While India has rejected the ‘Update’ of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report on Jammu and Kashmir, human rights activists have pointed out that it includes several unprecedented references to rights violations and constitutional changes undertaken by Pakistani authorities and militant groups, that actually support India’s narrative.
Urging India not to rejected the ‘Update’ in its entirety, the activists have called on India to “engage” with the OHCHR’s findings released on Monday.
‘Take first step’
“The govt should engage with this process to acknowledge the violations, take steps towards accountability, and call for Pakistan to ensure and end to militant abuses [as well]. Often upholding rights is the first step towards ending the cycle of violence,” said Human Rights Watch South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly.
She added that the government’s “knee jerk denial” of all the UN findings ran counter to the fact that official Indian inquiries “have flagged violations and made recommendations similar to those by OHCHR.”
The MEA maintains that its objections to the OHCHR report are based on human rights violations the report has accused India of. “We are only concerned with those baseless allegations that pertain to us,” an official said, declining to comment on the other references to Pakistan.
Welcome new references
Other activists point out that the OHCHR report includes certain new references to human rights violations by militant groups that should be welcomed by New Delhi.
“It is important to note, that for the first time, the United Nations is taking note of child soldiers being used by militant groups, for example. The report also remarks that Kashmiri groups have been charged with sedition and arrested in both Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Islamabad,” pointed out peace activist Sushobha Barve, who works in Jammu and Kashmir as a part of the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation.
“In its haste to reject the report for what it says about Indian actions, the government is also ignoring violations on the Pakistani side, that should be highlighted as well,” she added.
The MEA maintains that its objections to the OHCHR report are based on HR violations the report has accused India of. "We are only concerned with those baseless allegations that pertain to us," an official said, declining to comment on the other references to Pakistan.
Child soldiers issue
The OHCHR report released on July 8, that catalogued alleged violations on both sides of the Line of Control and International boundary in Jammu and Kashmir from 2018-2019, said that Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba had all been “accused of recruiting and deploying child soldiers in Indian-Administered Kashmir”. It also mentioned strictures passed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) against Pakistan for not curbing terror financing by these groups.
In specific allegations against Pakistani intelligence agencies (ISI and IB) the OHCHR report blamed “Pakistani intelligence officials” for threatening those who criticise the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects in Gilgit Baltistan, and for “disappearances of journalists and activists in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and G-B.
It criticised Pakistani authorities for charging 19 activists of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front with “treason” for organising a rally in Kotli area of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, that demanded both Pakistan and India should “leave Kashmir”, and for a series of cases against other students groups and journalists.
“Journalists in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir continue to face threats and harassment in the course of carrying out their professional duties,” the report concluded, and also noted that Islamabad’s decision to carve out a special status for PoK (called Azad Jammu and Kashmir or AJK in Pakistan) and for G-B had met with protests in both places as they “failed to address the main elements that restrict the full enjoyment of all human rights for people living in these regions.”
In its response to the report, the Ministry of External Affairs had not referred to any of the violations pertaining to Pakistan, and protested what it called the “false and motivated” actions and “prejudiced mindset” of the OHCHR. Pakistan has welcomed the report, while adding that the human rights concerns in Pakistan administered Kashmir should not be equated with the Indian side.