India's Human Rights Violations in Kashmir
By Karen Parker, J.D., a San Francisco-based attorney practicing human rights and humanitarian law; chief delegate, International Educational Development - Humanitarian Law Project
In 1990, International Educational Development - Humanitarian Law Project prepared a statement1 on the situation in Kashmir. At that time, an escalation of human rights and humanitarian law violations at the hands of the military forces in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was exceptionally serious. It was brought about by renewed insistence by the people of J&K that the UN-mandated plebiscite be carried out as soon as possible.2 The Kashmiri people, and their armed defenders, attempted to resist this onslaught. However, the armed conflict primarily effected the area's civilian population because Indian authorities directed extreme military force at the civilian population rather than against Kashmiri military units.
Since then, the situation in J&K has deteriorated markedly. While the number of Indian troops in J&K has varied, from 400,000 to 800,000 persons, the area is essentially under a continual state of siege.3 Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions occur with alarming frequency: assassination of political leadership, disappearances, murder and torture of POWs, torture (including rapes) and custodial deaths of civilians, military attacks on the civilian population, attacks on hospitals and medical aid providers and restrictions on medical aid. Refugees continue to flee. UN Security Council resolutions regarding the plebiscite remain unimplemented.
The international community is well aware of both the failure to implement the plebiscite ordered by the Security Council over 50 years ago and the massive and continuous violations of Geneva Conventions and human rights norms since 1990. International Educational Development alone has raised both issues more than 25 times since 1990 at various UN sessions. We have participated in NGO forums and international conferences and have brought key Kashmiri legal and human rights leaders to UN human rights sessions. We sadly lost one of our representatives at the 1995 session, Mr. Jalil Andrabi, Chairperson of the Kashmiri Council of Jurists. He was abducted and killed, in March 1996, by the Rashtriya Rifles [an Indian military battalion].
Our archives contain more than 35 reports of highly credible international non-governmental organizations issued between 1990 and 2000 attesting to the gross violations of both human rights and humanitarian law.
In spite of the compelling and credible evidence presented, the UN Sub-Commission and the Commission on Human Rights have never called for the plebiscite to be carried out, or even condemned the violations in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Every time the situation is raised in these forums, India replies that the issue in Kashmir is "Islamic terrorists," that Kashmir is an integral part of India and that the issue is a bilateral one between India and Pakistan. Yet even under India's description of the legal status of Kashmir, that government is not thereby excused for either Geneva Convention violations or violations of human rights. India is and remains liable for all these acts and the international community should condemn them. That there has been silence to date is an affront to human rights.
Our organization has pondered this silence, especially because the government of India constantly raises the issue of "Islamic terrorism" - which is repeated many times by the western media. We have condemned this racially/religiously-biased use of terms on many occasions. In this light, we must state again that the focus of the international community should be on the disposition of Kashmir in conformity with the realization of the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people - not the religion of some (actually most) Kashmiris. The vast majority of Kashmiri people want the plebiscite not because they are Islamic but because they are Kashmiris who were promised this plebiscite by the UN Security Council. They view, and we concur, that their "incorporation" into India is an illegal vestige of colonialism and that they suffer alien occupation. And, most importantly, the use of force by Kashmiri military forces cannot be characterized as terrorism but must be viewed as fully covered by both treaty-based and customary humanitarian law.
1. U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/1990/NGO/26
2. UN Security Council Resolution 39 (January 20, 1948) established a Security Council Commission to resolve the crisis in J&K at the end of Britain's colonial rule. The Commission and the Security Council subsequently decided that the future of J&K would be decided by a plebiscite of people in that area. See "Resolution of the UN Commission of India and Pakistan," (UN Document S/1196, January 10, 1949). The Security Council, in resolution 80 (1950) set up a number of steps, as yet unfulfilled, "for the expeditious determination of the future of the State [of J&K] in accordance with the freely expressed will of the inhabitants." In 1949, the Security Council had established a "line of control" between the part of Kashmir forcibly seized by India in 1948 and the part of Kashmir under Pakistani influence.
3. India's military forces include the Indian Army, the Border Security Forces, the Rashtriya Rifles, the Special Operation Groups and nearly 80,000 state police.
Source: Statement submitted by International Educational Development to the UN Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, June 2001. Online at:
For more information about the author, and selected writings, see http://www.webcom.com/hrin/parker/biograph.html