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Homepage > Regions / Countries > Asia > South Asia > Kashmir > Kashmir: The View from Srinagar

Kashmir: The View from Srinagar

Asia Report N°41 21 Nov 2002

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Recent state elections in Jammu and Kashmir, and the loss of power by the National Conference party that has dominated politics there since independence, have created a spark of hope that political tensions in the Kashmir Valley could de-escalate. It was a badly flawed election in 1987 that helped fuel a long running militant insurrection and general uprising, and tens of thousands have died in subsequent violence. Violence has been further amplified by historical strategic tensions between India and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir, and Kashmiri hopes for a political voice have often unfortunately become caught up in this broader international rivalry.

For the first time since independence, a non-National Conference leader is in power. Equally historic, it is the first time that the state’s leadership is different than the ruling party in New Delhi – a very welcome sign of political liberalisation. While the state elections have been seen as a window of opportunity for peace in Kashmir, it is also clear that they only represent a first step in unravelling the long cycle of violence. Indeed, if the Indian government chooses to act as if the elections alone were sufficient to address a myriad of Kashmiri grievances, it will only be a matter of time before violence again escalates – just as it did in the run-up to the ballot itself. Indeed, violence has continued unabated after the elections and the formation of the new government in Srinagar.

Pakistan's support for cross border infiltration by militants has directly contributed to the ongoing conflict in the region. But some of the violence in Srinagar and the rest of the valley and the abiding Kashmiri disaffection with New Delhi are the product of India’s own actions. Indian security forces have often practised draconian means in their efforts to combat Kashmiri militants and separatists and have relied heavily on militia groups that have acted violently and extra-legally. Human rights abuses abound as a plethora of anti-terrorism legislation is used to crush Kashmiri dissent and political aspirations. Many Kashmiris also rightly bemoan the general lack of economic and educational opportunities in the valley and a steadily creeping rot of corruption in local institutions.

India would be wise to view the election results less as an embrace of India by Kashmiris than a rejection of New Delhi’s use of military force and disrespect for human rights as well as a desire for peace and economic security. The voter turnout in the valley– virtually non-existent in Srinagar – reflected Kashmiri scepticism that elections translate into meaningful political, social and economic change. It is up to Kashmir’s New Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to prove them wrong.

The new Kashmir government has vowed to meet the grievances of Kashmiris by restoring peace, restraining the security forces, preventing human rights abuses, and reviving an economy devastated by war. However, Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed is less inclined to hold unconditional talks, as he had earlier pledged with Kashmiri militants and separatist parties, preferring to leave that task with New Delhi. In the absence of political reconciliation and accommodation within Kashmir and the beginnings of a serious political dialogue between India and Pakistan, hopes for an early end to this long running conflict will remain just that.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the government of India

1. Ratify the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture.

2. Subject the Prevention of Terrorism Act and all other anti-terror laws to annual parliamentary review, define the specific criminal acts governed by the measure, and bring charges against individuals through the Act using the same criminal procedure and courts as in all other crimes.

3. Investigate fully and impartially all reports of extra judicial killing, disappearance, custodial death, torture and rape by security and paramilitary forces; prosecute those responsible, including military personnel, in civilian courts, and publish both investigations and court proceedings.

4. Disband the Special Task Force, the Ikhwan al-Muslimoon militia and other unofficial paramilitary groups and end the practice of giving their members de facto immunity.

5. Require security forces to provide information on all detainees to family and legal counsel from the time of detention.

6. Open Kashmir, including the Line of Control (LOC), to international observation, including access to political prisoners.

7. Open elections in Kashmir to official international observers.

8. In the wake of the recent elections, facilitate discussions between representatives of ethnic, religious and political parties of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

9. Impartially investigate allegations of corruption within the state government and punish offenders.

10. Facilitate the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the valley by offering appropriate economic incentives and security guarantees, while providing broader economic assistance to the valley to revitalise local industries and support the growth of the private sector.

To the government of Pakistan

11. Follow up fully and firmly on commitments to prevent incursions across the Line of Control by militants and permanently end all support for militant groups in Pakistan and Kashmir.

12. Defuse tensions with India and facilitate a dialogue between Kashmiris on both sides of the LOC.

To the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the European Union and the United Nations

13. Urge both India and Pakistan to engage in a dialogue on all outstanding disputes including Kashmir and encourage the withdrawal of troops from positions along the LOC with a view to a gradual demilitarisation of the entire pre-1947 state.

14. Urge both India and Pakistan to open the Line of Control to civilian traffic and trade.

15. Pressure Pakistan to end its support for militant groups.

16. Pressure India to end extra judicial killings, custodial deaths, disappearances, torture and rape perpetrated or tolerated by its security forces.

Islamabad/Brussels, 21 November 2002

 
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