PRESS NOTE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
05 APRIL 2008
INTERNATIONAL PEOPLE'S TRIBUNAL ON
HUMAN RIGHTS AND JUSTICE IN INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR
Srinagar, 05 April 2008: The Public Commission on Human Rights, a constituent of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, with the support of other groups and individuals, announces the INTERNATIONAL PEOPLE'S TRIBUNAL ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND JUSTICE IN INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR.
Stakeholders in civil society across Indian-administered Kashmir state that they are engulfed by local, regional, and international political processes that bypass them, withholding their right to participation and decision-making. They note that Kashmir is a flashpoint in conflicts between India and Pakistan, while the systemic effects of existing structures of governance on the lives of the people of Kashmir are silenced, trivialized, or rationalized as necessary. They note that the fabric of militarization in Indian-administered Kashmir profoundly affects their lives, while undermining their capacity to intervene in the regularized violence that results. Segments of civil society across Kashmir ask to be a part of the international community, to have the right and resources to speak to the conditions of their life. They state that their portrayal in media and politics simplifies issues that are intricate, and dehistoricizes them. They ask the international community to participate in rigorously and thoughtfully engaging their experience of protracted isolation and inquire into the diminishing of cultural and public life.
The Tribunal will hold its investigations and hearings in 2008-2009.
The Tribunal Conveners are:
Dr. Angana Chatterji, Convener. Dr. Chatterji is associate professor of anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies.
Advocate Parvez Imroz, Convener. Advocate Imroz is a human rights lawyer and founder of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society.
Mr. Gautam Navlakha, Convener. Mr. Navlakha works with the Economic and Political Weekly and is a human rights defender.
Mr. Zaheer-Ud-Din, Convener. Mr. Zaheer-Ud-Din is chief editor of Daily Etalat and vice president of Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society.
The Tribunal Legal Counsel and Liaison are:
Advocate Mihir Desai, Legal Counsel. Advocate Desai is practising in the Mumbai High Court and the Supreme Court of India, and co-founder of the Indian People's Tribunal.
Mr. Khurram Parvez, Liaison. Mr. Parvez is programme coordinator for the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society.
Purpose and Mandate:
The Tribunal will inquire into the architecture of military presence, militarization, and governance in Indian-administered Kashmir, and their subsequent and continued impact on civil society, political economy, infrastructure, development, local government, media, bureaucracy, and the judiciary. The Tribunal proposes to inquire into the actions of the Indian state and its institutions, as widely established by human rights organizations, to examine the structure of militaristic violence on the part of state institutions, and examine conditions of injustice therein.
Speaking to the need for an International People's Tribunal in Kashmir, Advocate Parvez Imroz stated: "This Tribunal goes beyond condemnation. It initiates an international process that looks into complex, systematic, and institutionalized repression in order to engage global civil society in investigating crimes against humanity in Indian-administered Kashmir. This process will inform struggles of Kashmiris for human rights and justice."
In defining the urgency for an international tribunal, Dr. Angana Chatterji stated: "Across India, Kashmir reverberates in the imaginary as an icon of unification whose continued possession is a must for the assertion of nationalist history and purpose. We call upon the international community to join us in investigating India's record in Kashmir, as India, an emergent superpower, argues for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. We seek accountability under provisions of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, Constitution of India, and International Law and Conventions, to insist upon reparations, justice, and self-determination."
Advocate Mihir Desai added: "The use of harsh laws, lack of transparency, and virtual total impunity and disregard for international law and failure of local institutions cry out for an independent people's tribunal to inquire into the real situation in Kashmir. The Tribunal seeks to unravel its impact and issues, so as to bring out the true picture of Kashmir before the international community."
Mr. Gautam Navlakha articulated: "As an Indian, 15 years of covering the war in Jammu and Kashmir has convinced me that justice is not available to the people who are aggrieved by the war being perpetrated by the Government of India. It is, therefore, necessary that one demystifies the lived realities of the people in order that the real issues of people's democratic right to determine their destiny is brought out as sharply as possible. It is therefore imperative to set up a people's tribunal."
Realities in Kashmir, through neglect, indifference, or complicity, continue to reproduce cycles of violence that are gendered and classed, religious and ethnic in their effects, with ever increasing social, political, economic, environmental, and psychological consequences that affect private, public, and everyday life. The Tribunal seeks to examine charges of, and expand awareness and understanding regarding, institutionalized violence, social trauma, and human rights abuses, and develop recommendations for justice, reparations, and healing, in alliance with ethical, peaceable grassroots processes and civil society groups and individuals that dissent such conditions. Mr. Zaheer-Ud-Din explained that: "The Tribunal proposes to inquire into instances of intense and regularized violence, such as torture, gendered and sexualized violence including rape, disablement, killings, executions, enforced disappearances, interrogations, detentions, and devastations by landmines." Further, the Tribunal proposes to inquire into if and how this endangers the survival of the living, such as among Kashmir's majority Muslim population, among women, 'half-widows', children, and other disenfranchised groups, including the aged and people with disabilities, and religious minority groups, and the effects on culture and society at large in Kashmir, and related spheres in Jammu and Ladakh.
