Freedom in the World
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Indian Kashmir *
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Indian Kashmir’s political rights rating improved from 5 to 4 due to reports that the December 2008 elections were generally fair and competitive, drawing a comparatively high voter turnout despite militant groups’ calls for a boycott.
Talks between India and Pakistan on the resolution of Kashmir’s status continued in 2009, and in November Kashmiri separatist leaders agreed to meet with the Indian government for the first time in four years. In the wake of successful elections in late 2008, the overall level of violence declined, continuing a seven-year trend; in October India announced plans to withdraw 15,000 troops from the Jammu region. Nevertheless, separatist violence continued during the year, and a number of noncombat killings by security forces were reported. Impunity for human rights abuses remained the norm.
New Delhi placed Jammu and Kashmir under federal rule in 1990 and attempted to quell the uprising by force. The JKLF abandoned its armed struggle in 1994, and the insurgency was thereafter dominated by Pakistani-backed extremist groups, which included fighters from elsewhere in the Muslim world.
Relations between India and Pakistan improved somewhat in mid-2009 following a rift over a November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai that was linked to a Pakistani-based militant group. In July the two sides agreed to separate their Kashmir talks from discussions related to terrorist attacks, but India was forced to backtrack from that position due to vocal domestic criticism.
Jammu and Kashmir, like India’s other states, is governed by an elected bicameral legislature and a chief minister entrusted with executive power. An appointed governor serves as titular head of state. Members of the 87-seat lower house, or state assembly, are directly elected, while the 46-seatupper house has a combination of members elected by the state assembly and nominated by the governor.
Courts were regularly in session in Jammu and Kashmir in 2009, according to the U.S. State Department’s human rights report. Nevertheless, judges, witnesses, and the families of defendants remain subject to intimidation by militants. In addition, the government and security forces frequently disregard court orders, including those quashing detentions. Two broadly written laws—the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Disturbed Areas Act—allow Indian forces to search homes and arrest suspects without a warrant, shoot suspects on sight, and destroy buildings believed to house militants or arms. In a widely criticized decision in May 2007, India’s Supreme Court effectively reversed previous rulings requiring the armed forces to involve civilian police in their operations and thus removed an important safeguard for detainees. Following the two killings in Bumai in February 2009, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah pledged to have the AFSPA repealed during his new government’s six-year term; it was still in effect at year’s end.