Annual Review of Human Rights situation in Indian-Administered Jammu and Kashmir (JKCCS)
Indian security forces personnel patrol a deserted street during restrictions after the government scrapped special status for Kashmir, in Srinagar August 9, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Ismail
This report prepared by JKCCS on the human rights situation in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir (henceforth J&K) covers the period from January 1 to December 31, 2019. The year 2019 is a landmark year in J&K’s history since the government of India permanently revoked J&K’s limited autonomy on 5 August 2019.
It was a unilateral decision taken without any consultation with the Kashmiri people, in breach of Article 1.1 of ICCPR, which stipulates that, “All peoples have the right of self-determination.By virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”
The Indian government not only did not consult with the people of J&K or their representatives in a move they regard as ‘beneficial for the future of J&K’ but threw the entire leadership in jail– both pro-India and pro-resolution political figures.The decision was also followed by a military siege in which almost one hundred thousand troops were deployed in the state – particulalry in the Kashmir valley, the busy streets, alleys and all the main squares of towns and villages. A strict curfew was imposed with a complete communication blockade – in which all mobile phone services, internet services and postal services were shut down. Soon after the revocation of Article 370, reports of accusations of mass arrests, abuse, executions, excessive use of force, harassment and intimidation emerged, as documented in this report.
In 2019, violence in the J&K conflict witnessed similar trends as seen in the last decade. The year recorded at least 366 killings in different violent incidents. In addition to the killings of 159 militants and 129 armed forces, the year has witnessed extrajudicial executions of at least 80 civilians in J&K. In 2019, 12 of the 80 civilians killed were women. In 2019, as in the past, children in J&K were still casualties of state violence, with eight children killed in several violent incidents. In addition to becoming casulties of extra-judicial executions, children were also subjected to illegal and unjustified impresioment, ill-treatment, including torture, at the hands of armed forces during detention and fear of further reprisals.
The year also saw targeted violence against non-local workers post the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, during which at least 14 non-local workers were killed by unidentified gunmen and several others were injured. Out of the 80 civilians killed this year, 19 were killed by armed forces, 17 were killed in cross LOC shelling between Indian and Pakistani armed forces (We have not been able to ascertain the number of killings of civilians in Pakistan administered Kashmir.) While 28 civilians were killed by unidentified gunmen, 6 were killed by militants, 7 were killed in explosions, one person died after being allegedly hit by a stone and one person (a non-local) died in cross-firing between armed forces and militants. While the government of India has refused to acknowledge any civilian killing, the documented cases of killings by JKCCS and APDP post-August-5 at the hands of state forces state otherwise. JKCCS and APDP have been able to document at least six killings at the hands of the Indian armed forces following the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5.
The use of pellet shotguns, first introduced in Kashmir 2010, continued throughout 2019. The excessive use of force by the Indian armed forces, especially the firing of pellets and teargas shells resulted in at least 6 deaths in 2019. This year 4 people died due to pellet injuries and 3 died due to inhalation of excessive tear and pepper gas. Continuing with the policy of “operation all out”, that has been going on in Kashmir since 2017, Indian armed forces carried numerous encounters with militants in different areas leading to killings, severe injuries and destruction of civilian property. A total of 87 encounters took place in Jammu and Kashmir leading to killings of 150 militants and 29 personnel from Indian armed forces and J&K Police.
In 2019, at least 195 Cordon and Search Operations (CASOs) and Cordon and Search Operations (CADO’s) were conducted in J&K which resulted in the killing of 159 militants. The frequent instances of CASOs have led to multiple human rights violations of the civilian population, including harassment, molestation, detention and use of excessive and indiscriminate force.
According to the data compiled by JKCCS and APDP, at least 87 encounters took place between Indian armed forces and the militants following CASOs in the year 2019. During CASOs, vandalism and destruction of civilian properties were reported throughout the year.
While the Government of India claimed in Parliament on November 20, that ‘5,161 persons were detained since August 5 out of whom 609 were under detention while rest were released’, – there is no clear statement on how many were booked under PSA. As per data obtained by JKCCS and APDP through J&K High Court Registry, as many as 662 fresh Habeas Corpus petitions (challenging detentions under PSA) were registered in 2019 out of whom the majority (412) were registered post-August 5, 2019.
There continued to be no trace of the fate of more than 8000 disappeared persons in Jammu and Kashmir and the families of these victims suffer incessantly as the Government and its institutions could not provide any relief to these families. Neither any enquiry nor any policy has been introduced to establish the truth behind the thousands of victims of enforced disappearance in Jammu and Kashmir.
The abrogation of the Article 370 has also lead to the winding up of various Commissions including the Jammu and Kashmir State Information Commission (SIC) and the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and Consumer Commission. This again has led to the closure of the information and justice sought by people which in turn lead to the continual denial of justice to the people.
In the year 2019, the judicial processes have not resulted in the adjudication of any human rights violation cases, either leading to the prosecution of any perpetrators or ordering of any serious inquiries on the human rights violations. The orders of the Jammu Kashmir High Court have been subservient to the Executive, even in the cases where preventive detention orders were quashed, the police on their own reasoning determined whether the detainee has to be released or re-arrested in another detention order.
