Synopsis of “Human Lives Matter: A Comparative Study and Analysis of Human Development and Human Rights in J&K and PoJK/G-B”
Jammu and Kashmir has been a reason for continuous confrontation between India and Pakistan for over seven decades now. Both countries are in an undeclared war, though ceasefire agreement was signed in 2003, to gain control over different parts of the territory. However, amidst the clash for the ‘land’, it is the ‘people’ of the region, who have never been the focus.
The report titled “Human Lives Matter: A Comparative Study and Analysis of Human Development and Human Rights in J&K and PoJK/G-B” by Law and Society Alliance is an effort to study and assess the human development and human rights in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), and compare the performances of Governments of India and Pakistan in these two aspects of human life.
The report is an outcome of an empirical study, based on data from sources based on documents and studies of United Nations agencies, government huamn rights institutions of India and Pakistan, non-profit organisations, and media reports. Besides mapping and assessing, the report also gives a snapshot of various research and analysis carried out by different stakeholders on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. This report is also an attempt to present a broader picture of the political-economic conditions prevailing in J&K and PoJK/G-B.
This research essentially maps, compares, and analyses a combination of dynamic and relatively static indicators including development indicators and governance; ethnicity, language, and culture; human rights conditions; and laws and legislation leading to human rights abuses. Based on the analysis of these four categories, it subsequently draws inferences and makes observations. The report also presents a picture of major development indicators and assesses the performance of the Indian government in the past year.
Development indicators reflect the affinity of the governments to the people, whereas, governance reflects their efficiency for the emancipation of the inhabitants. A comparison of annual budget allocations, as well as those allocated in the areas of health and education in J&K and PoJK, reflects that India has been allocating an amount that is a multiple of PoJK budget by many times. With one of the lowest Infant Mortality Rates, high employment opportunities, and numerous higher educational institutes, J&K places itself among the top performers in the list of Indian states in a couple of indicators. The findings also reflect that with a low HDI value and literacy rate, along with meagre number of education institutes and medical centres, G-B tends to be one of the most underdeveloped territories of the world.
The indicators of ethnicity, language, and culture help to track the performance of the governments over some time. These indicators become more important in the present scenario where both the countries are indulged in allegations and counter-allegations of working on an agenda to change the demography and massacring the local population. The rapidly declining Shia population, targeted genocides of minorities, and settling down of Punjabi elites and army men in PoJK and G-B highlights the Pakistani attempts of demographic change. Pakistan has already been successful to cleanse the Sikh population from PoJK. In a new paradigm shift, Chinese workers and army men are settling down in these areas, especially in G-B in the guise of working for CPEC. A striking finding of the report is that the population of Muslims in J&K over the past five decades – between the census of 1961 and 2011- was identical, highlighting that no demographic change has taken place till date in J&K. Similarly, none of the languages spoken by the PoJK and G-B population has been officially recognised by Pakistan and imposition of Urdu – spoken by a meagre population, mostly by Punjabi elites, reflects that Pakistan has been unable to come out of the orientalist mindset and is seemingly working on pre-independence Muslim League agenda. The Pakistan and the government seems to institutionally impose it across the nation under China’s pressure. Contrarily, India has recognised three predominant Kashmiri languages – Kashmiri, Dogri, and Urdu under its Constitution.
Human rights is the most exploited issue by both the countries at the international fora. The analysis of existing human rights situations in PoJK/G-B highlights disturbing trends. Several Universal Periodic Reviews (UPRs) and two reports of OHCHR in 2018 and 2019 have underlined that religious and non-religious minorities have been barred from constitutional rights and are being persecuted by state and non-state actors. Through the Anti Terrorism Act, involuntary disappearances, blasphemy laws, and other national security provisions, the Pakistani army and the ISI are curbing dissent in PoJK and G-B. Similarly, journalism and free speech are in a state of deep crisis in PoJK and G-B. Besides practicing direct censorship, Pakistan is also implementing indirect ways to censor news content. The situation seems to be somewhat different on the other side of the LoC as the report has found that the government of India has invested millions of Rupees for the protection of separatist leaders of J&K. Moreover, vernacular Kashmiri media appears to be thriving. However, growing numbers of internet shutdowns in J&K remain to be a matter of concern, inflicting a heavy economic loss for the state and obstructing free communication.
Laws and legislation are relatively static indicators that deconstruct the intrinsic nature of political systems and the path traveled by the governments over the years. The constitutional setups in PoJK and G-B have been fragile and volatile. First of all, PoJK and G-B don’t find any mention in the Pakistan Constitution. PoJK has an ‘Interim Constitution’ which keeps changing based on the convenience of Pakistan and G-B does not have a Constitution at all! Pakistan is resorting to a dilly-dally approach to handle the difficult situation that emerged due to the 13th Amendment Act and the proposed 14th Amendment Act of PoJK.
The condition is more concerning in G-B as the Pakistani PM has vested all the powers of G-B Council in himself, controlling decision making in the region from Islamabad. Currently, under the pressure from the Supreme Court, the government is vacillating on its decision on how to bring the G-B Reforms Act 2019 and in which form. On the Indian side, the abrogation of 370 has extended numerous labour, minority, LGBT rights to the people of J&K. Even before the abrogation move, J&K had several human rights and labour laws. However, the J&K Assembly elections of 1987 were a black mark for Indian democracy and infringed the democratic rights of citizens of J&K and opened the gates for terrorism.
The assessment of finding and subsequent observations suggest that India is comparatively performing better in human development areas. Besides, constitutional recognition and state support to the vernacular languages and cultures are the two major factors that have catalysed the major differences in the conditions of Kashmiri and other local languages and ethnic cultures in both the territories across the LoC. Numerous cases of human rights violations on religious and sectarian grounds suggest that there has been an institutional sanction and validity of differentiation, discrimination, and disparage by Pakistani as well as PoJK Constitutions and local laws. On the other hand, India has, in most of the cases, ensured equal fundamental rights and has prevented the forms of discrimination across the diversely religious and multi-ethnic demography of J&K.
Post the abrogation-bifurcation move, there has been a significant increase in the budget of J&K and the amount allocated by the Central Government for the region. Several investors have made promising announcements. It has also helped to institutionalise the processes which could be seen in and rising prices of agricultural products, limited role of middlemen, and reduced corruption. Several projects are lined up in the pipeline and a couple of optimistic decisions have been taken in sectors of power, roads, infrastructure, and trade and commerce, besides others. However, concerns remain unaddressed as a couple of locals have been arguing that ample job opportunities haven’t been created in J&K after the abrogation move. Also, a number of allocations are yet to be fully utilised. The slow pace of project completion also adds to the concerns. However, one year is a short time to make assessments and draw conclusions and the actual results could only be seen in the time to come.