The NEU is deeply troubled by recent events in Indian-administered Kashmir that further restrict the human rights of innocent people. The current situation triggered by the removal of Indian-administered Kashmir’s special status limiting people’s freedoms of movement, association, expression, education and communication is alarming and requires an urgent international response.
The deployment in early August of a further 180,000 paramilitary troops, in addition to the 700,000 troops already present, places Kashmir among the most militarised areas in the world. The impact of high levels of militarisation on children are well documented. The 2018 UNOHCR Kashmir report documented cases of children not only being denied access to education during curfew periods but being detained and held in police stations for days without access to parent/carers or legal support. There have been reports of children being recruited by armed groups and subsequently being killed by Indian security forces. Over the last month there have been renewed reports of children being assaulted with pellet guns, used by security forces in Kashmir since 2010. The NEU is concerned about the lifelong mental and physical health impacts on generations of children being raised without consistent access to education in a climate of intimidation, violence and curfews.
The NEU is also concerned about the increased risk of violence against women in militarised areas. In her 2014 report, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women described the situation for women in militarised zones like Kashmir as ‘a constant state of siege and surveillance’ and she documented the use of mass rape, acts of enforced disappearance, killings and torture in the area. Kashmiri women have faced a new threat since the announcements of Kashmir’s altered status with a significant number of Indian men making sexualised and possessive comments online about Kashmiri women.
The NEU believes the current information black-out and curfew, restricting Kashmiri people’s ability to move, associate, worship, study, shop, work and communicate is a serious human rights’ violation that must be addressed. We are concerned by reports about pregnant women not being able to access hospitals safely to give birth, children not being able to access schools, workers not being able to earn their living for their families and journalists not being able to do their vital work. The shut down of media and communications puts the Kashmiri people in a uniquely vulnerable position as they are unable to share their experiences, access information or communicate with family and friends.
We call on the UK Government and the international community to support India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri people to work together towards a lasting peace where rights of all men, women and children are respected and where Kashmiri voices are heard.