Enforced disappearances in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir: A challenge to world conscience

By Altaf Hussain Wani

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Enforced disappearances are a serious problem in almost all regions of the world; however, in the conflict-affected regions like Kashmir the forced disappearance is being used as a political weapon to subjugate and silence the dissenting voices and instill a sense of fear in the society. The region that has undergone intermittent periods of sporadic violence since 1989 continues to be in the whirlwind of state oppression that has led to killings and forced disappearances of innocent Kashmiris by the Indian forces on an enormous scale. Decades’ long conflict had left tens of thousands of Kashmiris dead; more than 7000 bodies of missing persons still lay buried in unmarked and unknown mass graves unearthed in and around the Kashmir valley.
It was almost a decade back, that the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir released an eye-opening report on mass graves in the IoK. The report titled ‘Buried Evidence: Unknown, Unmarked, and Mass Graves made a shocking revelation about the existence of 2,700, unnamed mass graves, containing 2,943 bodies, across 55 villages in Bandipora, Baramulla, and Kupwara districts of Kashmir. “Of these, 87.9 percent were unnamed, 154 contained two bodies each and 23 contained between three to 17 bodies”, the report said adding that the government of India should allow an independent inquiry to ascertain the facts.

Years have passed but family members of enforced disappeared persons still continue to wander from pillar to post trying to exercise their rights to know the whereabouts of their loved ones. Social, psychological, legal, and financial effects of this tragedy of immense proportions have made their lives a living hell. The painful saga of half-widows is yet another off-shoot of this illegal and ignominious practice of enforced disappearance in Kashmir. As per reports the number of ‘half-widows’ in Kashmir are around 2,500. It is feared that the bodies buried in these unmarked graves are of the missing husbands of the half-widows who have been picked up from their homes and disappeared after getting killed in the custody of the Indian army. On July 10, 2008, the EU Parliament passed a resolution lending support for the investigations into the discovery of mass graves and enforced disappearances.

Unfortunately, the Indian authorities are reluctant to acknowledge the very existence of mass graves and to hold an inquiry despite the fact that the State Human Rights Commission in 2009 took a suo moto notice of the report. A special investigation team that was tasked to conduct an inquiry confirmed the presence of 2,730 unidentified bodies buried across 37 sites in the three districts of north Kashmir. Citing lack of technology, expertise, and human resources the Indian government refused to conduct the investigations, even though the European Parliament had offered financial assistance to take it forward. In November 2017, SHRC unearthed 2080 unmarked and unknown mass graves in Poonch and Rajouri district in IoK. Till now there has neither been a probe nor an Action Taken Report from the government.

In Kashmir, more than 8000 – 10, 000 cases of enforced and involuntary disappearances have been reported since 1989. The government of India (GoI), however, had grossly underreported the number of forcibly disappeared persons – something that many victims and rights groups have contested publicly. The GoI puts the number of enforced disappearances at 4,000. This discrepancy in the number has been highlighted by the OHCHR in it’s first-ever report released in June 2018.
Since the early 1990s, rights groups have time and again regretted the rising trend of enforced disappearances in the region urging New Delhi to stop the vicious cycle of violence. But Indian state has miserably failed in bringing to justice the military, paramilitary and police personnel who have been found guilty of abducting civilians, murdering them in fake encounters just to get promotion or cash reward.

Kashmir happens to be the only place in the world where men in uniform are being awarded cash money and gallantry awards for killing innocent civilians. Using civilians as human shields and terrorize and torture people have become a norm; rape has been leveraged as a ‘weapon of war’ by the so-called Indian security forces. During the years of turmoil, many Indian soldiers and even the top-rank officers have been found involved in these heinous crimes but no soldier was ever punished or held accountable.

As per the international law Enforced disappearance is considered a crime against humanity. The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (2010) compels States to fight enforced disappearance in their respective territories. In particular, it affirms the right of individuals to know the fate of their disappeared relatives, and to obtain justice and reparation.
The Indian authorities’ perpetual denial to respect the international law and the fundamental rights of the Kashmiri people is gravely threatening peace and stability in the restive region. It is time that the world should come forward in a big way and compel the Indian state to halt gross and systematic human rights violations in the region.

Tale piece: The world’s inaction would only further embolden the occupying power (India) to escalate its actions with impunity in Kashmir.

People targetted for their faith in India and IIOJK: report

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Islamabad, August 22 (KMS): As the world observes International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, today, reports of atrocities in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir and India continue to surface.

A report released by the research section of Kashmir Media Service in connection with the Day, today, maintained that Indian troops are even denying the Kashmiri people their right to observe their religious practices. “India has snatched every right including religious freedom of Kashmiri Muslims. Demographic change in IIOJK is a proof that India targets people because of their faith. Religious minorities are being persistently hounded in India under rogue Modi’s regime. Killing and torture of Indian Muslims in the garb of cow slaughter is a scar on the concept of civilized world. Gujarat massacre in 2002 indicates victimization of Muslims in India,” it said.

The report pointed out that RSS and BJP are using hate campaign as a weapon against Muslims and other religious minorities in India. “There is an alarming rise of Islamophobia across India. Recent anti-Muslim riots in Delhi and Indian Supreme Court’s Babri Masjid verdict are ample proofs that India is becoming increasingly intolerable for Muslims. Religious sites of Muslims, Christians and other minorities in India are being vandalized by Hindutva forces with impunity,” it said.

