International community sheds light on human rights abuses in Kashmir

The international community, including the European Union, has opted to wade into the still simmering conflict between arch-enemies India and Pakistan over the disputed mountainous region of Kashmir. The Kashmir dispute dates back to 1948 when, following the end of British rule, the people of Kashmir were promised by the UN a plebiscite on their future status. They were to choose between integration with India, Pakistan, or independence. Both India and Pakistan claim the Himalayan region and have fought two wars over it as a result. Tensions are highest in the Indian-administered section of Kashmir, where about the two with about two-thirds of the region’s population lives. India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed powers, have recently come close to war over Kashmir. China is also a major player in the dispute and exerts increasing influence over the region as its military occupies small areas in Kashmir.

Attacks on civilians are common, particularly on India’s side of the disputed border, where Indian troops are effectively immune from prosecution. Prisoners in Indian-administered Kashmir have been subjected to abuse and torture, including “water-boarding, sleep deprivation and sexualised torture”, according to a report by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons and Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, two human rights groups. Indian forces have faced criticism for excessive use of force, with the UN human rights body last year calling for an international probe into rights violations. The UN Human Rights Chief had also called for establishing a Commission of Inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir. A study published in 2015 by Doctors Without Borders said that 19% of Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the conflict and the conditions that they are forced to live in.