Human rights abuses in Kashmir – another perspective
Dr Shabir Choudhry 14 July 2012
In response to my article, Human rights abuses in Kashmir – issue of mass graves, I had some very good feedback. Many praised the article for being informative and balanced. A few boasted that I changed my stance under pressure. Question is pressure of what, and from whom? I don’t work under pressure. It is my natural instinct to resist pressure; and defend my rights and rights of others. In any case, who cares for a few fake IDs and non-entities; and those who have discovered Kashmir and issues related to human rights in the past six months.
I am politically a mature person with a track record of working for the cause of people of Jammu and Kashmir since 1973. I have confronted all sorts of pressures in life; and by grace of Almighty, I have weathered all political storms; and have managed to survive all conspiracies, back stabbings, nefarious campaigns, unfounded allegations and propaganda. No one can defeat a dedicated and sincere soldier determined to promote independence of Jammu and Kashmir; and determined to oppose forces of extremism, regionalism and violence.
Anyhow, I would like to produce an email message sent to me by Mr Nafees Muhammad. I will not give out his location because I don’t want him to get in to any trouble. He writes;
‘You have been working on Kashmir issue for a long time and you do take up different topics related to this subject and shed light on them from your own perspective. I do get your emails regularly and go through them as much as the time permits me. The issue you raised is very pertinent, but there is another aspect of this problem. Jihadists have also murdered several thousand people in Kashmir. Do you or any other site has the data as to how many Kashmiris were the victims of Jihadi terrorism and how many were the victims of military operations? Also the number of Jihadi criminals were among the casualties of military operations. I think we can’t include deaths of criminals with the civilians. Do you agree?’
Mr Nafees Mohammad also wrote about what was happening in various parts of Pakistan in name of Jihad and what was the army response to this, and how it was affecting the civilian population. Thrust of his argument was that in name of Jihad innocent people are killed and tortured; and the army in name of ‘military operations’ were also killing people.
Mr Nafees Mohammad may have very valid points about the situation in Pakistan, but there are many who don’t want to talk about human rights committed there either by military or by non -state actors in name of jihad, simply because they regard Pakistan as a ‘fort of Islam’; and this ‘fort’ must not get any negative publicity as it tarnishes their image and affect their agenda. Apart from that, some Muslims only agitate human rights issues when culprits are non – Muslims and Muslims are victims; and when Muslim are butchering their fellow Muslim brothers they like to remain quiet or look to other side. So, it is prudent to leave on one side what goes on in Pakistan, even though that affects us more; and only concentrate what goes on in Kashmir controlled by India.
I discussed and strongly opposed human rights abuses perpetrated by the Para – military forces in Kashmir in my last article; but fact remains that human rights abuses are not only committed by people in uniform. People roaming around in various parts of Jammu and Kashmir with guns in their hands are also responsible for human rights abuses. These jihadi warriors could be characterised in to Kashmiri Jihadis, and non – Kashmir Jihadis. Acts of violence committed by the local Jihadis could be understood, as they feel enslaved by India; and feel all avenues of peaceful struggle were exhausted; however, non – Kashmiri jihadi warriors fall in to different category; and in view of many critics they are ‘mercenaries’ trained and armed by Pakistan to commit acts of violence in Jammu and Kashmir.
Some people would surely get angry because I have used the word ‘mercenary’, as in their view, these people are in Kashmir to perform religious duty of ‘jihad’. All the jihadi warriors are handsomely paid; and apart from the generous payment, they enjoy a special status in society and enjoy other perks, especially when they return after serving their time in Kashmir. Now, let us see how mercenaries are described, and see if this definition fits the role of these Jihadis in Kashmir:
The Special Rapporteur of UN Human Rights Commission Geneva (resolutions 1995/5 and 1996/ 113), as quoted in Mercenaries and the Criminalisation of a Peoples Movement, page 2) Mr Enrique Bernales Ballestros said:
“Mercenaries exist, and they are not a small number of individuals; they are groups of professionals selling their skill in war and violence; they are also criminal organisations, and represent an international blight devoted to perpetuating acts of violence which ruin human lives, create material losses and hamper economic activity……Mercenaries generally deny that this is what they are, claiming altruistic, ethnic, ideological or religious motives in order to disguise the true nature, according to international law, of their role…… Mercenary activity is paid. Hired mercenaries attack and kill for financial gains, in a country or conflict which is often alien to their own nationality…….He usually adopts ideologies which are extremist, radical and distinctly intolerant, but he commits criminal acts against the most basic rights of persons and of peoples because he is directly motivated by financial gain”.
The above definition is self- explanatory; and I am sure many will agree that it applies to activities of many jihadi warriors operating in various parts of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan. Another documentary shown on the British TV Channel 4 some years ago also showed different aspects of the human rights abuses. This documentary showed Kashmiri people were killed and injured, and their houses destroyed by the Pakistani shelling. Some Kashmiris on camera told that they were in very difficult situation, if they helped the militants then they have to face wrath of the men in uniform; and if they don’t support the militants then they are harassed and tortured by militants; and in some cases killed on suspicion of being Indian agents.
Critics of Jihadi warriors accuse most of them being uneducated, intolerant and unaccountable lot, who would commit any kind of violence to promote their ideology and sectarian interest, as witnessed in various parts of Pakistan where religious shrines and places of worship were targeted to kill people belonging to certain religious sects. Jammu and Kashmir was not immune from acts of violence carried out by these extremists to eliminate followers of other religions and religious sects.
Some Jihadi warriors belonging to ‘Salafi’ and ‘Wahhabi’ sects of Islam do not regard Sunni Brailvi and Shias as Muslims, and justify their killings and destruction of their places of worship. I know, many people will either find Indian, Israeli or American hand behind these tragic acts; but fact remains that culprits or those who actually commit these acts of religious terrorism are Muslims and claim to be performing a religious duty. Some of them even say they are ‘purifying’ Islam. So when looking at sources of human rights abuses one cannot ignore this aspect of terrorism and human rights abuses.
The biggest casualties the JKLF suffered, especially in early 1990s, were at the hands of the jihadi warriors, of course, all this changed when Yasin Malik was released in 1995 and he abandoned militancy. Local Kashmiri journalists confirm that militants and especially jihadi militants were also responsible for human rights abuses and torture in Jammu and Kashmir; however, they could not be held responsible for mass graves.
In India, there are laws to protect people in uniform that they can crush militancy and anyone suspected of being associated with militancy or militants without any fear of repercussions. Despite that the army of every country have strict discipline and a system of accountability. However, most militants – jihadis or others – have very little formal education, no system of discipline or accountability; and after getting guns and some training to commit violence they feel unable to control newly acquired power and status and commit all sorts of acts.
However, it must be pointed out that it is the responsibility of the government to maintain law and order, and protect life, liberty and property of citizens. Thomas Hobbes in his famous book ‘Leviathan’ talks of a ‘social contract’ which citizens make and surrender certain rights to the Sovereign in return for peace and stability. Citizens expect the government to provide peace and stability and enforce laws, as this right is not vested with militant groups. It is the government that is a signatory to the Geneva Convention and other Covenants, and promises to protect and promote human rights. The state must not use its power to inflict pain and misery on people; or allow any armed groups to commit acts of violence and abuse human rights.
If armed groups are committing acts of violence and inflicting pain and misery on people, still government is responsible for this because they had an obligation to protect life, liberty, property and honour of citizens; and if they cannot do that they have no right to rule.
Writer is a political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.