‘Indian authorities have failed Kashmir people’: HRW calls on Delhi to investigate recent killings

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) slammed the Indian government for the recent killing of three Kashmiris — who were labelled as terrorists by the Indian Army — demanding New Delhi hold an “independent and impartial investigation” into the incident.

 The Indian Army had claimed that it had killed three militants on July 18 in the occupied territory’s Shopian district and buried their bodies in Baramulla district. However, their pictures went viral on social media and families of the victims in Jammu said that the three men were labourers. The Indian Army has agreed to hold a probe into the incident.

“Security forces have long operated with impunity in Kashmir, and past army investigations have been more focused on shielding those responsible for abuse than providing justice,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “There can be no end to the cycle of violence in Kashmir if security forces are not held accountable for their past and current abuses.”

Slamming India’s controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) which gives the security forces immunity from prosecution for serious human rights abuses, the HRW said that an inquiry conducted by the armed forces will not be fruitful.  The AFSPA grants the military wide powers to arrest, shoot to kill, and occupy or destroy property in counterinsurgency operations.

The HRW noted that ever since the law came to force in occupied Kashmir, it and others “have long documented how the law has become a tool of state abuse, oppression, and discrimination, and called for its repeal”.

The NGO said that there were various allegations of extrajudicial killings in occupied Kashmir by the Indian security forces and those who were executed were “falsely reported” to have died in clashes with Indian army.

The HRW slammed India’s August 5 move of bifurcating occupied Kashmir into two union territories. “Hundreds of people remain detained without charge, critics are threatened with arrest, and access to the internet is limited. There also have been several allegations of new arrests, torture, and ill-treatment by security forces,” it said.

It said that the government was using sedition laws to “clamp down on peaceful critics”.

“The Indian authorities have failed the Kashmiri people and have long denied them justice for decades of abuses by security forces, leading to a cycle of unending violence,” Ganguly said. “The government should repeal AFSPA, ensure a civilian and independent investigation into the latest killings, and reverse its ongoing restrains on basic rights.”