Behind the Human Rights Violations in Kashmir Kashmiris Are Caught between Hindu Nationalism and Pakistani Militarism

Article excerpt

THE conscience of India's liberal intelligentsia is gnawed by the repressive policies of the Indian state in Kashmir. Two human rights groups in India I've worked with for several years, the Peoples Union of Civil Liberties and `Citizens' for Democracy, have just returned from strife-torn Kashmir and reported on flagrant violations of human rights there by Indian security agencies.

There have been instances of brutality that sully India's decent record on the issue of human rights. For instance, last January the border security forces killed some 50 people and destroyed 250 shops in the apple-growing town of Sopore in retaliation against a small hand-grenade attack. A tale of courage and sacrifice has been woven out of the Sopore incident. It is such tales that inspire the Kashmiri people to fight the Indian state.

Yet apart from a small segment of the liberal intelligentsia, the larger population and all political parties, including the Communists and the rightists, support the present government's policy of holding on to Kashmir at all cost. And the Indian state that commands one of the largest militaries in the world has all the power it needs to keep Kashmir in the union.

What makes the Indian position on Kashmir precarious is the growing international disapproval of its approach. The United States, an outside power with the greatest influence in South Asia, now disputes India's and Pakistan's occupation of Kashmir and has been hinting at a notion of an autonomous Kashmir under the joint sovereignty of India and Pakistan.

The US also has repeatedly charged India with human rights violations in Kashmir and criticized it for refusing to let Amnesty International and other international human rights organizations visit Kashmir. It is difficult for India to ward off American and European pressures at a time when it is the world's fourth largest debtor nation and when the success of its attempt to switch to a market economy depends so much on Western support.

Pakistan's armed support for various resistance groups in Kashmir adds a dangerous dimension to the Kashmir problem. Pakistan has funded, trained, and armed Hizbul Mujahedin, a militant resistance group with the largest influence in Kashmir politics. It wields power by the sword but also by the invocation of the Islamic faith. This greatly appeals to the Kashmiri people at a time when their alienation from India is complete.

Pakistan undeniably supports armed insurgency in Kashmir; America and other relatively impartial countries confirm this. …