Kashmir and Balochistan: some similarities

Indian Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), for the first time, has officially acknowledged that 2,156 unnamed bodies have been buried in mass graves across Indian Kashmir. According to the report, “There is every probability that these unidentified dead bodies buried in various unmarked graves at 38 places of North Kashmir may contain the dead bodies of enforced disappearances.” The SHRC report has asked for DNA identification apart from a thorough investigation; 574 bodies have been identified as local residents of Indian Kashmir and their families have been informed. Amnesty International has asked for an impartial investigation while J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah proposed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to ascertain “who have been buried in these (unmarked) graves”. Mr Abdullah said the commission “should be given the agenda that whichever incidents have happened in the last 20-21 years whether (because of) militants or security forces, wherever questions have been raised...to find answers to those questions”. In 1989, an insurgency broke out in Indian Kashmir and thus began decades of unrest in the volatile state. Indian security forces were said to be behind enforced disappearances. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), its September 2006 report, ‘Everyone Lives in Fear: Patterns of Impunity in Jammu and Kashmir’, “found that the Indian army and paramilitaries, as well as the militants, many backed by Pakistan, were responsible for human rights abuses and that the political and legal systems in India and Pakistan had failed to end abuses or punish the perpetrators”.

That an official Indian human rights commission has presented a report pointing at possible state atrocities must be commended. Now it is up to the Indian government to ensure that those who are responsible for such inhumane acts are held accountable. There can never be peace in Kashmir unless and until these atrocities are accounted for and those responsible brought to justice. Those in Pakistan who are sadly ‘rejoicing’ at this unfortunate news should think about the atrocities being committed in Balochistan by the Pakistani military and its proxies. At least the Indian state has taken the first step by uncovering human rights violations in Kashmir while Pakistan continues to ignore state oppression being committed against the Baloch. Pakistan can no longer paper over its ‘kill and dump’ policy in Balochistan. Thousands of Baloch have been missing and Pakistan’s spy agencies are said to be behind the abductions, torture and murder of Baloch nationalists. The wave of separatism in Balochistan has picked up momentum because of this phenomenon. If we support the Kashmiris’ right to accountability for crimes committed by the Indian security forces, how can we justify our double standards in the case of Balochistan? Pakistan either needs to stop the military operation in Balochistan and give the Baloch their due rights or be prepared for the breakdown of the federation.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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