Unprecedented Violence Erupts in Jammu and Kashmir

September 22, 2016

Photo by Kashmir Global (CC BY 2.0)
Photo by Kashmir Global (CC BY 2.0)

The Indian-occupied territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has seen a sharp spike in violence since July. The unrest was sparked after Indian military forces killed 22-year-old Burhan Wani, a popular Kashmiri activist. Reports indicate that over 11,000 people have been injured and over eighty killed.

Although President Obama relegated the conflict as an internal issue, stating "this [Kashmir] is a longstanding dispute between India and Pakistan," the United Nations has the moral and legal obligation to hold the Indian government accountable for human rights abuses. After long-standing oppression and military occupation, J&K has plunged into chaos because the United States has failed to pressure India to exit the territory.

Human Rights Abuses

The Indian military has violated the human rights of Kashmiris in the name of crowd control and maintaining order. Security forces have used high-velocity pellet guns and irregularly shaped pellets against the locals — targeting the youth and hurting children. Hundreds of Kashmiris have suffered from serious eye injuries. The Indian government has executed Kashmiri activists — a process cloaked in secrecy. Periodically, the Indian government will suspend telephone and internet services across J&K. The Indian government violated Kashmiri religious freedom when it cancelled religious celebrations and enacted a stricter curfew during Eid al-Adha; two protesters were killed by security forces. Since July, the curfew has been in effect to silence activists and prevent them from demonstrating.

When the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights requested to visit J&K to investigate the situation, the Indian government rejected the visit and claimed that an external inquiry was unnecessary. The Indian government continues to use the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act to detain activists for up to six months without a trial or charges. Amnesty International calls the law, “a lawless law.”

Even more sinister is the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a set of laws that that absolves the Indian military from virtually all human rights crimes like rape, torture, excessive force, and murder. As a result, human rights groups report that the Indian government fails to hold its security forces accountable for such crimes.

The Rising Influence of Millennials

Kashmiri youth and social media make up a major part of the turmoil. Burhan Wani built an impressive social media audience of disgruntled, young Kashmiris. Over 50,000 people attended his funeral. Mass funerals not only incite passions for independence, but also lead to rising tensions and far-reaching protests.

Seventy percent of J&K's twelve million population are considered youth (under the age of thirty-one), forty-eight percent of whom are unemployed. When colleges are shut down during curfews, young Kashmiris direct their anger against the military occupation by demonstrating on the streets. These conditions contribute to Kashmiri youth putting themselves in harm’s way to force out the decades-long Indian military occupation — an occupation of 700,000 Indian troops which has been proven to be brutal and oppressive.

Here’s How the U.S. Can Pressure Obstinate India

The Indian government has the power to fix the situation. Here are four ways to do so:

  1. Repeal the Armed Forces Special Power Act. This law has provided the justification for the excessive use of force by the Indian military.
  2. Implement Amnesty International’s recommendations such as holding security forces accountable for their crimes and adopting the UN definition of torture.
  3. Remove barriers obstructing injured Kashmiris from gaining access to medical care
  4. Repeal the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, a draconian law that detains individuals for up to six months without a trial or charges.

The international community has to come together to pressure the Indian government to change its policies on J&K. In the coming weeks, MPAC and our partners will call upon Congress, Secretary of State John Kerry, and US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power to pressure the Indian government to stop J&K violence.



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