The struggles endured by the Kashmiri people are largely undocumented in our news media. The long running unrest in the region has been marginalised in our news reports and our collective imagination.
The people of the Kashmir valley have been protesting since July. They have been demanding an end to an increasingly heavy-handed Indian rule. Their efforts to mobilise and demand change has been met with a new weapon in the hands of the Indian security forces : the “non-lethal” pellet gun. This ammunition has killed over 90 people. 12,000 people have been injured. Close range “non-lethal” firing has left thousands of young boys and girls on the verge of blindness. The faces of 1,163 civilians have been shot at — the pellets lodging themselves around their eyes and skulls. This wave of pellet rifle enthusiasm encapsulates the trend amongst security forces to violate and cover up human rights abuses.
Over 44,000 people have been killed in security force custody since 1991. Thousands of enforced disappearances and torture cases are also part of this story. And yet not one person in the security forces has been tried for human rights abuses in a civilian court. The legal framework enables the exemption of security personnel from prosecution for human rights violations. This is to say, there is no accountability for this violence. Amnesty International have found that the code of law has long been used to provide immunity for security forces and therefore deepen the disregard for human life in Kashmir.
As the Kashmiri people call for freedom, it is our moral responsibility to stand with them and learn about their struggle. Understanding their lives a little better can foster compassion. Al-Khawatir believes compassion is love in action — and it is positive action which is needed so desperately. We can walk the road to peace with this compassion and a greater understanding of how military operations fragment communities. Perhaps it is time to more vigorously encourage the truth about Kashmir to emerge and connect their struggles with many more under military occupation.