Peace in Kashmir Linked to Justice: IPT

Srinagar, March 8: International People’s Tribunal (IPT) on Human Rights and Justice on Monday maintained that that peace and prosperity in Kashmir was linked to the necessity of justice that addresses crimes perpetrated on the basis of gender.

On January 04, the IPT-a human rights group based in Kashmir, had written a letter to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, seeking his permission to pursue an independent and transparent people’s inquiry into the Shopian case (involving alleged rape and murder of two women in May last year).

“As we had noted, we are determined to undertake this inquiry at the request of the Majils-e-Mashawarat Shopian (Local group which spearheaded agitation for justice” on the contention that state institutions and the investigations authorized by them, have been unable to deliver an accurate understanding of the matter or define a mechanism for justice,” reads a fresh letter written to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah by IPT.

“We write you today as we are yet to receive a response from your office to our request for access to certain documents, sites, and personnel in conjunction with Shopian inquiry,” the letter said and demanded physical access to all relevant paramilitary CRPF and army camps, and police stations in Shopian district.

“Access to documents assembled and prepared by the Government that form the evidentiary basis of the state’s conclusions on the Shopian event, including forensic reports and the testimonials rendered by forces and state officials.”

The IPT also demanded access to police and security and medical personnel that testified to the commission of inquiry headed by Justice (Retired) Muzaffar Jan between May-July 2009.

Besides, it wants access to officers of the SIT of police that collaborated with the Jan Commission following its interim report, per your order.

It also demanded access to local officers who assisted India’s premier investigative agency CBI in its inquiry between September-December 2009.

The IPT has demanded guarantees that any witnesses that elect to testify to the IPTK process be permitted to do so without duress, or adverse consequences being threatened or befalling them, from personnel or institutions of the state.

“Women and children, and others, have been victimized by horrific forms of brutality, including individual rape, and gang and collective rape. Other categories of the victimized include women labelled ‘half-widows,’ whose male partners are missing. India’s security forces occupy 10,54,721 kanals of land in Jammu and Kashmir, on which, in Kashmir, 671 security camps are located.

The structure of the camps maintained by security forces, and their placement, which necessitate forced encounters between local women and the armed forces on a routine basis, have facilitated the perpetration of gendered violence. In a Red Zone, as in Shopian, with the profuse presence of soldiers, women are made extremely vulnerable.

Women and children, and others, have been subjected to physical and psychological torture and trauma. Security personnel have searched, detained, leered at, propositioned, extorted, and initiated unsolicited physical contact with civilians. They have tortured and sexually assaulted, girls/minors and women,” the IPT stated.

“We write you mindful that conditions for peace and prosperity in Kashmir are linked to the possibility and necessity of justice that addresses crimes perpetrated on the basis of gender during, and as a result of, militarization,” it added.

Fayaz Wani reports on life in Srinagar, Kashmir.