Article: The farce of Human Rights Day

Amjed Jaaved

Each year, on 10th December, the United Nations observes international human rights day.  The United Nations General Assembly adopted, When General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, it was proclaimed as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets out a broad range of fundamental rights and freedoms to which all of us are entitled. It guarantees the rights of every individual everywhere, without distinction based on nationality, place of residence, gender, national or ethnic origin, religion, language, or any other status.

Kashmir, a prison

The day comes and goes by without any tangible effect on the lives of the people deprived of human rights. Aside from the legal rigmarole about the Kashmir dispute, there is a human rights dimension to the dispute. Kashmir has been reduced to a prison. Even Mehbooba Mufti, a former BJP ally, was compelled to call Kashmir a Guantanamo Bay prison, claiming that “Kashmiris feel that they are literally imprisoned in a cage from which almost all exit routes are barred”.

Even though international human rights law forbids a country to violate human rights conventions even in sovereign territories, India’s stance that nothing of the sort is happening in occupied Kashmir remains firm.

No action on the Pakistan dossier enumerating rights violations

Pakistan shared with 100 countries of the world a 131-page and the world at large a dossier reflecting India’s reign of terror in Kashmir. It is heartening that the UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet appealed to India for safeguarding human rights defenders and NGOs, saying three laws stifle their work, among them one that discriminates against religious minorities including Muslims, who are the country’s second-largest religious group.

India’s dismal human-rights profile

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 1,250 Kashmiris have been blinded by metal pellets used by Indian security forces from mid-2016 to the end of 2018.

Indian troops in their unabated acts of state terrorism martyred 95,917 innocent Kashmiris including 7,215 in custody, widowed 22,939, orphaned 107, and 855 and molested 11,245 women since January 1989. India has introduced coercive measures including new domicile laws to change the demographic structure of occupied Kashmir. These actions violate the UNSC resolutions and international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention and Security Council Resolution 122.

Kashmir gagged

The clampdown on internet communication in occupied Kashmir was made even more on August 5. Amnesty International has urged unconditional and unconstrained access to news and information from the valley.

India’s crackdown on Human Rights Day

India’s crackdowns and cordon-and-search operations continued in occupied Kashmir even the Human Rights Day. They did not spare even peaceful protesters like the 62-year-old Parveena Ahanger and the families of hundreds of victims of enforced disappearances. They had reportedly gathered at a park to seek the whereabouts of their children or spouses who disappeared during decades of conflict.

The plight of rights activists and journalists

Last month, prominent rights activist Khurram Parvez was arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for “criminal conspiracy and waging war against the government”. Parvez, 44, is programme coordinator at Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a leading group documenting and campaigning against rights abuses by the Indian forces in occupied Kashmir for the last 20 years.

The JKCCS has published extensive reports on torture, civilian killings, rapes and illegal detentions, and detailed the impunity given to by the armed forces in the disputed region. In 2008, a shocking disclosure about the presence of more than 2,000 unmarked graves shocked the people.

Parvez had earlier been arrested in 2016 under the Public Safety Act (PSA). This is another draconian law like the UAPA under which a person can be detained for a year or more without trial.

In its 2018 report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) extensively quoted JKCCS findings. In another report in 2019, the UN called for the formation of a commission of inquiry into the allegations of rights violations in the region.

The reports irked the Modi government so much that it cracked down on journalists and ordinary people on Rights Day. India has, practically,  “criminalised human rights work” in occupied Kashmir.

India ranks among the most dangerous countries for journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders, which published its 2021 World Press Freedom Index. The coordinated hate campaign against journalists calls for the journalists concerned to be murdered. From May 2019 to August 2021, 256 journalists were attacked. Journalism has become a crime in India. In 2017, prominent journalist Gauri Lankesh, known for her outspoken criticism, was shot dead in Bangalore. Moreover, Rana Ayyub a famous journalist who had exposed Modi and CM of Gujarat in “Gujarat Files” was the victim of a campaign of intimidation. Indian goverment was annoyed at her interview in BBC Hardtalk’s Stephen Sackur. She alleged the Indian government had “tried every tool in the book to silence her voice and journalism”. Even the UN has exposed India’s true face by publishing a report on the use of excessive force by police on public roads against Journalists and human rights defenders.

India ranks among the most dangerous countries for journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders, which published its 2021 World Press Freedom Index. The coordinated hate campaign against journalists calls for the journalists concerned to be murdered. From May 2019 to August 2021, 256 journalists were attacked. Journalism has become a crime in India. In 2017, prominent journalist Gauri Lankesh, known for her outspoken criticism, was shot dead in Bangalore. Moreover, Rana Ayyub a famous journalist who had exposed Modi and CM of Gujarat in “Gujarat Files” was the victim of a campaign of intimidation. Indian goverment was annoyed at her interview in BBC Hardtalk’s Stephen Sackur. She alleged the Indian government had “tried every tool in the book to silence her voice and journalism”. Even the UN has exposed India’s true face by publishing a report on the use of excessive force by police on public roads against Journalists and human rights defenders.