In 2019, several restrictions were put in place on the pretext of maintaining law and order and in the name of “national security”. Restrictions on movement and assembly were imposed 9 times this year till July 31, under Section 144 Cr.P.C in different areas of J&K. In the morning of August 5, a strict curfew was imposed in J&K including in Ladakh. While curfew was lifted from Ladakh and Jammu regions after a few days, it remained in effect in Kashmir for a longer period of time and was lifted in a phased manner. But the restrictions under Section 144 continued. Pertinently, the state authorities invoke Section 144 Cr.P.C. to stop people from assembling for press conferences, seminars, book/report releases, etc. Permissions from the government (District Magistrates) prior to organising any event are required. The intention of the legislation of Section 144 Cr.P.C. was to provide “temporary” provisions to ensure the maintenance of public order and safety in urgent and grave circumstances. However, since 1989, Section 144 Cr.P.C. has been permanently in place in Kashmir. The permanent imposition of Section 144 is a clear violation of fundamental rights and manifests how India has imposed a permanent state of emergency in J&K.
In 2019, media continued to be at the receiving end of the pressure, intimidation and harassment by the authorities, with several incidents of beating and thrashing of journalists. Besides physical assaults, journalists in 2019 also faced reprisals for filing stories on contentious issues.
Following a precedent set in the previous years, the government trampled people’s right to religious freedom in the disguise of maintaining peace and order. In 2019, no prayers were allowed in the historic Jamia Masjid for 24 Fridays. The Jamia Masjid was kept under complete lockdown from August 5 to December 18, for 19 consecutive weeks. During the month of Ramadhan, congregational prayers on two Fridays were not allowed. A centuries-old tradition of Khoja Digar, a special prayer held at Naqshband Sahab shrine in old Srinagar City, was disallowed for the first time this year on November 2. On the occasion of Eid Milad, which is traditionally celebrated in Kashmir by thousands of people observing night long prayers in Hazratbal shrine, only a small gathering of people was allowed as restrictions were put in place to prevent people from reaching to the shrine and assembling in a large congregation.
In 2019, the right to access information continues to be severely restricted in J&K as part of the ongoing counter-insurgency measures by the government of India as there were 55 instances of internet blockades recorded in the year 2019. Prior to the August 5 decision of the Indian government to revoke Kashmir’s autonomy, internet services were blocked a total of 54 times from January 1, 2019, to August 4, 2019. However, on the intervening night of August 4 and 5 –the government enforced the 55th internet shutdown of the year and which to date is the longest-running (149 days till 31st December 2019) internet blackout not just in Kashmir but in the entire world.
Serious cases of sexualized torture and gendered violence were reported in post-August 5. The Independent reported on September 1 a case of torture from Parigam area in Pulwama district in south Kashmir. Mohammad Yasin Bhat and 11 other men were detained during the cordon and search operation and tortured. They were stripped naked and kept in a queue on the main road. All of them were electrocuted in their genitals. When the physical torture ended, they were made to lie face down on top of each other, in a pile. Many cases of gender-based violence were reported during a cordon and search operations and night raids post-August 5, some of which have been documented by JKCCS and APDP.
In J&K, the destruction of civilian properties by armed forces personnel during encounters or while dealing with the protestors have been normalized. In the last few years – especially since 2016, the reports and allegations of destruction of property by armed forces show no decline. While in the first quarter of 2019, at least 18 cases of destruction of civilian properties were reported in Jammu and Kashmir, in the next three months of April, May and June instances of destruction of civilian properties began to be reported less due to unknown reasons. Due to the restrictions and communication blockade enforced on August 5 by the authorities, the allegations of destruction and vandalism of civilian properties by armed forces during night raids were not reported. However, while surveying several areas in many districts of Kashmir valley, where it was possible to visit in light of restrictions imposed post-August 5, people generally complained of destruction and vandalism of civilian property by forces personnel. JKCCS and APDP have documented several cases of vandalism and destruction of civilian properties at the hands of armed forces.
Kashmiris living in India – be it, students, businessmen or professionals, continue to remain prone to all kinds of harassment from state forces, right-wing student groups and from the general public. In 2019, at least 43 incidents of attacks on Kashmiris across India were reported throughout India, with 42 of them alone in the first quarter of 2019, in the aftermath of the Pulwama bomb blast in which around 48 Indian soldiers were killed.
In 2019, five political activists, and one relative of an elected Sarpanch, were killed in various incidents of targeted violence in J&K. While two were from Peoples’ Democracy Party (PDP), the rest of the three belonged to BJP, RSS and Congress respectively.
Violence against persons with disabilities continues to be reported in J&K. In 2019, there was one reported incident of a mentally challenged person in Kashmir shot at and injured by armed forces. In the data compiled by JKCCS and APDP, in the last sixteen years i.e. from 2003 to 2019 at least eighteen killings of persons with mental disabilities were witnessed in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir.
In the months following the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, several incidents of violence against non-local workers occurred in J&K. In these violent incidents, as many as 14 non-local workers, who were mostly drivers, were killed by unidentified gunmen. Among the 14 killings – 11 were shot dead, two killed in grenade explosions and one person died in cross-firing. This was, perhaps for the first time, that in one year over ten non-locals were killed in violence in Kashmir.
The incidents of grenade explosions at public places continued this year. In 2019, in 15 incidents of grenade explosions at public places, four civilians were killed while 160 were injured. Similar to last year, the trend of suicides and fratricides among Indian armed forces stationed in J&K saw an uptick as this year, 19 armed forces committed suicide while 3 CRPF personnel were killed in a fratricidal incident by a CRPF trooper in Udhampur district of Jammu.
Full report available at the following link: http://jkccs.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/2019-Annual-Human-Rights-Review.pdf