UN’s Kashmir Reminder

Endorsing the damning human rights report on Kashmir of her predecessor Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein,  the new UNHRC chief Michelle Bachelet has  lamented that the report on the state “has not been followed up with meaningful improvements.” Addressing the 39th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Bachelet in a strong-worded statement said that “the people of Kashmir have exactly the same rights to justice and dignity as people all over the world, and we urge the authorities to respect them”.  She also called upon India and Pakistan to allow access to the UNHRC team to their respective sides of Kashmir and till that permission is received, the UNHRC “will continue its monitoring and reporting.”

In response, India has once again expressed regret that the Kashmir issue was being raised at UNHRC.  India’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Rajiv K. Chander told Bachelet on Tuesday at the UNHRC meeting in Geneva that the terrorism “was the biggest scourge and greatest violator of human rights” and India hoped that she will address it more emphatically in the coming years.

The UNHRC report published in June has documented human rights excesses in Kashmir based on the media and the other reports including those from the government agencies. The report spans the entire J&K including the part under Pakistan’s administration.  So, normally, there shouldn’t have been much to find fault with in the report. But New Delhi rejected the report as “fallacious, tendentious and motivated”.

The UNHRC has since proposed a Commission of Inquiry on the state and sought access to both sides of the state.  Islamabad has already said it was ready to facilitate the access of the Commission to its part of Kashmir if India gives a similar access to the UN team to Jammu and Kashmir. But that seems unlikely to happen. New Delhi has already made it known that the report violates its sovereignty. This has, once again, created a familiar deadlock on the state. And it is a tragedy. What should have been an opportunity to introspect and look dispassionately at the situation in the state has been turned into a blame-game, this time vis-a-vis the UN.  New Delhi has sought to look at the development through terror lens, as if the situation in Kashmir was existing in a vacuum, artificially created by meddling of Pakistan. There is no acknowledgement of the local factors underpinning this situation. What the UN report stresses is that there is an urgent need to grapple with the root causes that breed violence. This may have become a clichéd argument and thus often and sometimes rightly criticized for providing a justification for the violence, but this hardly detracts from the truth of the contention. It is thus important that New Delhi takes a more constructive view of the UN report and takes visible steps to improve the human rights situation in the state.


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