Finally some heed has been taken of Indian-administered Kashmir. The UN has issued its first ever report into human rights abuses in Indian-administered Kashmir as well as the human rights situation in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The report comes as a small but significant victory for the people of Kashmir. The biggest victory is that the UN has called for an international investigation into human rights abuses in Kashmir by Indian security forces since 2016. This is finally some recognition that India’s brutal suppression of Kashmiri dissent could constitute potential crimes against humanity. It is estimated that, between July 2016 and August 2018, at least 145 Kashmiri civilians have been killed by the Indian armed forces. Another 20 Kashmiris have been killed by armed groups. The report condemns India’s use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrations in 2016, which led to unlawful killings and a large number of injuries. It is hard to forget India’s use of pellet guns against civilians, which left hundreds of Kashmiris blind.
With the UN Human Rights Council set to meet, it has been asked to open a full international inquiry into violations, including mass graves, in Indian-administered Kashmir. This would be one of the highest level probes allowed under the auspices of the UN. One would hope that the demand for an international inquiry into Kashmir leads to such a commission being constituted. India, for its part, has described the report as ‘false’ and ‘politically-motivated’. This is no surprise. Despite blatant celebrations of those who violate human dignity in Kashmir, such as a medal for the Indian army officer who tied a Kashmiri man to the front of his jeep, India responds like Israel to allegations of human rights abuses. The murder by unknown gunmen of prominent Kashmiri journalist, Shujaat Bukhari, on Thursday will do no little to dampen the criticism of Indian excesses.
On AJK, the report notes that violations in the area are of a “different caliber or magnitude”, and Pakistan has come under criticism for its misuse of anti-terrorist legislation against peaceful activists. It is also worrying that on both sides of the valley ‘unconditional access’ for the report was denied to the UN. The UN report, however, will not be easy to dismiss. India will do its best to sabotage any attempts to launch an international inquiry into the matter. Pakistan, though, can – and should – seize this opportunity to bring some modicum of justice for the Kashmiri people. This report is one step. While on its own it will not bring justice to the Kashmiri people, in a world where no one seems to care, Kashmiris can take some hope from the fact that the UN has finally broken its loud silence on their oppression.