Government forces have used excessive force in Kashmir and killed and wounded numerous civilians since 2016, according to Reuters the United Nations said on Thursday, calling for an international inquiry into alleged violations in the disputed territory.
There was no immediate comment by either government to the report issued by the U.N. human rights office in Geneva, which called for justice for victims on both sides of the so-called Line of Conflict, Reuters reported.
Mountainous Kashmir, which is Muslim majority, is divided between the nuclear-armed neighbors, who both claim it in full and have fought two of their three wars over the region since their separation in 1947.
India has long accused Pakistan of training and arming militants and helping them infiltrate across the heavily militarized Line of Control (LoC) that separates the two sides in the region, a charge Islamabad denies.
The U.N. report focuses mainly on serious violations committed in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 to April 2018. Activists estimate that up to 145 civilians were killed by security forces and up to 20 civilians killed by armed groups in the same period, it said.
“In responding to demonstrations that started in 2016, Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries,” the report said.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called for maximum restraint and denounced the lack of prosecutions of Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir due to a 1990 law giving them what he called “virtual immunity”.
In a statement, Zeid called for the Human Rights Council – which opens a three-week session in Geneva on Monday – to launch a commission of inquiry into all violations. Alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region should be investigated, he said.
Armed groups in Jammu and Kashmir have committed a range of crimes including kidnappings, killings of civilians and sexual violence, the U.N. report said.
Meanwhile India rejected a UN report alleging human rights violations in Kashmir as “fallacious, tendentious and motivated”.
In a strong reaction, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the report is “overtly prejudiced” and seeks to build a “false narrative”.
It violated the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, it said.
“India rejects the report. It is fallacious, tendentious and motivated. We question the intent in bringing out such a report,” the MEA said.