In an open challenge to the world conscience and international law to which it subscribes, India has, for some time past, been resorting to the use of chemical weapons, after other methods had failed to silence the voice of freedom in the part of Kashmir it has forcibly occupied. Foreign news agencies have cited instances where the security forces in the Valley have thrown pepper gas grenades, the so-called non-lethal weapon, to which the doctors have attributed at least three deaths so far. The chemical in pepper gas causes respiratory problems and suffocation and could prove fatal for heart and allergy patients. Besides, marbles fired from sling-shots and pellet guns have rendered two young Kashmiris blind. The figures of victims could be much higher. For, the media reports that many opt to remain silent for fear of retribution. These are no allegations; but true stories confirmed not only by hospital sources, but also by the unabashed admission of the Indian Held Kashmir Law Minister and the IG Police that the use of such weapons has become “necessary to maintain law and order; otherwise elements who don’t want peace stand to benefit”.

That high government officials make no bones about these weapons lends their use another dimension: New Delhi’s non-challance at how the international community might react. It considers itself so powerful in world politics that it feels free to violate international law and, of course, basic human rights with impunity. Strangely, the police on the spot are left to assess the situation and, if they deem necessary, commit such heinous crimes; no orders from a higher authority are needed.

The poor Kashmiris are not new to atrocities. As they have struggled to get free from India’s bondage in the past 65 years, its 700,000-strong security force has perpetrated untold human rights abuses, torturing and maiming, abductions and disappearances, raping of women, shooting at peaceful demonstrations, terrorising ordinary citizens to prevent them supporting the freedom fighters and, especially, the target is the youth. So far, nearly 100,000 Kashmiris have lost their lives. The tragic news for the badly cornered Kashmiris is that powerful states and the so-called custodians of human rights prefer to turn a blind eye to their miseries in the vain hope that India would safeguard their strategic interests in the region. And India-occupied Kashmir continues to bleed.