On January 19, 2022, a UK based law firm, Stoke White Investigations (SWI) released a report on the Indian war crimes and human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). The document contains 2000 testimonies of abuse of human rights, and extrajudicial killings by Indian security forces. Analysts and observers all around the world including UK, Pakistan, India and US started discussing the report after it was released as it contains some shocking revelations. Atrocities committed by the Indian security forces in IIOJK have been reported in the press from time to time and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has compiled and released several reports on the crimes perpetrated by the Indian security forces in the part of J&K under their control. But the SWI report is different in the sense that it has been prepared by a group of independent lawyers who work on these issues. It has also been submitted to the British police. The SWI lawyers have also filed an application for the arrest of Indian Minister of Home Affairs and Indian Chief of the Army Staff, under the universal jurisdiction principle. Both are held responsible for the extrajudicial killings, torture, forced disappearances, kidnapping women and raping them in IIOJK. Much of this was already known to people but what came as a surprise was that Israel was also found involved in war crimes in Kashmir, according to the report. The report indicates that the Israeli intelligence officers are present in Kashmir and have been a party to torturing Kashmiri Muslims under the garb of carrying out ‘research and interrogation’. Their methods of interrogation were gruesome as documented in SWI report.
More than two years have passed since the right wing BJP government stripped Kashmir of its autonomous status by revoking Articles 370 and 35A of Indian constitution. Since then, Kashmir is under siege, and the situation has been deteriorating with each passing day. The Stoke White report has confirmed that the security situation has worsened for Muslims in the past two years. Muslims have been attacked with pellet guns, tortured, murdered, their bodies mutilated, and women have been sexually assaulted and raped in large numbers. Although, Pakistani governments had raised the issue of Kashmir at UNGA and also in UN Security Council several times, but the international community has not taken any notice as India serves their geopolitical interests.
Decades of Oppression:
Since 1948, Indian troops have wreaked havoc with the lives, freedom and honor of Kashmiris. The security situation in IIOJK further deteriorated after the amendment of Indian constitution on August 5, 2019 by the BJP government, presently in power in India.
The Kashmir region has been turned into the most militarized zone in the world, with the deployment of around one million Indian forces there. The Indian forces imposed a complete lockdown in Kashmir after revoking its autonomous status and the region is under lockdown till today. Soon after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, Kashmiri political leaders, political activists, as well independent journalists and human rights lawyers were incarcerated regardless of their gender. Many of them were killed or are still languishing in prisons. The Indian security forces operating in IIOJK cannot be held accountable for their criminal acts as they are given an exemption under the draconian Indian laws, such as Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA), The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Prevention of Terrorism Act etc. These laws were promulgated by the Indian governments from time to time. Under these laws, the Indian military forces are given special powers for use of force, and they are free to carry out violence against unarmed civilians with impunity.
The SWI report concluded that India and Israel are committing war crimes in Kashmir and Palestine, under the guise of global war on terror. However, the international community, particularly the United States has turned a blind eye to the massive human rights violations, largely because of the US’ strategic partnership with India and Israel.
India seems to be working on two parallels to consolidate its hold on Jammu and Kashmir territory. One, by suppressing Kashmiris using disproportionate force and second by weakening and coercing Pakistan so that it stops supporting Kashmiris, similar to what has happened in case of Palestinians. India and Pakistan have been engaged in border skirmishes at the Line of Control, the line dividing the parts of Jammu and Kashmir under the respective controls of the two countries. To intimidate Pakistan, India has not hesitated to use kinetic actions. Sometimes it propagates that its forces had carried out surgical strikes in Pakistani administered part of Kashmir. In February 2019, India even sent its Air force planes and bombed an uninhabited area several miles within Pakistani territory. Pakistan returned the favor the next day. Indian Air force planes pursued Pakistani planes and in the short encounter India lost two planes and one pilot of the plane shot down by Pakistan Air force was captured. Such incidents have the potential for triggering crisis escalation cycles. A full-fledged war between the two nuclear powers would have catastrophic consequences for the regional as well as global security.
The Way Forward:
Indian Occupied Kashmir has been subjected to ruthless tyranny; the political leaders are in jail with the people of Kashmir being suppressed by the use of disproportionate force against them. As Pakistan has legitimate stakes in the Kashmir region; being a predominantly Muslim majority country, they naturally feel for their brethren living in part of J&K and have been one of the only countries to raise voices against Indian atrocities in IIOJK. Furthermore, other than India, Pakistan is the second legally recognized party to the J&K dispute by the United Nations Security Council.
The present situation in IIOJK demands the United Nations to take necessary measures with collective action on urgent basis to protect human rights as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the meanwhile, Indian violations of human rights must continue to be highlighted on international forums aiming to put an end to the Indian repression.