitutional way. The peaceful struggle is regarded as the most authoritative one which at times keeps a check on those who are associated with the armed resistance. For instance at times points of time the armed leadership let the leadership, which guides people through the tides of peaceful agitation, to make certain decisions pertaining to the struggle.

The year of 2008 and 2010 are seen as the symbols of the peaceful resistance in the state by the people and the leadership as well. The uprising of 2008 and 2010 symbolizes the power of the peaceful struggle. During these two decisive uprisings more than 200 people were killed by the Indian security forces in response to the stones bullets were showered on the agitating people. What has been observed about the killings of 2008 and 2010 is that most of those who were killed fall in the age group of 18-22 and in some cases below 18. The wounds on the bodies of those who were killed, were observed and reveal that they were fired upon not disperse but with the intention to kill them. Most of the hits were in the areas like: abdomen, chest, throat and head.

The role of the British

Indian state is in the state of denial and is not ready to accept the ground realities of the dispute. When Sir Cyril Radcliffe came to India to mark the International boundaries between the newly born two countries (under boundary commission), marked Gurdaspur (in Punjab ) into India. Gurdaspur, coming under the authority of India, provided a way to the Indian forces to grab Kashmir as Gurdaspur was the only link between Kashmir and the rest of India. Maharaja Hari Singh (King) of Kashmir had already signed the document of accession with India against the will of its subjects. If the basic principles of partition are taken into the consideration, Gurdaspur would have gone into Pakistan and there was no other route connecting India with Kashmir. This grave historical mistake committed by Sir Cyril Radcliffe created the Kashmir dispute on the face of this earth, where as of now 500,000 to 600,000 Indian army troopers are present and from past 60 years or so 500,000 people have died and it was admitted by David Ward when he said that “Kashmir has been a constant sources of misery over many years to many people. 500,000 to 600,000 Indian army troopers are present on permanent basis. It is an area of tension and some 500,000 people have died there in past 60 years or so” See British parliament agrees debate Kashmir ‘rights violations’

It is now the point of interest that Britain is showing much interest in resolving the Kashmir issue. In the latest development 40 British MPs, 10 MEPs and 50,000 members of public have signed a petition for holding a debate on the human rights violations in Kashmir and its resolution thereof. However, on the diplomatic front Britain is wearing a different face where it is of the opinion that Kashmir is the bilateral issue between the two countries, but, deep somewhere Britain is now willing to offer its help under the curtain and may be some day it will speak the same language on the diplomatic front in connection to the Kashmir issue.

Draconian laws

The state machinery has worked hard enough to curb the peaceful resistance of people in the state in order to impose such curbs two draconian laws (to be specially mentioned) are at their disposal: Armed Forces Special Powers Act_Act,_1958) (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA)

Both the laws are in nature ’draconian’ and the mockery of judiciary. It is alarming for the international community that such laws still exist in this part of the world. While, the international community believes in upholding of the basic human rights and the values, these two laws are altogether violating the basic human rights of any person.

The year of 2008 and 2010 saw massive uprising against the Indian state with the result the government forces resorted to the use of brutal force to curb and suppress the uprising which challenged the being of the Indian state in J&K and it was also a challenge for the claims of J&K being the integral part of the union of India. These uprisings made many eminent scholars and thinkers to ponder over the Kashmir issue and largely helped in shifting the attention of world community towards what was happening in Kashmir.

Coming back to the draconian laws, what we saw during those years of uprising or even now, for a single killing in rest of the India the enquiry commissions are formed and the guilty is punished but, that has never been the situation when it came to Kashmir—-what we see in Kashmir is totally different. These draconian laws come to the rescue of the security men. After killing of around 200 boys there was not a single arrest or the formation of any enquiry commission. Nothing and thanks to AFPSA: which has always been there.

Armed forces special powers act (AFSPA)

This law bestows security personnel with free hand to kill or arrest anyone on suspicion. The men in uniform can do anything on mere suspicion. This draconian law has severely affected the population of the state. This law to a larger extent has played its role during the uprisings in 2008 and 2010. The boys were killed and this draconian law bestowed impunity to killers and with the result no one was arrested for the killings and even today the condition is same. The Amnesty International (AI) has came with various reports on the state of human rights violations and the killings on the youths during the years of the uprising but the Indian state has kept its strategy to suppress the struggle with force and with a kind of legislation which will not provide any room for any type of struggle which questions the very basic of the relation of the J&K with the union of India.

The other case apart from the killings is the enforced disappearances. Thousand of persons have been taken into the custody and made them to disappear. Once they were taken into the custody they were totally made invisible for their family. This is also the blessing of the AFPSA which has given unbridled powers to the men in uniform and there dares no one to question them.

Public safety act (PSA)

The yet another draconian laws which has got its presence in the state of J&K. Under this act any person can be arrested and put behind bars without a trail for almost 2 years. This act has been widely used in Kashmir to curb the ongoing people’s movement. Hundreds have been booked under this act so far. The state can arrest anyone on any reasons and without any trail for 2 years. From the top most persons of the people’s movement to the school going children this act have proven it efficiency on every front. From a boy on streets pelting stones on security men to the person who has a greater role to play in the movement both have suffered courtesy: PSA—-this act also violates the basic human rights of any person and thus fall into the category of draconian laws. Many international rights group have came up with the reports terming this law as inhuman but the Indian state has never budged to setup a review commission after being widely criticized.

Given the fact the state of J&K is a conflict hit zone; it has affected the population gravely. The effects have been physical and more importantly psychological as well. The draconian laws which are in place have increased the psychological ailments in the population. A person who leaves his home in the morning is not really sure about his return in the evening. Here, not only that person is affected but, his entire family suffers because of such fear psychosis created. The percentage of mentally disturbed patients has increased from past some decades and the reason is the creation of new methods of curbing the fight for justice led by the people of the state. Such curbs in the long run affect the psyche and the mental health of the subjects and this trend has been seen from last several decades now.

There is a need for international community and the international rights group to campaign for the elimination of the all such draconian laws which are nothing but a shame for a civilized society. The world community which advocates the upholding of the human rights should come forward and launch a full-fledged movement against the violation of the human rights—-the violation which is on the peak level in conflict hit J&K. The time has come for the world community to take side of those who are fighting for the justice as the justice is the only thing which makes the life better, prosperous and booming. The justice should flourish everywhere on the face of this earth and that will surely lead to the prosperity of the whole world.

Help the oppressed to break the shackles and join the run for prosperity and peace and this will only be possible when the world’s civilized and honorable societies will come forward and destroy the system which is posing threats to the basic human rights of the people.

  • Photo: Muskeeters

This article is a response to the topic idea; Protecting rights in conflict zones.

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