December 10, 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of one of the world’s most groundbreaking global pledges: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It is a historical document considered as a milestone for humanity. This document is pointed out as a common standard of achievement for all nations of the world, and it sets out that human rights must be universally protected.
This landmark document enshrines the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Today, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is as relevant as it was in 1948. It is a global yardstick through which we can measure right and wrong. The UDHR urges signatory members to promote and safeguard humanity across the world. However, it is deplorable that human rights violations still occur despite having such a golden document.
The UDHR was drafted by the Commission on Human Rights – created by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in May 1946 – and was adopted by the UNGA in December 1948. At various stages of drafting, India, the so-called largest democracy of the world was represented by Hansa Mehta, M.R. Masani and Lakshmi Menon, who made a series of substantive contributions to the numerous articles that made up the UDHR.
Moreover, India professes having a legal and conventional system of rights of fundamental nature, incorporated in their constitution and also affirm of being obedient of international laws, conventions, treaties and agreements to promote and protect human rights. But in practice India is found exploiting and violating human rights, international laws, treaties, conventions and agreements related to human rights. Even a brief set of fundamental rights that is enumerated in part 3rd categorized under section 7 of her constitution is being violated by their own armed forces with impunity on a daily basis in occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Indian occupying forces have not kept any stone unturned in making a high record of human rights violation. Everyday new methods are being invented, adopted, introduced and practiced in the name of security and social order to exploit people of IOJK.
Since 1947, Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir has been under the forceful occupation of India, but from the beginning, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have never surrendered to the brutality of Indian forces. India tried very hard to control and suppress the voices of the people, but despite many violations, they failed to change the pro-resistance mindset of the people. India went to great lengths to discredit Kashmir’s legitimate freedom struggle and label its participants as terrorists.
Various resolutions were passed by the UN to hold a plebiscite and to let the people of Kashmir decide their future. India also accepted those resolutions, and her prominent leaders repeatedly promised to hold a plebiscite. Instead of adhering to its promise of carrying out a free and fair plebiscite, they are maintaining its control in the IOJK through the means of hard power tactics.
In this regard, Kashmir is one of the chronic examples. Massive human rights violations have been going on in IIOJK since 1989. Indian occupational forces have been carrying on a ruthless campaign of terror against the people of Kashmir, who are fighting for their right to self-determination. Human rights violations range from mass killings, youth killings, torture, rapes, enforced disappearances, and sexual abuses to political suppression and repression of fundamental rights.
Lack of access to justice and impunity for human rights violations are major challenges to human rights in IIOJK. The black laws which are in force in IOJK, like the Public Safety Act (1978), Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1990), give unlimited powers to the Indian Armed Forces and have made the lives of the people of Kashmir more miserable, as they cannot raise their voice for the right of self-determination. More than eight thousand people have disappeared since 1989. More than seven thousand unknown, unmarked, and mass graves are found in IOJK. The total number of Indian troops deployed in occupied Jammu and Kashmir was 150,000 in 1990, but now there are more than nine lakh troops.
Human rights activists who attempt to draw international attention to human rights violations in the IOJK face retaliation and journalists are denied access to the IOJK and have been arrested and detained under the PSA. IOJK is a highly unsafe place for journalists. Since 1990, Indian forces have made journalism a particularly hazardous profession by assaulting, intimidating, abducting, and killing journalists. Many journalists have been killed in target killings or cross firing since the 1990s.
However, over time, India resiled from their promises and strengthened its control through atrocities by their occupational forces and the implementation of draconian laws. In response, Kashmiris always show resistance against brutality and continue their freedom struggle.
The people of Kashmir have never bowed their heads in front of India. Kashmiris are sacrificing their lives and standing before brutal forces to face bullets for their sacred cause. People in Kashmir always protest and want to see the international community’s response, particularly that of UDHR signatories, to human rights violations, brutality, and cruelty committed by Indian security forces against innocent people. However, unfortunately, all-powerful states, the international community and particularly the UN, have forgotten the golden document of the universal declaration of human rights. Without paying any attention, they have turned deaf and dumb towards severe human issues in IOJK.
Moreover, on 5th August 2019, Government of India unilaterally abrogated the semiautonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir and divided the Muslim Majority state into two union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. The main objective of the Modi government was to ensure the full annexation of the disputed region, in a belief that such type of activities would lead to an end of the long standing dispute of South Asia. Since then the Hindu nationalist government has executed several policies and strategies aimed at altering the demography of the Muslim majority state. These include changes in laws regarding land ownership and residency status to encourage non-Muslims to settle in Jammu and Kashmir.
There is an urgent need to address the ongoing human rights violations and deliver justice to the people of IOJK. The international community, particularly the UN, must come forward and commit to end the cycles of violence and focus on accountability for all human rights violations and abuses committed by Indian occupying forces.
The most important thing that needs to be done by the United Nations is to repeal black laws in IIOJK. Human rights organizations must play a role in insisting and forcing India to stop human rights violations and abuses in Kashmir, as crushing the pro-resolution movement in IOJK is not the solution. International media should be given access to play an active role. A global campaign should be launched on human rights violations by IOJK. Restrictions on journalists, human rights defenders, and civil society organizations must be lifted, and they must be given free access to IOJK. That would be a significant step towards transparency in IOJK.
(The writer is General Secretary of All Parties Hurriyat Conference Azad Jammu and Kashmir chapter.)