Less Report Writing and More Action Needed in Kashmir

May 30, 2012

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.

The 176 page report (available as a pdf on the Home Ministry website) is extremely detailed and is well summarized in a number of places. Criticism has been intense across the political spectrum. I share many of those criticisms but wasn’t really surprised by the contents. But the report did reiterate concerns that we have about human rights and human security in Kashmir.

Kashmiris have been demanding their right to live with dignity but have instead been at the receiving end of constant threats to livelihoods. As a recent example shows, special powers that allow India’s armed forces suspected of involvement in extra-judicial killings to sidestep the civilian courts have been recently reinforced in a disappointing court ruling over the notorious killings of five Kashmiri civilians 12 years ago in Pathribal.

Furthermore, detention laws such as the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act allows security forces to constantly detain and hold anyone without charge and re-detain them. These revolving door detentions also harms the social fabric of a community by fostering a sense of injustice and hopelessness.

There must be an end to the many laws that contribute to an almost universal sense of injustice and impunity. We have reiterated repeatedly that amending detention laws are not enough and they must be repealed. The interlocutor report states this as well. It’s time to act.

Kashmiris have been saying a lot of what is in the interlocutor report. The interlocutors have reiterated it. Will there be more talk and more writing of reports or will Jammu & Kashmir’s leadership finally act to end impunity and bring justice to the thousands of victims of human rights violations in the Kashmir Valley?