A report released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that civilians casualties in Kashmir between May 2018 and April 2019 were the highest they’ve been in the past decade. India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has responded to this report with a strong condemnation alleging that the UN is attempting to violate Indian sovereignty.
This 43-page “update” report follows the first one released in 2018 that detailed atrocities in Kashmir from June 2016 to June 2018. Both reports are critical of India and Pakistan for high-handed policy in Kashmir that allows sexual violence, political and religious persecution, and murder to flourish.
The second report notes that tensions between India and Pakistan escalated following the February Pulwama attack by a Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide bomber, but that there has been no prosecution of the armed forces for crimes committed against civilians.
The update also says that neither country has “taken any concrete steps to address the numerous concerns raised.”
Like in 2018, India has spoken out against the UN report. However, the Pakistani government has ignored criticisms levelled against it and instead focused on what the report says about India.
Spokesperson for Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr. Mohammad Faisal tweeted, “second report by UN on Jammu & Kashmir once again affirms massive human rights violations perpetrated by the Indian occupation forces in IoK [India occupied Kashmir].”
‘OHCHR report is biased’, says India
On July 8, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement in response to the OHCHR report saying that its findings were false and violate Indian sovereignty.
“The update of the Report of the OHCHR is merely a continuation of the earlier false and motivated narrative on the situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Its assertions are in violation of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and ignore the core issue of cross-border terrorism,” said the ministry.
The statement says that violence in Kashmir occurs because of cross-border tensions that “emanate” from Pakistan. The ministry also slams the OHCHR report saying that its implication that the world’s largest democracy practices state-sponsored terrorism is unfounded.
India goes on to say that it fully complies with all international standards on counter-terrorism and that Pakistan is at fault for “illegally and forcibly” occupying parts of Kashmir.
“The prejudiced mindset of the Update has also chosen to wilfully ignore the determined and comprehensive socio-economic developmental efforts undertaken by the Government in the face of terrorist challenges,” says the ministry.
The statement adds that the government has registered a complaint against the report in the UN.
In 2018, India also rejected the first such report on Kashmir and expressed doubts about the UN’s ulterior motive in publishing it.
Spokesperson for the MFA said, “India rejects the report. It is fallacious, tendentious and motivated. We question the intent in bringing out such a report. It is a selective compilation of largely unverified information. It is overtly prejudiced and seeks to build a false narrative.”
What’s next for Kashmir?
In 2018, the report suggested that the UN Human Rights Council conduct an inquiry into the matter.
“… urged the Human Rights Council to consider the findings of this report, including the possible establishment of a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir,” said the report.
The UN has also asked India to repeal the Armed Force Special Powers Act 1990 that gives the country’s armed forces the right to maintain decorum in “disturbed areas”. In the past, the act has come under fire for essentially giving the Indian army a legal pass for human rights violations in the name of national security.
The UN continues its appeal for an independent commission for all civilian casualties and cases of sexual violence that have taken place since 2016, including those “that have occurred in the context of security operations in Jammu and Kashmir.”
The report adds that India should provide reparations to people and families impacted by the country’s decisions in Kashmir.
The UN has also asked Pakistan to stop mis-using anti-terrorism laws to persecute dissidents and activists and follow international human rights standards in areas of Kashmir it controls.
The report also asks that Pakistan release all political prisoners and amend the Azad Kammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan acts that criminalise Ahmadiyya Muslims and have other blasphemy-related provisions.
Finally, the report calls on both India and Pakistan to “fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law.”
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius