No peace without justice

Following shelling by the security forces in Jammu & Kashmir, 11 people were killed on 18 September 1997 in Arin, in Bandipore of Baramullah district. Eleven years later, the victims' families in this little hamlet are still awaiting justice. This is just one of scores of such incidents to have taken place over the past two decades of conflict in J & K, where the issue of human rights has long occupied the centre of the political discourse.

Kashmiri separatists have always used rights abuses as a central theme of their struggle against rule by New Delhi. Likewise, every major 'pro-India' political party has also demanded greater accountability for the armed forces, the repeal of draconian laws such as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, and justice for the victims of abuse. During the recent election in J & K, both the ruling National Conference and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party again promised elaborate action plans to halt such violations. Yet in practice, human-rights defenders and other civil-society actors continue to be kept far from the negotiation table.

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Himal Southasian