Citizens depend on their country to provide them protection from dangerous outside forces. A gargantuan task, managed through the government’s military. To tackle such a task, armies are given a position of power, and therefore must display trust and responsibility. These attributes are tested occasionally, and unfortunately, the abuse of power is not uncommon. This misuse of power can be clearly seen in Kashmir. The public often takes a side in such an issue, but reported facts do not lie, and abuse happens at the hands of both the Indian and Pakistani armies.
The geopolitical environment of Kashmir leads to the fairly intuitive conclusion that there is an uprising in the population. It is important to abate these situations carefully, which the Indian Armed Forces unfortunately did not do. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) found that Indian security forces often used excessive force to respond to these violent protests. They continued the use of pellet-firing shotguns as a crowd-control weapon despite the large number of civilian deaths and injuries. To repent for these crimes, those responsible should be taken to court. However, India’s Armed Forces’s Special Powers Act (AFSPA) provides effective immunity for serious human rights violations such as these. Ever since this law came into force in 1958, the government of India has not granted permission to prosecute any security force personnel.
The Indian Army, while prideful in nature, has committed acts that have largely gone ignored. In the early 1990s, the Indian Army took part in atrocities against civilians in massacres, where they targeted people by the masses. Areas such as Gaw Kadal, Sopore, Handrawa, and Hawal were hit by paramilitary forces, and their houses were burnt (3,4). Instances such as the Kunan Poshpora incident are recorded, where the Indian Army raped 23 women in retaliation towards militants who shot soldiers (8). In such cases, the Indian Army remained immune and the soldiers involved in these events essentially walked scot-free. Due to the AFSPA, the Indian Army was able to conduct those attacks, as well as coordinate disappearances of individuals. The AFSPA has its original basis in counter terrorism, as the main threat to Kashmir today is the rise in Islamist Terrorism; however, in cases such as Gaw Kadal, the purpose tends to sway away (5).
While the Indian Army has immunity in quite a bit of cases, they have owned up a majority of their attacks on civilians. They have admitted to the Human Rights Watch in regards to their disappearances of Kashmiris, and those individuals in the army have received sanctions accordingly (6). Interestingly, the amount of civilian deaths now are far lower than the amount of deaths that the Indian Army and terrorists face; there has been a 40% drop in terrorist groups in Kashmir, as more terror groups are being gunned down by the Indian Army (7). The amount of civilian deaths reported were 22, while the amount of the militants and army officials killed were both approximately 136 (7).
While the Indian Army has committed such acts against the Kashmiri population, it is nothing compared to what the Pakistani government and army has done to this in their own administered Kashmir. There have also been numerous human rights violations by the Pakistan military. Most of these violations occurred in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. There have been reported cases of violent restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and association. Their institutional discrimination against minority groups have also led to fatal injuries and deaths at the hands of Pakistani soldiers. Anti-terrorism laws have been twisted for political benefit and to target activists. Enforced disappearance victim groups alleged Pakistani intelligence agencies to be responsible. Pakistan has been called upon to address it’s “strategic deficiencies” by the FATF, or Financial Action Task Force, which is an intergovernmental organization that monitors money laundering and terrorist financing. Aside from civilian offences, military offences have also occurred. One such instance is the murder of Indian Army Soldier Ummar Fayaz. Lieutenant Fayaz was an inspirational figure in his community. His actions prompted many around him to fight for their country, and his death comes as a severe blow to them. He was abducted (from India) amongst family and friends, and his body was found by them the very next morning. He was shot twice and beaten down, left to die (16). A direct violation of the Geneva Convention, where a soldier was mistreated in captivity. The message behind the murder was clear: intimidation. The community did not succumb to the threats, and instead banded together to show the opposing army that they remain undeterred in their fight for a better life.
Furthermore, the Pakistani government has locked the Azad Kashmir (part of Pakistan’s Occupied Kashmir) government into a position of permission, they essentially cannot do anything for their own people until approval is given. Individuals in Azad Kashmir lack basic free speech, one cannot speak out against the Pakistani government without being killed or jailed (9). There really is not a moral equivalence between India’s and Pakistan’s treatment in Kashmir. Pakistan has fueled traumatic pain on these citizens; there are quite a bit of forced disappearances in the area, while numbers are completely undetermined, the area of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan are determined as “not-free” and are considered as oppressed, this is not the case in Jammu and Kashmir of India, which is seen as any other state of India (10,17). The area itself is not “Azad” as the name suggests, as there are restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, and there is a large impact of terrorism on human rights; Muslims cannot speak up for themselves, and Hindus/Sikhs are still killed for attempting to conduct their pilgrimage in Azad Kashmir (11). Sharda Peeth was not what it is today, it has been broken down and only a fragment remains. What used to be the oldest university in the world is now seen as a broken remnant; while temples are being broken down, not a single mosque has been destroyed in Jammu and Kashmir. Furthermore, Pakistan has committed its own attacks on Kashmiris in Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir; so much that now only less than 10 percent of both areas are ethnically Kashmiri, and those trying to live there are forced to leave or are killed (12).
In terms of retaliation, what the Indian Army and Pakistan army/militant groups have done is pale in comparison to what the militant groups have done to the Kashmiris. In Jammu and Kashmir, militants (like the TRF, Lashkar-E-Taiba, and Dukhtaran-E-Millat) have killed a total of 12,485 Kashmiris and army officials together, a total of 16,208 rapes on women have occurred, and a total of 664 missing persons due to militants have been recorded (13). These numbers by far supersede the exaggerated brutalities by the Indian Army. Furthermore, there are no reported cases of the Indian Army brutally torturing Pakistani soldiers, while the amount of reported cases of Pakistani soldiers harming the Indian soldiers is higher; there have been reported beheadings and mutilations of Indian soldiers, such as Bhausaheb Maruti Talekar, whose head was seen tossed around like a football (14). The president of Pakistan (Pervez Musharraf) honored the group (led by Illyas Kashmiri) that beheaded the Indian Army officer, millions of rupees were given in reward, papers printed the picture of the beheading, and the group lived peacefully (15). A country that supposedly does not condone terrorism has funded terrorist groups in silence; They even mourned the death of Ilyas Kashmiri after he was killed by a US drone strike.
Attacks in Kashmir have resulted in more than 50,000 deaths since 1989. This means more than 50,000 family members, more than 50,000 friends. Military personnel do not have the right to abuse their power. With something as simple as a uniform, soldiers of either nation, have the ability to ruin lives. At the end of the day, the victims of all these violations deserve justice, no matter the assailant, and the first step to that is keeping oneself aware of what is going on in places such as Kashmir. Media should not be the telltale of the truth: Listen to the facts, not the bias.
- Human Rights Watch World Report 2007. Seven Stories Press. 2007. p. 306. ISBN 978-1-58322-740-4.