Radicals give Kashmir conflict a new edge: HRW
12 September 2006
The Daily Times
Srinagar: A revolt in Indian Kashmir has drawn Islamic radicals into the conflict, making it even more dangerous, a US-based rights group said on Tuesday, at the same time urging India to repeal tough anti- terror laws. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) study said the separatist insurgency had visibly mutated into an even more dangerous fight under the banner of religion, pitting Islam against Hinduism, and drawing religious radicals into its heart. The report titled Everyone Lives in Fear was released by HRW in Srinagar, the capital of Indian Kashmir where a deadly insurgency has raged against New Delhis rule since 1989. Kashmir has a population of 10 million people out of which 68 percent are Muslim, 28 percent are Hindu and the remaining four percent are a mixture of Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists. According to the report Security forces claim they are fighting to protect Kashmiris from militants and Islamist extremists while militants claim they are fighting for Kashmiri independence and to defend Muslim Kashmiris from a murderous Indian Army. The report compiled from interviews with officials, police, separatists, journalists and civilians, stated both sides had committed widespread rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian laws. Human Rights Watchs Asia division director Brad Adams said people were fed up with the daily violence but that while human rights abuses had fallen over the past few years the situation was still severe. The 158-page report alleges serious abuses in which government forces and militants in Kashmir have targeted civilians. Kashmiris are trapped in an armed conflict between abusive Indian government forces and armed militant groups waging a brutal separatist struggle with the backing of the Pakistani government, stated the report. A peace process between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan has stalled over New Delhis charges that Islamabad has failed to crack down on cross-border terrorism against Indian targets. Pakistan has denied the charges. Adams called upon India to repeal tough counter-insurgency laws in force since the rebellion began in Indian Kashmir 17 years ago. These laws are unacceptable in our society, said Adams referring to the Public Safety Act, Disturbed Areas Act and Special Powers Act. The laws give sweeping powers to the armed forces to shoot any suspect, raid any building and detain anyone for two years without trial. Its time to repeal these laws, said Adams, whose report was the first to be released in troubled Kashmir under a new Indian government policy aimed at allowing freer debate over the situation in the region. The Indian governments failure to end widespread impunity for human rights abuses committed both by its security forces and militants is fuelling the cycle of violence in Kashmir, he said adding that Human rights abuses have been a cause as well as a consequence of the insurgency in Kashmir. Adams also criticised Pakistan. The Indian government has effectively given its forces free rein, while Pakistan and armed militant groups have failed to hold militants accountable for the atrocities they have committed, he said. While there was no immediate reaction from the Indian government to the report, New Delhi says it investigates all accusations of human rights abuses and punishes anyone found guilty.