The UN said it relied on PTI, parliamentary questions, court orders, police reports and even RTI to get information from India
New Delhi: In its first-ever human rights report on Kashmir, the United Nations said that despite limited access, the quantity and quality of information available on Jammu and Kashmir is in stark contrast to that on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The 49-page report accused both India and Pakistan of human rights violations and called for an international inquiry. India rejected the report last week, terming it “fallacious” and “overtly prejudiced”.
“Despite challenges, NGOs, human rights defenders and journalists are able to operate in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, generating documentation on the ongoing human rights violations there,” said the UN in its report released 14 June.
The UN report said the restrictions on the freedoms of expression, opinion, peaceful assembly and association “in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan have limited the ability of observers, including OHCHR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights), to assess the human rights situation there”.
From July 2016 to April this year, the UN requested unconditional access to Kashmir — both in India and Pakistan — on numerous occasions. While India declined, Pakistan offered conditional access on the grounds that OHCHR must “obtain access to Indian-Administered Kashmir”.
A fresh cycle of violence started in Jammu and Kashmir after the July 2016 killing of Burhan Wani. The 22-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen leader was shot dead by security forces on 8 July that year. The UN report has pulled up the Indian forces for its reaction to the protests in the Valley.
The OHCHR submitted that it met with the representatives of India and Pakistan, shortly after the outbreak of violence, who had “differing narratives about the ongoing events and the general situation in Kashmir”.
“Without unconditional access to Kashmir on either side of the Line of Control, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has undertaken remote monitoring of the human rights situation. This first report on the situation of human rights in both Indian-Administered Kashmir and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir is based on such monitoring,” said the report.
In order to compile the report, OHCHR relied on information already available in the public domain.
Singling out news agency Press trust of India for its reliability, the UN also used official documents and statements such as Parliamentary questions, court orders, and police reports wherever possible.
The UN also banked on various civil rights groups, national and international NGOs, human rights defenders, answers submitted to questions raised in the Indian Parliament and RTI (in India) to prepare its report. The OHCHR based its findings on its methodology, using a ‘reasonable grounds’ standard of proof in absence of direct verification.
Though the focus of the report is on India – notably the excessive use of force by security forces that led to numerous civilian casualties, the report also examined the situation in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir within that timeframe.
The report said “human rights violations in this area are of a different calibre or magnitude and of a more structural nature.”
“OHCHR recognises the complexity of the historical background and political issues that has led to the current situation in Kashmir, which has been divided between India and Pakistan. People on both sides of the Line of Control have been detrimentally impacted and suffer from limitations or denial of a range of human rights,” it said.