Kashmir witnesses widespread protests on Human Rights day

Srinagar: More than 2300 prisoners are lodged in 14 jails across the state of Jammu and Kashmir, said a memorandum addressed to the Secretary General of United Nations Antonio Guterres. The memorandum was read out on behalf of the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) by Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik here on the eve of International Human Rights Day which is observed world over on December 10 every year. Malik was detained by police after reading out the memorandum. He had gone into hiding for a few days to evade arrest so that he could lead the march.

A view of deserted streets in commercial hub (Poloview and Residency Road) in Srinagar on the eve of International Human Rights Day observed world over on December 10. Joint Separatist Leadership had called for shutdown and march to the office of United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) in Srinagar. Authorities had imposed restrictions in several areas of the city.

Chairmen of both factions of Hurriyat Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq were already placed under house arrest. All roads leading to the office of the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) in Srinagar were sealed by police here on December 10 as JRL, comprising of chairmen of both factions of Hurriyat and JKLF chairman, had called for a march to the office of UNMOGIP on December 10 and restrictions were imposed by the authorities to foil the march. The separatists had also called for a shutdown on the day.

Of the 2,364 prisoners, 1929 are undertrials in various jails of the state including 347 convicts and 118 detainees, the memorandum said, adding that reports from jails narrate horrifying stories about the plight of the detainees. It further stated that many elderly men were detained by police in place of their absconding sons, this year as well as in the past. It also highlighted that reports about manhandling of Kashmiri leaders in Tihar jail at the hands of dreaded criminals have been received and apart from physical torture, complaints about quality of food too have been received. Prisoners suffering from serious ailments are not moved to hospitals, it said. “The jail authorities force detainees to spend all their time in narrow and dark cells while other inmates from other states are allowed to spend time in the open. It is unfair, against the law and even worse if prisoners are discriminated on the grounds of their geography, religion and relationship,” the statement said.

The memorandum further said that time and again the matter has been raised by them with the concerned aauthorities but nothing has been done to ease the suffering of the prisoners. Instead, Government of India is using National Investigation Agency (NIA) to suppress and muzzle the voices raised for the right of self-determination. “The Government of India has waged a war against the unarmed civilian population of the state. It is trampling the religious freedom and rights of the people as well. The Government of India is continuously refusing to accept the ground reality in Kashmir and recognize the importance of a peaceful resolution to this decades-old dispute. Instead, it is using methods of coercion, suppression and arm-twisting in order to deny the people their legitimate right of self-determination. We appeal to your good self and through you to all the member-nations of the United Nations to take serious note of the prevailing situation of Jammu and Kashmir and stress upon the government to respect the right to peaceful assembly which is a fundamental right. We appeal that United Nations should condemn the unnecessary and excessive use of force bysecurity forces in response to protests. United Nations should seriously investigate the situations in which state armed forces have used excessive force against protesters, including most recently in Kashmir.”

The memorandum further said that the people of Kashmir for the past 70 years are in a struggle to exercise their right to self-determination accrued to them under United Nations’ Charter and the resolutions passed by the UN Security Council on Kashmir dispute.“The armed forces enjoying impunity under Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA) and other such laws have committed mass crimes in Kashmir. Harassment, threats, arbitrary detentions and politically motivated arrests, threats to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, crackdowns on peaceful protests, restrictions on freedom of expression, imposition of repeated curfews, restrictions, raids, and vandalizing of homes are often coupled with crackdowns on public protests and others have become a regular feature in Kashmir.Due to continuing conflict, a total of 361 deaths and thousands injured by bullets and pellets on the streets of Kashmir in violent incidents during 2017 across Jammu and Kashmir were reported that included civilians, security forces and militants.” The memorandum added that 152 civilians were put to death, scoresdeprived of their vision either completely or partially by pellet firing, hundreds of youth arrested and thousands injured by security forces in Kashmir during the summer unrest last year. There are over 1900 under-trials languishing in jails across the state, it added.

The memorandum further said that the protests by the people are carried for the right of self-determination against the failure to respect human rights and violations. “The armed forces are using unnecessary or excessive force, beatings and detentions as a tool to suppress the voice of the people. India’s violent repression of protests in Jammu and Kashmir from 1989 resulted in hundred thousand deaths of protesters and the detention of thousands. The security forces arbitrarily detained and tortured protesters during these years.”

The trio (chairmen of both factions of Hurriyat and JKLF chief) in their memorandum demanded that United Nations should announce an International Day of Solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmiras more than hundred thousand people of Kashmir have lost their lives for right of self-determination. An International Day of Solidarity, it said, would provide an opportunity to remind the international community that the question of Kashmir remains unresolved and that the Kashmiri people have not yet attained their inalienable right as defined by the UN General Assembly, including the right to self-determination and national independence. They also demanded that the UNMOGIP should fulfill its obligations to ensure peace along the Line of Control (LoC). “Ceasefire cannot be monitored from offices in Srinagar and Muzaffarabad. Something tangible needs to be done for achieving the objective. The least it can do is to bring the belligerents to the negotiating table. The hostilities must stop immediately to save further loss of life and property.” The trio further appealed to the United Nations to circulate an addendum every year on the crimes and various human rights abuses by security forces against people of Jammu and Kashmir as a priority. “We respectfully request your immediate attention to this urgent matter and request you to help us in ending abuses and ensure justice for crimes against civilians as a key step towards lasting peace.”

Police on December 9 disallowed JRL’s seminar titled “Human rights violations and criminal silence maintained by international community”. Terming it “state terrorism” the JRL in a statement here said that it has proved that government’s tall claims about democracy are hoax.

Another protest was led here by Awami Ittehad Party chief and independent legislator from north Kashmir’s Langate in the border district of Kupwara Er. Sheikh Abdul Rashid. Addressing media, Er. Rashid said that the only way to stop human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir is to give the right of self-determination to the people of the state on both sides of LoC. He emphasized that international human rights organizations need to be facilitated their entry to Kashmir so that truth comes out. “While thousands have disappeared in custody during the past 30 years, hundreds have been blinded, hundreds killed in fake encounters but unfortunately the state institutions have denied even nominal justice to Kashmiris as New Delhi has made it the central point of its policy to deny justice to Kashmiris.”

Several seminars, protests and demonstrations were held on December 9 to mark the world human rights day. Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association during a day-long seminar on prisoners’ plight and human rights situation in Kashmir passed a resolution demanding the resolution of the Kashmir issue in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and aspirationsof the people of the state. It was also unanimously resolved that the Kashmiri prisoners lodged outside the state be shifted to jails within the state. The International Forum for Justice led by Mohammad Ahsan Untoo carried out a protest here on December 9. The protesters, while narrating their ordeals, felt as if there was no law for them that could provide them justice as they and their relatives had been subjected to various forms of human rights violations. The protest was joined by Farooq Ahmad Dar who was used by the Army as a human shield in central Kashmir’s Budgam district early this year. Pleading justice, he said that he has been unable to overcome depression since he was tied to the bonnet of the Army jeep. He expressed though he was a bit relieved after State Human Rights Commission recommended government to provide him a compensation of 10 lakh rupees, but he felt dejected when government denied the same.

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