Social posts about Rawat’s death criminalised

India has declared it an offence to post comments about Rawat’s death shrouded in mystery on social media. The mysterious death of India’s chief of defence staff has raised eyebrows in India. People in general raised questions about the super-safe Mi-17V5 helicopter that flew so low as to crash head-on against a tree. The people reminisce about the previous accidents, including a fire on India’s aircraft carrier in 2019 and an explosion on an Indian submarine in 2013. They attribute the accidents to rampant incompetence and lack of adherence to the Standing Operating procedure.

The gung- ho general was criticised in the media for his intemperate statements. For instance, he had vowed to change the DNA of Kashmiris. He awarded a commendation certificate to Major Lilit Gogoi who tied a Kashmir to the bonnet of his jeep and paraded him around several villages. Gogoi was later caught with her paramour in a Srinagar hotel. But, Rawat set him free with a slap on his wrist. He justified the lynching of anyone suspected to be a militant. He opposed recruitment of the women in the forces.  The controversial general had embarked upon a reform program that involved the readjustment of the three services. in YouTube interviews, Rawat vehemently defended the integrated theatres of commands. But, the IAF chief expressed reservations about it. It was speculated that the crash might be an upshot of the interservice rivalry, reflecting poor coordination between the three services. In Indian media, doubts were raised about the Indian Navy’s capability to oversee the smuggling of arms and narcotics at the Indian airports leased out to Ambani, Modi’s friend (“crony capitalism”).

Persecution of other minorities

The conditions of the other minorities also are miserable. According to a report by human rights groups, more than 300 attacks on Christians took place in the first nine months of this year across India, including at least 30 in Karnataka.

Attack  on the Christian school

Recently, at least 100 members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal vandalized a missionary school in Madhya Pradesh’s Vidisha district, Ganj Basoda. Hindutva violence took place while the students of Class 12 were sitting for an exam. School principal Brother Anthony Tynumkal told that the mob was armed with iron rods and shouted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” slogans. The school property was damaged.

Minorities’ conclave

In a cataclysmic development, several parties including Dal Khalsa, the Sikh representative organization, convened a conclave of leadership and delegates of struggling minority communities (Kashmiris, Sikhs, Tamils, Nagas, Twiprassa and others) in Amritsar on the World Human Rights Day. They discussed the worsening human rights situation in India and occupied  Kashmir and the persecution of minorities.

The conclave is construed as the emergence of the All-India Oppressed People’s Movement.

The conclave inter alia criticised police excesses, growing intolerance, centralization process of the Indian state and expressed solidarity with struggling nationalities, peoples and regional identities.

The participants denounced the recent killing of 15 innocent civilians in Nagaland and held the Indian government responsible for such tragic incidents. They called for the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act under which the Indian army has been carrying on its reign of terror in various states. They alleged that India is a democracy only in name but actually a  totalitarian and Hindu majoritarian state.

They said the repeal of Articles 370 and 35A in occupied Kashmir followed by curbing of civil liberties and fake encounters proves how totalitarianism and majoritarian regimes distort civil liberties. They also condemned the recent arrest of noted Kashmiri human rights defender, Khurram Parvaiz, by India’s notorious National Investigation Agency (NIA).

The speakers said the apathy of the Indian government towards the anti-CAA movement continues, political prisoners continue to languish in jails across the country, Muslims and Dalits continue to live in a climate of fear due to a sustained hate narrative against them.

The speakers criticized the Modi regime for refusing to recognize the deaths of 700 farmers and the Lakhimpur Kheri incident in which 3 farmers and a journalist were crushed to death.

Addressing on the occasion, Atif Gilani, the son of noted Kashmiri intellectual, Professor Syed Abdur Rahman Gilani (late), said that the minority communities will have to struggle together for securing their rights. He said that the fight was on and will definitely succeed.

Neingulo Krome, Secretary of the Nagaland organisation, said though the New Delhi had termed the Nagaland civilian killings by the Indian Army as a case of mistaken identity, it was a totally fabricated operation that claimed innocent lives. “The ones who lost lives were local labourers who used to take the same route to reach their workplace. After killing them, the forces also tried to brand some civilians as militants by planting weapons and dressing them in camouflage and boots,” he added.

The former secretary-general of the organization, Dr. Veenuh said after the abolition of Article 370 and 35A in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian government had turned a blind eye to the rights of Nagaland residents. he criticised the Modi government for reneging the 2015 agreement that recognises Naga people’s separate identity and promises to share the sovereign power.

Concluding remark

UN should compel India to allow free access to special procedure mandate holders of the UN Human Rights Council for independent investigations of human rights violations. — Courtesy Kashmir Watch