U.N. calls for inquiry into human rights violations in Kashmir
Indian security forces have used excessive force in Kashmir and killed and wounded numerous civilians since 2016, the United Nations said on Thursday, calling for an international inquiry into alleged violations in the disputed territory.
In the first U.N. report on human rights in both Indian-administered and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, it urged Pakistan to end its "misuse" of anti-terror legislation to persecute peaceful activists and quash dissent.
There was no immediate comment by either government to the report issued by the U.N. human rights office in Geneva, which called for justice for victims on both sides of the so-called Line of Conflict.
Mountainous Kashmir, which is Muslim majority, is divided between the nuclear-armed neighbours, who both claim it in full and have fought two of their three wars over the region since their separation in 1947.
India has long accused Pakistan of training and arming militants and helping them infiltrate across the heavily militarised Line of Control (LoC) that separates the two sides in the region, a charge Islamabad denies.
The real Kashmir
Poets call it one of the most beautiful places on earth. Analysts consider it to be one of the most dangerous areas in the world. But what is Kashmir in reality? By Onkar Singh Janoti
Multicultural: Kashmir is well-known for its cultural and linguistic diversity. The Kashmir Valley has a Muslim majority. Hindus are predominant in Jammu while Ladakh is primarily Buddhist. But interminable violence has damaged the very fabric of society
Saffron: Kashmir is also famous for its saffron. India is the third largest exporter of saffron following Iran and Spain
'Switzerland of the East': Kashmir boasts some of the world's most beautiful flowering meadows and snow-capped peaks. Many people call it "The Switzerland of the East". On average, Jammu and Kashmir have welcomed over 1 million tourists in recent years
Under a blanket of snow: Kashmir wears pure white in winter. Many areas are perfect for winter sports but lack infrastructure. Islamist violence remains the biggest challenge
Rivers: the Himalayan part of Kashmir is the source of fresh water for more than 20 rivers, among which the Indus, Neelum and Ravi are the biggest. All these rivers flow from India into Pakistan
Wood: Kashmir is also famous for its wood, the Kashmir willow. Experts believe that it is the best wood for making a cricket bat. Kashmiri wood is also used for building boats
Sufism: Sufism, the mystical dimension of Islam, reached Kashmir in the 16th century. The Sufi tradition is associated with religious harmony. Many of the saints held dear by Kashmiris were Sufi monks. Sufi singers such as Abida Parveen are popular to this day
Kashmir on the silver screen: Kashmir used to be the most popular location of the Indian film industry during the 1980s. It was a golden era for Kashmir. However, the valley has witnessed violence on an almost daily basis ever since. These days, only one or two films are shot on location in Kashmir every year
Fighting in the clouds: the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan has been going on 1948 and experts see little hope of a solution in the foreseeable future. Both countries spend lots of resources on their half of the divided territory, with their respective armies squared off on what some view as the highest battlefield in the world, the Siachen glacier (5,753m)
The U.N. report focuses mainly on serious violations committed in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 to April 2018. Activists estimate that up to 145 civilians were killed by security forces and up to 20 civilians killed by armed groups in the same period, it said.
"In responding to demonstrations that started in 2016, Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries," the report said.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein called for maximum restraint and denounced the lack of prosecutions of Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir due to a 1990 law giving them what he called "virtual immunity".
In a statement, Zeid called for the Human Rights Council - which opens a three-week session in Geneva on Monday - to launch a commission of inquiry into all violations. Alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region should be investigated, he said.
Tensions escalated after an attack on an Indian army camp in February that India blamed on Pakistan. After the two armies agreed on May 30 to stop exchanging artillery fire following the repeated deadly clashes, thousands of people from Jammu and Kashmir headed back to their homes near the de facto border with Pakistan.
Armed groups in Jammu and Kashmir have committed a range of crimes including kidnappings, killings of civilians and sexual violence, the U.N. report said.
Violations in Pakistan-administered Kashmir "are of a different calibre or magnitude", it said, while decrying restrictions on freedoms of expression and association. (Reuters)