The main reason India has been able to get away with its brutal occupation of Kashmir for over seven decades is that it has enjoyed the protection of global superpowers – first the Soviet Union and now the US. Even when the UN General Assembly passed resolutions calling for a referendum in Kashmir or decrying human rights abuses in the occupied territory, they would always be vetoed in the Security Council. This has emboldened India to the point where it feels it should never be held accountable for its actions in Kashmir. Earlier this year, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights put out a relatively mild report on India’s human rights record, focusing on the excessive use of force by Indian security forces in Kashmir and the use of rubber pellets, which have blinded hundreds of people. Not only did India immediately reject the report, it is essentially accusing the OHCHR of a conspiracy by baselessly claiming that the report was influenced by a biased Canadian citizen of Pakistani origin. The UN agency has categorically rejected that assertion and expressed its disappointment at India’s rejection of the report and its refusal to address the worries it raises.
The UN report strived so hard to be even-handed that it even equated concerns about human rights in Indian-occupied Kashmir and Azad Kashmir – despite the situation in both regions being very different. Pakistan, however, has gladly accepted the report and has long called for international observers to be invited to Kashmir. India’s ploy has always been to denounce the home-grown Kashmiri liberation movement as terroristic in nature and backed by Pakistan. Now that the scale of its abuses is so apparent that even the UN cannot ignore it, it is resorting to unfounded accusations of bias. That India is claiming a Pakistani hand in the drafting of the report shows just how far it is willing to go to discredit anyone who criticises its human rights record. This report alone was never going to lead to a change in Indian attitudes since it still enjoys the protection of the US at the UN. But it could have led other countries to start speaking out against the occupation and that is something India is not prepared to tolerate. If anything, India has stepped up its campaign of violence in Kashmir since the publication of the report. It has killed over a hundred civilians this year, regularly imposes curfews and shuts down internet and mobile services. The international community has long turned a blind eye to this violence but the UN report and India’s outrageous reaction to it should help everyone realise how untenable its behaviour has become.