India’s Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi yesterday joined voices with a section of celebrities, journalists and social media users to justify the use of a human shield by the army in Jammu and Kashmir, a practice internationally looked upon as a war crime and an unacceptable violation of human rights, saying that “There was nothing wrong, considering the circumstances. If it has to be done again, it should be done again. We are 100 percent backing the army and the major.”
And there you have it, a senior government official openly supporting a war crime. Mr Rohatgi – peddling the official government stance on the matter – not only supported a blatant human rights abuse, but praised the abuser and vowed to take such action again. The government takes stances like this and wonders why Kashmir rejects it so strongly.
The need to stand behind your armed forces in testing times is a natural government instinct, all states have done it time and again – but to refuse to recognise a violation of human rights behind it is a new low. Human rights and war crimes agreements like the Geneva Convention are meant to be respected regardless of circumstances and strategic advantages. If “circumstances” and expediency could absolve a government of human rights violations then Bashar Al-Assad could make a case justifying his many airstrikes that killed have civilians – the circumstances demanded it and the Syrian army’s lives were saved. Amid videos emerging of Indian soldiers indiscriminately beating Kashmiri youths without provocation and shooting dead another at point blank range one wonders how far this argument of “circumstances” goes? Does Mr Rohatgi also consider the extrajudicial killing of an arrested and unarmed youth justified; does he believe the Indian army should do it again?
Considering India’s human rights record, its refusal to let human rights monitors enter Kashmir and its recent decision to cut internet access to the province to prevent further videos like this getting out, it is doubtful that it will change its practices. Kashmir will be suppressed – using all means at their disposal.
On cue, India has started unprovoked firing across the LOC. This is another “means” at India’s disposal. When things get too unsettled in Kashmir, start skirmishes with Pakistan to distract the narrative and claim Pakistani interference.
It is fitting that at right about the time these events were happening, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) released a statement after a meeting with the United States National Security advisor that “Pakistan itself is victim of state sponsored terrorism, and it strongly rejects allegations of employing proxies from its soil.”