Kashmiri journalists hold placards during a protest against the high-handedness of Indian forces in Srinagar, Indian Administered Kashmir on 18 December 2019. Journalists took to the streets after some of the journalists were beaten by Forces yesterday while they were covering the student protests in old city Srinagar. (Photo by Muzamil Mattoo/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
At the time of Indian and Pakistani independence in 1947, Jammu and Kashmir was a princely state with a majority of Hindus in Jammu and a majority of Muslims in Kashmir. During Partition, Kashmir's Hindu Maharaja chose to remain independent. When Pashtun militias invaded from Pakistan, the Maharaja acceded to the Union of India and India airlifted in troops. Fighting between Pakistani militias and Indian troops ensued. India took a dispute with Pakistan to the UN Security Council, which passed Resolution 47 of 1948. It called for the withdrawal of Pakistani fighters and the reduction of Indian troops in Jammu and Kashmir. It also called for a plebiscite to determine Jammu and Kashmir’s future. The plebiscite has never been held. The region remains disputed and divided along the “Line of Control.” Kashmir has witnessed more than three wars between India and Pakistan since 1947.
Human Rights Watch has reported that over 50,000 people were killed in Kashmir from 1989 to 2006. The Kashmir State Human Rights Commission has evidence of 2730 bodies buried in over 40 mass graves. The evidence was corroborated by the International People’s Tribunal, which found evidence of 2943 bodies, 87.9% of which are completely unidentifiable. The Peoples Tribunal also documented detailed evidence that establishes the perpetration or complicity of the state armed forces in killings, torture, and "disappearances." No one has been tried for these crimes, creating a situation of total impunity. Relatives of those killed have been denied the right to have a decent burial according to their religious rites. Such policies violate Rule 115 of ICRC Customary International Humanitarian law. They also violate the “right to dignity” guaranteed to all persons under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. There are over 8000 reported cases of state-perpetrated "disappearances" since the 1990s, most of which have not been investigated by any government authorities. The government also uses the Public Safety Act 1978 to detain people without trial for up to two years, a system infamously known as the “revolving open door detention system." Repression in India not only grows from the barrel of a gun but also from contempt for the law.
In August 2019, the Indian government revoked the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir granted by Section 370 of the Indian Constitution. Over 300 Kashmiri political leaders were immediately detained and the region was put under a total lockdown. On August 2, 2019, the government imposed a communications blackout and suspended telecommunication and internet services. In some parts of Kashmir, the blackout lasted for 18 months. Amnesty International has documented over 60 arrests of human rights defenders as well as at least 27 arbitrary arrests of journalists since 2019. Human Rights Watch, reports that these arrests of journalists have crippled any freedom of the press. Arrested journalists face abusive police interrogation, curtailment of movement, raids, and physical and mental assault. This has mainly been the result of a 53-page media policy in force since 2020, which grants local and state officials the arbitrary power to decide whether news reports are “fake”, “anti-national” or “legitimate”.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor has called for the Indian government to “address fundamental issues with the country’s anti-terrorism framework and its misuse to silence human rights defenders.” Her report came after the second arrest on March 22, 2023, of the Kashmiri human rights defender, Khurram Parvez by the National Investigation Agency. On 14 March 2022, human rights defender Fahad Shah was charged under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978 and later ‘preventively’ detained under India’s sedition laws. Arbitrary detention of those who politically dissent against the government has institutionalized state repression with impunity.
Genocide Watch calls upon India to:
Permit independent international investigations of human rights violations by police and army in Kashmir.
Repeal arbitrary detention laws such as the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978.
Free all detained journalists and ensure the protection of journalistic freedom in Kashmir.
End internet shutdowns in Kashmir and elsewhere in India.
Carry out independent investigations of mass graves in Kashmir and preserve evidence for prosecutions.