Against Continued Repression of the People of Kashmir and Killings of Innocent Civilians at the Hands of Indian Paramilitary Forces sign now


This summer Indian troops and police have systematically murdered around 20 people in the streets and forests of Kashmir. In April, three innocent youth were shot in cold blood in Machil forests of north Kashmir, and then portrayed as terrorists, to earn rewards instituted by the Indian government for troops who kill insurgents in Kashmir. It was only after incessant protests by local people that the bodies where exhumed and identified as local youth. Just before this fake encounter, a 70-year old man was also killed in the same area, and projected as a foreign terrorist. His son identified him after his picture appeared in the newspaper. In a similar incident in April, Indian soldiers shot dead a local villager carrying firewood from the forests of Kellar in south Kashmir.

In protest against these killings people in Kashmir initially attempted to stage peaceful demonstrations. They demanded that the culprits be brought to book. The government, instead of assuring people that impartial enquiries into the incidents would be conducted and those responsible would be punished, launched a full-scale assault on protest demonstrations and clamped down heavily against any dissent.

Indian paramilitary forces (CRPF) have killed more than a dozen teenage boys and a young woman while protesting against this recent spate of fake encounters in Kashmir. One of those killed is 9-year old Tauqeer Ahmed, who was not even part of the protests. In Anantnag, where three boys were killed, eyewitnesses claimed the teenagers were dragged out of their homes and shot in the courtyard of one of the houses. A 24-year old woman was shot in her chest by CRPF in Srinagar while looking at the street protests from a window of her house. The authorities have also incarcerated dozens of teenagers, some as young as 12 and 13.

For the last three weeks the government has imposed strict curfew on peoples movement. There have been reports of mass beatings and molestations in a number of localities. Many people, especially in Srinagar and other towns, are facing extreme shortages of food and medicine. The sick and injured have been barred from reaching hospitals. Staff members of various hospitals have said they were beaten up and their curfew passes torn.

Indian government has imposed a gag order on the media in Kashmir, only letting a select few pro-establishment journalists to report. Local journalists and cameramen in a joint statement said their passes were snatched and their equipment broken. Government has refused to issue new passes to them. As a result very little information is flowing out of Kashmir. Some Kashmiri activists who uploaded videos of street demonstrations have been sent to prison. Cell phone services have been jammed at various places, while the government has banned short messaging services as well (third time in the last three years).

Around 700,000 Indian soldiers patrol the streets and villages of Kashmir. Together they occupy almost 100,000 acres of land. For a population of 5 million Kashmiris the soldier to civilian ratio of around 15 to 1 is extremely disturbing and fraught with heavy risk to civilian life. The Indian government first deployed a significant chunk of its military to battle militants fighting to liberate Kashmir from Indian rule. The armed insurgency itself had resulted from a violent quelling of popular pro-freedom protests of the early 1990s. For the last 7 years, however, the Indian government has repeatedly said that not more than a few hundred ragtag militants remain in the fight. Yet India maintains a massive military manpower and infrastructure in Kashmir, which has created structural conditions of oppression of Kashmiris.

Everyday life in Kashmir is highly militarized. People continuously face risks to their lives and are subjected to threats and humiliation. The Indian government, instead of taking action against human rights violators, shields them from prosecution. Draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Disturbed Areas Act have been put in place to give immunity to security agencies against any civil prosecution. Over the last 20 years, tens of thousands of Kashmiris have been killed or forcibly disappeared. Thousands are languishing in jails for demanding a political solution to the Kashmir issue. Under the Public Safety Act hundreds of activists remain in jail without trial. For the last few days, law and order in the Srinagar has been handed over to the army, raising fears of increased civilian casualties.

The international community has largely remained silent on the plight of Kashmiris. Apart from a few exceptions, the international news media has failed to report on the systematic nature of oppression in Kashmir. It is time the human rights and global justice activists express their solidarity with the struggling people of Kashmir. It is time that we collectively put pressure on the Indian government.

We call upon the UN, which has a long association with the Kashmir issue, to press the Indian government to:

*End its militarized governance of Kashmir, and withdraw army from populated areas,
*Revoke the draconian Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), which gives Indian troops immunity from civil legal action and promotes HR violations,
*End oppression of Kashmiri people, release political prisoners and young boys from jails, and lift the overwhelming security apparatus from Kashmir,
*Initiate meaningful plans to democratically resolve the issue, and include Kashmiris as the primary party to such a process.

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Olive NormanBy:
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