The Indian government has allegedly been covering up hundreds of cases of human rights violations in Indian Kashmir, including extra judicial killings, torture and forced disappearances, said a report on Wednesday.
The 800-page report, Structures of Violence: The Indian State in Jammu and Kashmir by the International Peoples’ Tribunal and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, highlights the systematic violence allowed by Indian authorities in Kashmir in over two decades in the region, said Khurram Parvez, programme coordinator of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society.
Over 1,000 cases of extra judicial killings along with 172 incidents of enforced disappearances as well as the numerous cases of sexual violence dating as far as the early 1990s were recorded in the report, said Parvez, who co-authored the report which took two years to complete.
Evidence by the rights groups gathered over four years includes hundreds of on-the-record testimonies from witnesses and victims, scrutiny of official records under right-to-information laws as well as lengthy litigation.
“This report will be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council as well as the government of India,” added Parvez.
Non-Governmental Organisations say all remedies available within the Indian justice system have been exhausted, and named 972 alleged perpetrators, including 464 army personnel, it says have gone unpunished.
Kartik Murukutla, another author of the report and a lawyer who was part of a UN tribunal for Rwanda, said government forces received “institutional impunity”.
An emergency law in force in the region since 1990 grants security forces wide powers to raid homes and kill on suspicion of illegal actions, and forbids them from being tried in civilian courts.
But rights activists say the civilian victims of abuses by soldiers often struggle to bring complaints to the military courts, which are reserved for internal disciplinary hearings, leaving them with limited legal recourse.
Urging not to limit persecution only to the individuals directly involved in the abuses, Parvez said, “We acknowledge that these are individuals forming part of a structure of violence and impunity that allows a massive institutional cover-up here in the valley.”
While a spokesperson for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party Waheedur Rehman said his party was looking into the claims made in the report and admitted that “there have been some human rights violations in Kashmir”, human rights activists have a different side to the story.
Describing justice as “a rarity” in the valley, Gautum Navalkha, a human rights activist and editorial consultant to the Economic and Political Weekly magazine in New Delhi, said “Because of the militancy, Jammu and Kashmir is considered a ‘disturbed area’ and there are two types of laws: one for common Indians and another for the ‘disturbed areas’.”
“There is no possibility of justice in Kashmir under these circumstances,” he added.
In July, Amnesty International accused the Indian government of refusing to prosecute perpetrators of human rights abuses in the region.
According to Amnesty, more than 96% of all allegations of human rights violations pitted against India’s personnel in the disputed territory have been declared as “false or baseless”.
Earlier this week for the first time, army personnel accused of human rights violations were punished as six Indian army personnel, including a colonel, were awarded life sentence for the Machil fake encounter case of 2010.