The report stated that hatred towards religious minorities is at its peak in India and the RSS-backed racist Modi government is using terror as a policy to intimidate religious minorities across the country. RSS-inspired BJP government is planning ethnic cleansing of Muslims through discriminatory laws like Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Population Register (NPR), and National Register of Citizens (NRC) it said, adding that Modi’s fascist regime is trampling upon fundamental freedoms of religious minorities in India.

The report maintained that the global community must make sure that voices of victims of violence in IIOJK and across India are heard. World must take practical steps to protect rights of IIOJK people and of India’s religious minorities. Fascist Modi govt must be brought to book for its crimes against IIOJK people and religious minorities in India,” it added.

The report pointed out that the international community has already been warned of the genocide of Muslims in India and IIOJK. Muslims, Dalits and Christians are completely unsafe in India because of their faith, it added.

It is to mention here that the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief is a day designated by the UN for states to step up their efforts to combat intolerance, discrimination and violence against persons based on religion or belief.

RAW, IB targeted Canadian politicians to support Indian interests: report

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Islamabad, April 18 (KMS): Indian intelligence agents working for Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) attempted to use money and disinformation to covertly influence Canadian politicians and falsely link Pakistan and its diaspora with “terrorism” through well-funded lobbying, according to a highly sensitive government document.

The document shows that Canadian security officials suspected India’s two main intelligence branches had asked an Indian citizen to sway politicians in Canada into supporting Indian government interests, Global News reported. The paper said that the RAW and IB were behind the operation since 2009.

A Canada government official said the government was “concerned when any country shows destabilising behaviour, including interference in other countries’ democratic systems”.

The report claims the Canadian intelligence authorities suspect Indian agencies of trying to use the chief editor of an unnamed Indian publication for this purpose. It adds that the wife and kids of that editor are Canadian nationals and a secret security investigation against him began when he applied to immigrate to Canada.

Details of alleged Indian involvement were first revealed in a Canadian federal court, where Canadian authorities have accused the said editor – referred to as AB in the document seen by Global News – of espionage.

The report claims that the accused Indian national allegedly met Indian intelligence officials more than two dozens times over a period of six years.

“You stated that you were tasked by RAW to covertly influence Canadian government representatives and agencies on behalf of the Indian government,” according to a letter sent to him by an immigration official.

“You stated that you were told to identify random Caucasian politicians and attempt to direct them into supporting issues that impacted India,” the letter continued.

“You stated that the guidance from RAW included that you were to provide financial assistance and propaganda material to politicians in order to exert influence over them.”

One of his tasks was “to convince politicians that funding from Canada was being sent to Pakistan to support terrorism,” according to the letter, dated May 30, 2018.

At least 1.2 million Canadians are of Indian descent. India has always suspected thousands of Sikhs, living in Canada, of supporting Khalistan movement and seeking independence from India.

Allegations made against RAW in a Canadian court are especially embarrassing for India because only in December 2019 a German court sentenced an Indian couple after they admitted to spying on Kashmiri and Sikh freedom groups for the Indian intelligence agency RAW.

Court documents said the couple, named only as Manmohan S and his wife Kanwal Jit K, were paid more than €7,000 (£6,000) for passing on information.

Manmohan S was given an 18-month suspended prison sentence for espionage while his wife received a hefty fine.

The court in Frankfurt was told that Manmohan S, 51, was recruited by RAW in 2015 and asked to spy on Kashmiri freedom groups.

“The accused reported on the internal affairs of the Sikh temples in Cologne and Frankfurt, as well as on protest events in the Sikh community,” a court statement said.

He attended regular meetings with an Indian intelligence officer from July 2017 and was paid €200 a month for the information he provided.

Also in December 2019, it emerged that a global network of pro-India fake websites and think-tanks was established by RAW across Europe aimed at influencing decision-making in Europe in favour of India and to oppose Pakistan.

The co-ordinated network of 265 sites operates across 65 countries, according to a report by EU Disinfo Lab, a Brussels-based NGO. The network was also found to involve groups responsible for anti-Pakistan lobbying events in Europe.

“More than the fake media outlets alone, it is their combination with the fake NGOs that’s really worrying because it provides a mirage of online and grassroots support to a cause. That’s exactly where the disinformation lies,” Alexandre Alaphilippe, executive director of EU Disinfo Lab, said.

Stepped-up violent CASOs add to miseries of IOK people

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Srinagar, April 18 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, the stepped-up violent cordon and search operations by Indian troops have added to the miseries and suffering of the people of the territory who are already suffering immensely due to continued lockdown for the last over eight months.

Amid intensification of the restrictions imposed by the occupation authorities to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Indian troops continue their violent operations in different areas of Budgam, Kupwara, Baramulla, Bandipore, Shopian, Kulgam, Pulwama, Islamabad, Kishtwar, Ramban, Rajouri, Poonch, Samba, Kishtwar and Kathua districts. These operations have created an atmosphere of fear, making the life of the people a hell. The residents of these areas told media that Indian forces’ personnel during the operations barge into their houses, harass the inmates and vandalize the household goods.

On the other hand, Indian police have arrested several persons from different areas of the Kashmir Valley on the charges of violating the restrictions imposed to stop spread of coronavirus.

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