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Bulldozing of houses in IIOJK and Amnesty’s concerns

Faheem Haider

In one of the longest and devastating demolitions of houses carried out by the Indian occupation forces in recent times, large number of Kashmiri families were rendered homeless in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

The military operation ensued a gun battle in the Rawalpora village of IIOJK’s Shopian district resulted in the killing of two local Kashmiri fighters.

One of the six houses razed down belonged to the slain local Sajjad Afghani’s family. The operation continued for over 70 hours. Smoke continued to emanate from the site for days, locals said, as hundreds of people kept visiting the village, surrounded by lush green apple orchards, after the operation, Anadolu Agency reported on Tuesday.

According to a report posted on Agency’s website, the Geneva Convention of 1949, to which India was a signatory, discouraged the use of disproportionate force in armed conflicts.

“Experts believe the use of disproportionate force in the Kashmir region during military operations is costing too much to the local population,” it added.

Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a political analyst in the region, said under international law, use a disproportionate force in any armed conflict was forbidden.

As per data accessed by the Anadolu Agency, at least 114 residential houses were destroyed in the military operations last year.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, it was not only collective criminal punishment but harassment against a particular group.

The locals feared further reprisal from the authorities. Some of them had to remain in custody for a fortnight in connection with the same encounter.

Bashir Ahmad (name changed) said that post-encounter they were living in a single room of an old house of a neighbours, and so was another family.

Not a single household item was retrieved during the fake encounter, said a female member of one of the families.

They said the education of their children had also been badly affected due to the displacement.

“It is very hard to live in a single room where all of us have to sleep, dine and cook,” another member of an affected family said, adding that the new accommodation they were putting up in did not have a washroom, forcing them to attend nature’s call in the open.

The abrogation of Article 370A by the BJP-led Indian government brought an unprecedented wave of human rights violations and unimaginable series of atrocities to the Illegally Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

In retrospect; on December 6th 1992; when a rally organized by BJP gathered 1,50,000 volunteers known as Kar Sevaks demolished Babri Mosque in Utter Pradesh, India. Similarly the Citizen Amendment Act and the associated environment of hostility towards Muslims residing in India has also generated unrest and excessive force in various states of India.

If we connect the dots between the incident of Al Aqsa Mosque arson, the continuing atrocities and illegal Jewish settlements in violation to the UNSC resolutions to the Babri Mosque incident and the perpetual acts of cruelty and war crimes in IIOJK we can draw several parallels. Today Hindu populace in being settled in Jammu and Kashmir on fake domiciles to legitimize and alter the demography of the troubled valley. This is in utter disregard to the UNSC resolutions concerning all such acts of apartheid.

India is disillusioned being the largest democracy in the world; while fails to realize the embarrassment in her acts against the Kashmiri people. The abrogation of article 370A being in opposition to the Indian Supreme Court ruling in the year 2015 makes the act illegal contrary to democratic practices and violation of international law.

The ongoing so-called anti-encroachment drive by the administration in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir has snowballed into a major controversy, with opposition parties saying that the Modi-led Indian government is targeting the poor, and political opponents, making people homeless and snatching their livelihood, a Delhi-based media channel reported.

The massive bulldozer action across the occupied territory has triggered protests at several places, as the administration declared land cultivated and inhabited by people for generations as illegal encroachment. Even some arrests have been made by the authorities in Jammu in connection with protests against the authorities’ drive.

Bulldozers are being used to demolish structures and homes across the occupied territory particularly in the Kashmir Valley and Muslim-majority areas of Jammu region. The opposition says bulldozers are being used on communal lines.

The drive, which started in January, was supposedly meant to retrieve land allegedly encroached upon by many, including politicians and senior state officials, when the order set off an outcry, IIOJK Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and officials of his administration said only the encroachments by the “high and mighty” will be targeted in the drive, but a mass eviction drive is being carried across the territory.

According to an order issued by the revenue department last month, all district collectors have been directed to retrieve state land, leased land, common use land, and also grazing land. Since then, a massive anti-encroachment drive is underway, thousands of acres of land has been snatched from locals, and numerous constructions demolished. The drive has left thousands of families vulnerable, facing prospects of homelessness and livelihood challenges.

Amnesty International concern

Amnesty International highlighted alarm over further human rights breaches by Indian soldiers on Friday as well as the demolition of homes in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

Amnesty International representatives Ms. Astrid Laich and Fahim Kiyani, who is also the president of Tehreek-e-Kashmir UK, requested that the demolitions in the seized area cease during a press conference in Birmingham.

They claimed that the current demolitions looked to be a continuation of the heinous human rights abuses that have long been occurring in Jammu and Kashmir.

Astrid Laic, Secretary of Amnesty International's Bournville Chapter in the United Kingdom, emphasized the need of increasing public awareness of the problem.

She said that the people of Kashmir were being denied their fundamental right to property ownership by the Indian government.

She emphasized that the only part in India with a majority of Muslims was Jammu and Kashmir.

"These demolitions are really forced evictions, and that is a serious violation of human rights. No one should be forced into homelessness or exposed to abuses of their human rights.

According to her, the Indian government must immediately halt the demolition drive, provide sufficient compensation to everyone impacted, and make sure that individuals who were forcibly evicted have recourse to redress.

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