The Tribunal will investigate the ongoing and systemic nature of violence, and the spiral of brutality. The Tribunal will inquire into forms of disempowered, reactive, and violent resistances on the part of groups engaged in militancy, and instances of outside intervention. The Tribunal will inquire into the probable intersections between the injustices perpetrated by Indian military and paramilitary forces and those enacted by militants, deepening and continuing cycles of repression in the process. Further, the Tribunal will inquire into the activities of Hindu nationalist organizations. The Tribunal will also inquire into forms of resistance mounted by civil society, and the corresponding demands for justice from various segments in Indian-administered Kashmir, including people's demand for the right to self-determination, and its meanings.
Advocate Imroz stated: "The Tribunal will address growing concerns with, and allegations of, breakdowns in social, political, cultural, religious, gendered, and economic life in Indian-administered Kashmir, that affect history and memory, spirit and future. In doing so, the Tribunal seeks to increase concern, and ethical, constructive, and creative participation of the local and international community toward justice, peace, and security."
Mr. Navlakha clarified that: "Power politics recommends 'Truth and Reconciliation Commissions' that seek forgiveness without justice. The Tribunal maintains that there cannot be any reconciliation without justice."
Advocate Desai clarified that: "The Tribunal will make distinctions between the 'judicial' and 'extra-judicial' as drawn by the Indian military and paramilitary forces and ask if and how the structure of militarization furthers impunity, and impacts legal and moral accountability on part of the state."
Dr. Chatterji stated: "The Tribunal will investigate the legal, political, and militaristic apparatus through which 'states of exception' have been established and are continued in Indian-administered Kashmir. The repression of self-determination struggles and genocidal violence has left 70,000+ dead and 8,000+ disappeared since 1989. Building on its mandate from the submissions of civil society, this Tribunal calls on the international community to recognize the juncture at which functions and failures of governance intersect with the culture of grief in Indian-administered Kashmir."
Why Indian-administered Kashmir?
The Tribunal will limit its primary investigations to Indian-administered Kashmir, and selectively to Jammu and Ladakh, even as issues in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and those of outside groups that engage in militancy are of political, social, and ethical significance. Also, access to areas that have experienced heightened military presence and violations in Indian-administered Kashmir remain limited, and, given the politics of borders, it is only conceivable for organizations and individuals working in Indian Kashmir to access areas restricted to its current borders as defined by the Line of Control.
The Tribunal will confine its investigation to the period between November 2003, when the Indo-Pak cease-fire began, and 2009, with supporting investigations related to the period between 1989-2003. The Tribunal is constituted as a people's collective, to undertake an inquiry into the history of the present in Indian-administered Kashmir through the participation of civil society, to reflect on the past toward energizing public space in the present, and for determinations of the future. Based on the conviction that people's voices must not be silenced, this Tribunal will investigate existing evidence, and hear statements and testimonials through public processes that maintain transparency. The Tribunal will solicit the participation of survivors, those seeking justice, local communities and groups, and internal experts from Indian-administered Kashmir, and from India and other places in South Asia, and the international community. The Tribunal will rely on the willingness of those affected and others to testify about experiences, events, and circumstances, and on the participation of credible and competent persons, and those not enacting political agendas. On completing its work, the Tribunal will invite a group of renowned public figures to constitute a Council of Justice to deliberate on the Tribunal's findings, and craft their statements in response. The Tribunal's findings and recommendations, and statements of the Council of Justice will be presented at a public hearing in Indian-administered Kashmir, and subsequently to the international community.
The Tribunal is a non-funded and voluntary initiative.
Mr. Khurram Parvez, Tribunal Liaison
Mobile: 91.9419013553 (Srinagar); Office: 91.194.2482820 (Srinagar)
E-mail: khurramparvez [at] yahoo [dot] com; kparvez [at] kashmirprocess [dot] org
Dr. Angana Chatterji, Tribunal Convener
Mobile: 91. 9906667238 (Srinagar), when available
Mobile: 001.415.640.4013 (United States); Office: 001.415.575.6119 (United States)
E-mail: achatterji [at] ciis [dot] edu; Angana [at] aol [dot] com; achatterji [at] kashmirprocess [dot] org
Advocate Parvez Imroz, Tribunal Convener
Office: 91.194.2482820 (Srinagar)
E-mail: p_imroz [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] in; pimroz [at] kashmirprocess [dot] org