Kashmiris to the Foreground

Tension Heightens Between Indian And Pakistan On Kashmir Border

Indian soldiers patrol through about five feet snow in Churunda village on January 12, 2013. The village has been bearing the brunt of cross-fire between India and Pakistan. People living along the Line of Control have continually been at risk due to hostility between the armies of the two rival nations. (Photo by Yawar Nazir/Getty Images)

In recent weeks tensions have flared up between between India and Pakistan over recent killings of soldiers on the Line of Control dividing Kashmir. Historically, the neighboring countries have fought three wars over Kashmir (although recent years have seen a peace process).

Whenever there is a clash between the countries’ armed forces, Kashmiris themselves tend to be ignored while sabers rattle. So it’s a good time to tout some of the activists and ordinary people on the ground who are living their lives and seeking justice for the decades of brutal war in their homeland. In particular, what of Kashmiris economic, social and cultural rights?

For one perspective, I had a chance to talk with two Indian activists who are helping to bring the lives of Kashmiris to the foreground. For the filmmakers Madhuri Mohindar and Vaishali Sinha,


Alleged Murderer of Kashmir Human Rights Lawyer Kills Family in California

Retired Indian Army Major Avtar Singh, wanted for the murder of human rights activist Jalil Andrabi, shot and killed at least three members of his family before turning the gun on himself outside of Fresno, California on June 9th.

He was arrested in 2011 for alleged domestic violence incident where he was accused of choking of wife. He was then released from custody mainly because the Indian government could not be bothered to seek his extradition despite being wanted for murder charges in Jammu and Kashmir.

The head of the Kashmir Commission of Jurists, Jalil Andrabi was killed at the height of protests in Kashmir against Indian rule in the disputed region. Andrabi disappeared in March 1996 in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir. His body was recovered 19 days later in the Jhelum River. He had been shot in the head, and his eyes were gouged out.

A police investigation blamed Maj. Singh and his men for that killing and also accused Maj. Singh of involvement in the killings of six other Kashmiri men.


Less Report Writing and More Action Needed in Kashmir

Kashmir Protests

Protests in Kashmir © AP GraphicsBank

A group of “interlocutors” were appointed in the fall of 2010 by the Indian central government after an outbreak of violence that left over 100 dead in Jammu and Kashmir. The interlocutors called their mandate “broad,” but only insofar as it is within the Indian constitutional framework. They met with a fairly broad section of Kashmiri society. Most separatists chose not to meet with the interlocutors, with one calling it a “sham”.

I can’t read the minds of the interlocutors but I tend to think that the report would not have been too different, even if the separatists had met with the interlocutors. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Listen to the Silent Cries of the Disappeared in Kashmir

soldiers kashmir india

Soldiers in Kashmir

I’ve been following the debate about whether India’s Jammu & Kashmir government (called J&K or Kashmir interchangeably) will lift the draconian impunity legislation (called the AFSPA) for soldiers now in place over large swathes of Kashmir Valley.

The Indian Army, for its part, makes the rather astounding claim that if they are not allowed to continue to operate in the Kashmir Valley without impunity then Kashmir will secede. I often hear this type of stuff as well—oh if we don’t continue to abuse human rights with legal cover, then the terrorists win!

The irony is that opponents of lifting legal immunity are admitting that the security forces have been responsible for widespread human rights violations in the Kashmir Valley and that is the only way to keep Kashmir in India.


Hopefully Kashmir Won't Be a Forgotten Conflict

Abid Nabi was protesting against the killing of his younger brother Fida (17 yrs old). (Photo courtesy of Majid Pandit.)

Al-Jazeera English launched a special human rights spotlight on Jammu & Kashmir called “Kashmir: The Forgotten Conflict”.

It’s an apt description given the difficulty human rights organizations have faced in highlighting the abuses that have occurred in the past two decades. For example, we need 30,000 signatures on this petition to improve juvenile justice in the state!

Now, it’s not to say that Kashmir never gets in the news. The problem is that when it is in the news it’s always talked about in the context of the Pakistan-India conflict.


