‘US report on rights in Kashmir inaccurate’

The US’s annual Human Rights Report 2008, released in Washington, highlights alleged custodial killings, torture and rapes by J&K police. But official statistics show it is full of factual inaccuracies, reports Arun Joshi,
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Updated on Feb 26, 2009 11:54 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByArun Joshi, Jammu

The US state department’s annual Human Rights Report for 2008, which has highlighted alleged custodial killings, torture and rapes by the police in Jammu & Kashmir, is full of factual inaccuracies and biased interpretations of facts.

The report, released in Washington on Wednesday, notes that “in Jammu & Kashmir, 3,575 persons died in custody over the past six years.” It does not attribute any source for this information.

But official statistics, available with Hindustan Times, shows there were only 153 such cases over the past 12 years – 67 from 1996 to 2002, when the National Conference was in power in the state, and 86 from 2002 to 2008 during the tenure of the Congress- People’s Democratic Party coalition government.

The report notes that concerns were raised about the Jammu & Kashmir Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) of 1990. This Act came into force in the Kashmir valley in July 1990, and was extended to Jammu in 2001; only two districts, Kargil and Leh, are out of its purview.

“The Act allows security forces to shoot suspects and destroy structures suspected to be harbouring violent separatists or containing weapons. Human rights organizations claimed this provision allowed security forces to act with impunity,” the report, which, incidentally, also acknowledges that terrorists do kill innocent civilians, notes.

This report, particularly touching, coming as it does from a country that ran the Guantanamo Bay prisons where prisoners were denied even basic access to the due process of law, comes at a time when PDP, the main opposition party in the state, has moved a resolution in the state Assembly to scrap AFSPA.

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