Former UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson stated: “There can be no peace without development, no development without peace, and no lasting peace or sustainable development without respect for human rights and the rule of law.”
On 10 Dec 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was drafted by representatives from all the regions of the world and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Since then, the declaration applies to all the signatory members of the UN, restraining them from abuse of any of the fundamental human rights protected in UDHR. Unfortunately, not all have adhered to these rights. The illegal occupation of the Kashmir Valley by the Indian government contravenes multiple articles of the 30 fundamental human rights stipulated in the UDHR.
VIOLATIONS OF THE UDHR IN KASHMIR
Article 3 of UDHR affirms the right to life and to live in freedom and safety. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a 43-page comprehensive report calling on both India and Pakistan to stop human rights violations in the Kashmir Valley. The report explicitly detailed civilian killings caused by excessive use of force. According to the report, 2018 saw the highest number of killings in a decade. Further, 162 conflict-based killings of civilians were recorded in early 2019.
It is also reported that Indian security forces continue to use pellet-firing shotguns in the Kashmir Valley as a method of crowd control. Human Rights Watch also notes that metal pellets shot by Indian forces upon civilians are extremely dangerous. The reported casualties and threats to the life of the people of Kashmir are in clear violation of Article 3 of UDHR.
Article 5 of UDHR lays out the right to be free from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. Whenever a curfew is imposed, the probability of people facing multifaceted torture increases in that place. A newspaper writes in detail about systematic torture inflicted upon the people of Kashmir for decades. Human Rights Watch reports war crimes committed by the Indian forces who committed gang rapes of 882 Kashmiri women in 1992 alone. Their report, “Rape in Kashmir,” indicates that the security forces and militant armed groups raped civilians and detainees in Kashmir. In Kashmir, rape is used as a weapon of torture against the population. A local newspaper in the region reported 11,170 rape cases since the beginning of the conflict to date.
Article 13 of UDHR describes the right to freedom of movement. Everyone has the right to travel around their own country. However, in the Valley of Kashmir, the Indian Government imposed a curfew on 5 August 2019. In a curfew, the activity of a population is forcefully restricted and one’s right to freedom of movement is violated. When utterly unjustified, this violation of the people’s rights cannot be justified within the standards of universally accepted human rights.
Article 18 declares the right to freedom of religious belief. The Indian Government has attempted to forcefully convert the majority of Kashmir Valley residents away from their religion of Islam and its practices. Since the abrogation of Kashmir’s special status, the number of armed forces deployed in Kashmir was doubled—making it the world’s most militarised region. According to local reports, under the curfew, Islamic religious practices, including the call for prayer, have been banned, and freedom to profess the religion has been curtailed. A resident of Kashmir expressed his sentiments that “the closure of the mosque has robbed me of my peace. I’ve been subjected to spiritual torture”.
UDHR’s article 19 highlights the freedom of opinion and expression. In the 21st century, as the world has been digitised and restricted expression is largely rejected, India has nonetheless attempted to completely blackout communication in Kashmir. It is reported that the internet in Kashmir has been restricted to 2G, and even this cannot be accessed in every part of the region. On the 100th day of curfew, the media protested against a media ban and called it a “cyber curfew”. A senior journalist, Ehsan Fazili saidthat it is “very unfortunate that in this 21st century Kashmir’s journalists are deprived of the internet for the past 156 days and counting”.
Articles 20 and 21 constitute the rights that protect freedom of assembly, association, and democracy. The curfew imposed on Kashmir has restricted the entire movement of its citizens. This, in turn, has deprived the population of their rights to assemble or associate themselves with their political groups, which is a direct threat to the democratic system. The longest curfew in history in Kashmir has hampered every sort of development and progress of life in the Kashmir Valley. It has denied the population their education, and it has compromised the securis of its people.
CALL FOR THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO PROBE AND ACT
Extensive abuse of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the disputed Kashmir yells for the attention of the international community to probe into the violations of Human Rights reported by local and the International bodies. It calls for the United Nations’ attention to step forward with collective action against abuse of human rights at large. Thus, it is high time for the international community to probe into the matter on an urgent basis and take necessary actions to protect human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.