March 1999 News

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Evidence of Pakistan Support to Ultras in J&K: Amnesty

3rd March 1999
The Hindustan Times
By: Vijay Dutt

LONDON: A 71 Page report released by Amnesty International alleges that between 700 and 800 people have `disappeared' in Jammu and Kashmir and that "to find redress for this gross violation of human rights have always been frustrated by special laws in the state..." It does acknowledge that 1998 `has witnessed a lower level of cases of disappearance', but claims that other forms of rights violations are reported in large numbers.

According to the report, more people disappeared in 1990, 1991 and 1992, and lesser numbers in 1996 and 1997. Some observers, not named, have reportedly estimated that the number of those who `disappeared' could be as hight as 2,000. The report is quite damaging, although Amnesty concedes the gravity of the security situation with which the Indian Government has to deal with.

However, of considerable significance in Amnesty's acknowledgement that there is evidence that "Pakistan has provided men, training and military support to some groups, seeking accession of Kashmir to Pakistan..." It quotes unnamed observers who believe that trained Islamist fighters from a "range of Muslim countries including Sudan and Afghanistan... engage in brutal abuses, especially targeting the Hindu minority."

Amnesty has, according to the report, sought a constructive dialogue with the Government on how human rights can be effectively protected in a difficult situation such as the one in Kashmir. It also iterates that since the early 90s, Amnesty has opposed human rights abuses perpetrated by armed `opposition groups'.

Amnesty justifies not calling such groups terrorists on the ground that this is to ``emphasize' its impartiality with regard to the aims and methods of such groups. The Indian Government or even the Kashmiri Pandits will hardly agree with this. The report has also admitted of evidence of Pakistan's assurance to groups in Kashmir and of militants who have come from Sudan and Afghanistan through Pakistan, which apparently allows their passage.

However, since the last two years, Amnesty has documented killings and tortures by what it terms the opposition groups.

The report, whatever be its rationale, will provide stimulus to a few British MPs and Kashmiri groups which have been harping on alleged human rights violations in the Valley in order to demand a plebiscite there. Its echoes could resonate at the UN Human Rights Commission Geneva.

The cover of the Amnesty report has a rather emotive headline: "India, If they are dead, tell us". Its text goes on to say, "Away from the scrutiny of lawyers, family members and human rights monitors, the `disappeared' have themselves been harassed... of killed." This allegation is backed by Haleema Begum's example. Her Dec 3, 1992 statement is reproduced in which she had said that her efforts to find her son, who suddenly `disappeared', were of no avail. Begum was shot dead in Sept 1998 by unidentified gunmen. "Some local observers link the killing to the persistence with which Begum sought to trace her son."

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