Echoes of Silence – Human Rights Abuses in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK)

Since the BJP-led government of India revoked Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir’s constitutional autonomous status and reorganized it into two federally governed territories, the occupying authorities have openly violating human rights and established regulations and protocols meant to safeguard the health and environment of the local population. The year 2024 is also no exception, during the first half of 2024 (January-June), the region of IIOJK experienced a sustained pattern of state repression and counter-insurgency operations. On the ground, there were numerous violations of International Human Rights Law (IHRL) and International Humanitarian Law (IHL), resulting in severe human suffering. The international response to these ‘Atrocity Crimes’ was inconsistent, alongside other serious violations, including actions that could be construed as war crimes and crimes against humanity. Human rights defenders and journalists frequently faced the brunt of India’s use of excessive force and restrictive policies. The occupying authorities employed anti-terror legislation to criminalize the activities of human rights organizations, civil societies, socio-religious groups, and digital media networks in IIOJK.

Nestled between India and Pakistan, Kashmir has been a contentious territory since the partition of British India in 1947. The region’s predominantly Muslim population has long harbored aspirations for union with Pakistan, leading to a series of wars and insurgencies. Amidst this geopolitical quagmire, the rights of Kashmiri civilians have often been overlooked, with allegations of abuses ranging from extrajudicial killings to enforced disappearances.

One of the most alarming aspects of the situation in IIOJK is the pervasive atmosphere of fear and mistrust. Security forces, deployed under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), wield extensive powers that have been criticized by human rights organizations for fostering a climate of impunity. Reports of arbitrary arrests, torture, and detention without trial have been documented, raising serious concerns about the rule of law and due process.

For Kashmiri families, the pain of losing loved ones to violence is compounded by the lack of accountability. Mothers wait in anguish for sons who disappeared during crackdowns, while children grow up without fathers caught in crossfires. The trauma of living under constant surveillance and the threat of violence has become a daily reality for many Kashmiris, shaping their collective identity as a people caught in a conflict not of their making.

Freedom of expression has also been a casualty in this protracted struggle. Journalists and activists who dare to speak out against human rights violations often face harassment, intimidation, and censorship. The internet shutdowns and communication blackouts imposed during periods of unrest further isolate Kashmir from the rest of the world, stifling dissent and restricting the flow of information.

The international community has not been silent on these issues. Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have repeatedly called for independent investigations into allegations of abuses in Kashmir. The United Nations has urged both India and Pakistan to engage in dialogue to find a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, emphasizing the importance of respecting the rights of Kashmiri people in any negotiated settlement.

In the face of these challenges, Kashmiris continue to display resilience and determination. Civil society organizations work tirelessly to document abuses and provide support to victims and their families. Artists and poets find solace and strength in their creative expressions, weaving stories of hope and resistance amidst the turmoil.

As the world debates geopolitics and national interests, it is crucial not to lose sight of the human cost of the IIOJK conflict. Every life lost, every voice silenced, and every dream deferred in Kashmir is a stark reminder of the urgent need for justice, compassion, and respect for human rights.

The road to peace in IIOJK may be long and arduous, but it begins with acknowledging the humanity and dignity of its people. Only through dialogue, accountability, and a genuine commitment to upholding human rights can the echoes of silence in India Illegally Occupied Kashmir be replaced with the promise of a better future for all its inhabitants.

Sajid Malik
Sajid Malik

He is PhD Scholar at COMSATS University, Islamabad. I am sharing my piece of writing, kindly review it for publication.

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