75 years of struggle for rights in Kashmir

UDHR anniversary mean

International conventions impact inter- and intra-state relations by establishing universal principles to govern and control the interactions among states. Within this framework, freedom, independence, and the entitlement to self-determination are fundamental ethical, legal, and universally acknowledged values and norms that states endeavor to attain and uphold as inherent rights of every human being.

On this December 10, the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR), the Indian government has regrettably refused the fundamental rights of the people residing in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir for the past seven decades. The Kashmir conflict is a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan, which also serves as a prominent illustration of human rights violations perpetrated by the Indian government. This longstanding issue has intensified significantly following the revocation of Articles 370 and 35A from the Indian constitution in August 2019.

UDHR is universally acknowledged and embraced by states that have incorporated its principles into their constitutions to ensure its implementation. The declaration consists of 30 articles that guarantee inalienable rights, encompassing a wide range of fundamental rights such as survival, movement, free speech, as well as rights to liberty, security, and protection under the law. The UN released its 2018 report on Kashmir, highlighting that the state of Jammu and Kashmir has significant human rights issues, specifically about impunity for human rights abuses and limited access to justice. The implementation of specific laws, including the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (1978) and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act (1990), has established structures that hinder the administration of justice, undermine accountability, and compromise the right to redress for individuals who have been subjected to human rights violations. The UN report 2019 on Kashmir has shown similar observations.

UN Resolution 47 on Kashmir has employed the term ‘dispute’ to refer to the status of the Kashmir area. It should be noted that the Line of Control is not acknowledged as an international border. Instead, this 450-mile-long demarcation is regarded as a military boundary that separates Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir from Azad Kashmir. UNSCR 47 has provided Kashmir with the right of self-determination in 1948 that has been confiscated by India till date and violates UDHR Article 1, related to freedom of all people at all times and in all places.

A significant number of casualties is indicative of the utilization of force, aggression, and coercion by the Indian forces towards the local people in the Valley. Media reports indicate that the number of fatalities in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir stands at over 68,000. According to a recent report by a Kashmiri activist, the number of civilian deaths has risen by 200 percent between 2018 and 2022.

Moreover, the Valley has been plagued by a long-standing history of extensively documented cases of torture, detention, and degrading treatment. Article 5 of the UDHR prohibits the infliction of cruel treatment, torture, humiliation, and violence against individuals’ lives and personal well-being. In 2010, WikiLeaks disclosed the Red Cross’s briefings regarding incidences of torture inflicted upon captives. Kashmiris arrested by the Indian army are subjected to various types of torture, such as electric shocks, suspension from the ceiling, and the use of GPS anklets if given bail.

Presently, around 900,000 Indian army soldiers have deployed in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Nonetheless, they have been unable to garner any local support or political standing among the inhabitants of Kashmir. This illegal occupation consistently infringes upon the principles outlined in Articles 1, 2, 12, and 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantee freedom from discrimination, the right to life, freedom of movement, and privacy.

An in-depth examination of the Kashmir issue reveals a correlation between the actions of the Indian government and the violation of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The conspicuous silence of the United Nations and the International Community on this matter underscores a discernible inconsistency in their approach to resolving international disputes. 

On 27 October 2020, the Indian government enacted two orders that modified 14 statutes and revoked 12 provisions about the regulations of property acquisition in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. This notification permits non-residents of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir to purchase property and agricultural land.

After that over 25,000 outsiders are awarded domiciles by the Indian government. The action of granting domicile certificates to non-Kashmiris is an attempt to shift the demographic status of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir by bringing the settlers in, without the consent of Kashmiris, thus, violating Article 17, notably connected to property and land owning rights.

Kashmiris have been suffering to gain access to the court system, and thousands of individuals are arrested without any charge. According to Human Rights Watch, around 4000 Kashmiris have been detained. Several individuals are prohibited from reuniting with their families or communicating with their legal representatives. The Indian government is breaching Article 7, Article 10, and Article 11 of UDHR, which grants the individual a lawful entitlement to submit witnesses and evidence in their defense.

Alongside, The people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir have been deprived of freedom to practice and observe their religious customs. This not only violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) but also contravenes other international instruments safeguarding human rights. The UDHR places significant importance on the rights to life and access to healthcare facilities. However, we see that mental health difficulties are on the rise in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. In 2015, Médecins Sans Frontières in a report noted that 1.8 million (45 percent) adults in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir are suffering from mental distress, 26 percent from anxiety, 41 percent exhibit probable depression and 19 percent suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The arrest of seven Kashmiri students on celebrating Australia’s victory over India in the recent Cricket World Cup is another example of depriving people of the basic rights related to Articles 19 and 20 of the UDHR on freedom of expression and assembly.

Article 26 of the UDHR addresses the rights to education and literacy, which the Indian government has greatly violated for students in Kashmir. The lack of adequate educational institutions such as schools, colleges, and universities is hindering the ability of Kashmiri students to access high-quality education. The Modi government is imposing insurmountable obstacles for students seeking to pursue higher education in a country where they feel secure, by denying their NOC requests.

An in-depth examination of the Kashmir issue reveals a correlation between the actions of the Indian government and the violation of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The conspicuous silence of the United Nations and the International Community on this matter underscores a discernible inconsistency in their approach to resolving international disputes. This is particularly evident when contrasting their proactive stance in providing military and economic aids during crises in Ukraine and Israel with their passive response to Indian actions that adversely impact the fundamental rights of innocent Kashmiris, evoking a sense of disappointment.

Gul Ayesha Bhatti
Gul Ayesha Bhatti
The writer can be reached at [email protected]

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