Urgent Action Network: Saving Lives Through Fast Action

“Please act as quickly as possible. This may be crucial in locating Professor Rossi, or even in helping to save his life.  Others have disappeared in this manner, and never been found again…We must do all we can to prevent another similar case.”

Professor Luiz Basilio Rossi

Those were the closing words of a brief but urgent message received by Amnesty International supporters on March 19, 1973. It was the first-ever Urgent Action, issued on behalf of Professor Luiz Basilio Rossi, who had disappeared after his arrest on February 15th, 1973 in São Paulo, Brazil.

A prisoner of conscience in Brazil under the military regime, then a human rights activist – his story has set a powerful model for the tens of thousands of Urgent Actions that have followed. It was not until the letters started to pour in that Rossi’s relatives were allowed to visit him. Although many people taken into police custody were never seen again, Rossi was eventually freed in October 1973.


A Lawless Law

This is part of a series of articles on administrative detentions in Kashmir for Amnesty International’s Security and Human Rights Campaign.  

We released a report documenting the misuse of the Public Safety Act in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). As part of this report’s release, I will be writing a series of posts on this blog (with actions that you can take) over the coming weeks highlighting cases of people whose human rights have been violated because of the misuse of the Public Safety Act in J&K. For more information related to Kashmir and human rights in South Asia, please follow me on twitter at twitter.com/acharya_dude.

The report talks of how Kashmir is holding hundreds of people each year without charge or trial in order to “keep them out of circulation,” not by charging people with a crime, but just holding people because they can. In fact, the Indian Supreme Court has called this law a “lawless law.”

The authorities in J&K are using PSA detentions as a revolving door to keep people they can’t or won’t convict through the legal system locked up and out of the way. These arrests expose people to a higher risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.


Interested in Kashmir Human Rights? Then, #askai

Protests Against Indian Rule in Kashmir - copyright Majid Pandit, used by permission

WHEN: Thursday, October 14, 10am – 11am Eastern US Time (19:30 in India/Kashmir)

WHERE: Follow Govind on Twitter @acharya_dude

HOW: Submit questions on Twitter any time from now through October 14 using hashtag #AskAI (adding @acharya_dude is helpful but not necessary).  See below for other ways of getting in touch.  Example: Is there a consensus in the Indian political spectrum about what’s happening in Kashmir? #askai

Kashmir has been convulsed by violent clashes between protesters and security forces.  The current violence has left over 100 people dead and has raised concerns over the widespread human rights violations committed by Indian security forces in their efforts to tamp down the violence.  The litany of abuses are long—heavy restrictions on Kashmiri media, heavy-handed curfews and outright killings of protesters.  Worst of all, most of these human rights violations can occur with complete impunity because of the imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in parts of Kashmir.

With India in the spotlight over 2010 Commonwealth Games and the violence not garnering the same attention in the media, it’s even more important for us to highlight the human rights concerns in Kashmir and to urge the Indian government and the Jammu and Kashmir state government to take immediate steps to prosecute security forces.  India is also supposedly one of the new great powers taking over from US hegemony; therefore, it’s more important than ever to publicize human rights violations in Kashmir and elsewhere in India.

On Thursday, October 14 from 10am – 11am eastern US time, I’ll be holding a live chat over twitter from my twitter handle @acharya_dude (feel free to follow with your twitter account).  It’s a way to get a new audience engaged on human rights in Kashmir.  It doesn’t mean that you actually have to have a twitter account to see the questions and answers (but you do need one to ask a question on  twitter)– just type in twitter.com/acharya_dude.  The easiest way to get me a question is to include the following in a twitter message: @acharya_dude #askai.

You can ask me a question in the comments of this blog, you can email them to me at Bangladesh@aiusacs.org and you could probably ask them on Facebook as well if you like the Amnesty USA page and if this post appears on the Facebook page.  I’ll monitor those places and post them to twitter as I get questions.  I’ll then respond to them between 10am and 11am eastern US time this Thursday, October 14.  I will then post the twitter transcript to this blog afterwards!  Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

Update:  Read a transcript of this chat here.