Human Rights in Kashmir

As the world marked the Human Rights day on 10 th December, Kashmiris deeply mired in the repression joined the commemorations. This day serves as an extra reminder of the blood that has ceaselessly flowed nurturing the resistance against Indian occupation. It’s symbolic of the shared grief that joins countless Kashmiri fathers, mothers, sisters, and children who are suffering due to the loss of their loved ones. The issue of human rights violations in the valley is glaring and tragic; one that has explicitly and doggedly prevailed in the valley since 1989. In this combat, the counter-insurgency operations by the Indian army, para-military forces, police and surrendered combatants, according to some estimates, the death toll amounts to somewhere between 70,000 and 1 lakh or above, depending on the source.
Apart from the Kashmiris butchered at the altar of coercive politics by India other countless measure of curbing Kashmiri freedom and self-determination is evident in the increasing sexual violence against women, thousands of imprisoned Kashmiris and of course, the daily humiliation and harassment of people mired in cordons, crackdowns and frisking operations. The emotional and psychological trauma is an inherent reality and goes without saying.
The threat of anyone one of us being the next statistic in one of the above categories is very real and imminent.
On this day of recognizing Human Rights, while we witness encouraging rustling of political awareness and quest for accountability amongst the students especially from the University, stand close in spirit with the ones protesting the disappeared; we also must also forcefully demand our political rights and a fruitful end to our resistance. The fact we are responsive enough at this moment in time to protest publicly, peacefully and civilly is heartening, on the other hand we have to make it clear we are not asking for a negative peace or simple cessation of violence to stanch the mounting statistics.
Many a time’s conflict resolution efforts can get innocently waylaid while the real problem goes out of focus. An example of this inherent danger of accountability protest is manifested in the Asian director of Human Rights Watch, Brad Adam’s statement to the press in 2006. He said, “Kashmiris continue to live in constant fear because perpetrators of abuses are not punished. Unless the Indian authorities address the human rights crisis in Jammu and Kashmir, a political settlement of the conflict will remain illusory.”
If a lay-man were to give a cursory consideration to the above statement, it almost comes across as if human rights abuses are the key issue here. Adam’s is right in his demand; first step to settling down to negotiate is to stop fighting. However his approach as a human rights activist paves way for Kashmir situation being misrepresented almost as a “Bihar-like issue”. While the human rights abuses are a severe problem, one that needs to be addressed; it primarily is the off shoot of the prevailing political status-quo. The underlining reality of the prevalent murder and mayhem occurring on regular basis is nothing other than India desire to pummel Kashmiris into coercion. Thereby till a political solution is not forthcoming solving human rights crisis in Kashmir will remain illusory.
In case of Kashmir, we don’t have the “chicken before the egg or vice-versa” confusion. We know what came before and what followed. Asking for restoration of human rights inherently carries the protest for cessation of illegal occupation, lifting of draconian laws, and solving the issue. However, it must be said in explicit terms every-time lest the jingoist Indian media and government propaganda portrays it as a clamor for cessation of violence ready to be served to the global community in India’s favor.
The answer to solving Kashmir human rights abuses, now or ever, lies in its political solution; anything less is a cosmetic surgery or botox at the most. It may erase a line or two but is superficial, temporary and holds no long term good for people. The violations in Kashmir can stop for real only when a just political situation is implemented. Till then the overarching policy of terrorizing people into submission will not change course and the Indian security forces, as human rights report puts it will continue unleashing “torture, disappearances, arbitrary detentions and summary executions, which are concealed as encounter killings.”
While the collective efforts of loud protests, sit-ins, and candle light vigils must be encouraged in quest for bringing the human rights violators to justice; solution to Kashmir under UN mandated plebiscite must be demanded in no uncertain terms.
(republished from
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About AtherZia

Ather Zia is a political anthropologist working on militarization, gender and Kashmir. Currently she is a faculty at the Anthropology and Gender studies program at the University of Northern Colorado Greeley. She is also a poet, writes short fiction and is the founder-editor of Kashmir Lit at

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