The 2018 US State Departments country report on human rights has drawn attention to human rights violations in J&K. The report says no prosecution of accused soldiers has been allowed for 28 years as armed forces special powers Act (AFSPA) has been in vogue in J&K. It also notes that around 145 civilians have been killed by government forces between July 2016 and April 2018. The report also blames militants for killing 20 civilians during the same period. Similarly, the report also highlights the havoc wrought by the use of pellet guns in the state. It cites the official figures, according to which 17 individuals have died from pellet gun injuries. It also quotes Mehbooba Mufti informing the state legislative assembly that pellet guns have injured 6,221 people in Kashmir between July 2016 and February 2017.
The report follows the one earlier released by the United Nations Human Rights Commission which documented human rights excesses in Kashmir based on the media and the other reports including those from the government agencies. The UN report spans the entire J&K including the part under Pakistan’s administration. The UNHRC also proposed a Commission of Inquiry on the state.
However, New Delhi rejected the report as “fallacious, tendentious and motivated”. External affairs ministry spokesperson at the time said the report was “overtly prejudiced” seeking to build a “false narrative.” The Army chief General Bipin Rawat too termed the UN report as motivated saying the government is deeply concerned that individual prejudices are being allowed to undermine the credibility of a UN institution
Sadly, what should have been an opportunity to introspect and look dispassionately at the situation in J&K was turned into a blame-game. New Delhi prefers to look at the situation in Kashmir through terror lens, as if it exists in a vacuum. There is no acknowledgement of the local factors underpinning it.
Now that the US State Department report has also highlighted the depressing state of human rights in the state, it is time that New Delhi pays heed. The situation in Kashmir has progressively worsened over the past five years. The period has witnessed a massive spike in killings. The use of pellet guns has completely or partially blinded scores of people. But far from helping in enforcing the calm, this militaristic approach to Kashmir has only fanned the trouble. It is thus important that New Delhi takes a constructive view of the US and the earlier UN report and takes visible steps to improve the human rights situation in the state. Simultaneously, New Delhi also needs to work to engage with the root cause and resolve it.