Amnesty International India released a report on Kashmir “Denied: Failures in accountability for human rights violations by security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir”. The report was compiled after meeting victims of the state brutality. Divya Iyer, Research Manager AII, played a key role in compiling it. In an email interview with Kashmir Reader Special correspondent Moazum Mohammad, Iyer talks about the report while skipping some questions:
Moazum Mohammad: What’s the AIIs assessment about the current situation in Kashmir?
Divya Iyer: The families we interviewed said that there have been several positive measures in recent years such as an increase in the number of police stations. Activists say that levels of violence by armed groups, and direct threats and intimidation by security forces have also decreased. However, obtaining justice is still out of reach.
Other serious human rights concerns continue to exist. The pursuit of justice for human rights violations, starting with the filing of FIRs, is still difficult. In cases involving the security forces, civil society activists and victims say that the version of the security forces becomes the dominant narrative.
Abuses related to the use of force by police on protestors are a major cause for worry. Administrative detention through the PSA continues to be used by authorities. Restrictions continue to be imposed on communication networks. Armed groups operating in J&K have also been responsible for several human rights abuses including attacks on civilians.
MM: Why don’t AII reports cause much impact? What is the role of government in it, and are you going to take any course of action this time to seek justice for victims?
DI: Amnesty International India does its best to ensure that its reports lead to human rights change on the ground, including carrying out research, campaigning, mobilisation and advocacy. We urge the government of India and the state government of Jammu and Kashmir to implement our recommendations.
MM: The AII filed a petition with PMO against the human rights violation (torture, detentions) during 2010, political uprising. But there appears no change on the ground?
DI: No answer.
MM: Pellets continue to maim people. Has the AII failed in its efforts to extract a promise from the government to ban the use of pellet guns in the region?
DI: No answer.
MM: In 2012, AII asked the Indian army personnel facing charges of serious violations of human rights must stand trial. Now again, it continues to be so as it corroborated by your report that the ‘AFSPA continues to feed a cycle of impunity for human rights violations’. What would be your next step on it?
DI: No answer
MM: How challenging is it for the AII to work in Kashmir, and how difficult was it to meet victims and compile this report?
DI: Producing in-depth research based on rigorous investigation, victim or family testimonies, credible documentation and verification is always a long and complex process. It was same with the recently released report.
However, in this particular report, we faced a few additional challenges such as the lack of data and poor documentation of official records; and lack of response from the government departments on our RTI application which made it difficult for us to verify certain things for e.g., discrepancies in the number of sanction requests received and processed by the MHA and MoD.
All the families we met were extremely cooperative, gave us their time and shared their stories with us with openness and trust.
MM: Did you face any pressure to withdraw the report because it puts the Indian armed forces in a negative role?
MM: Your reports talks about the human rights abuse committed by the Indian armed forces in the J&K. Why don’t you take the course of either Indian courts or international courts to get the violators convicted so that justice could be done?
DI: We have raised these issues at India’s Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council, and also before several UN human rights experts.
MM: We all condemn violence and terror perpetrated by ISIS. But hasn’t India as a state committed brutality and violence equating this terror group?
DI: Indian security force personnel have been accused of perpetrating human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and torture.