US urges India to rein in troops in Kashmir
12 May 2004
WASHINGTON: India needs to rein in its troops responsible for widespread human rights violations in occupied Kashmir if it wants to improve its image in the world, a senior State Department official said on Wednesday. 'This is the kind of message that needs to be sent (to India) ... that this type of abuses are not acceptable,' said Michael G. Kozak, who heads the department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour. Mr Kozak, while responding to an observation at a congressional hearing in Washington, said India 'ought to clean that stuff up ... if it wants to improve its image.' Earlier, Congressman Dan Burton, who was chairing a hearing on human rights abuses in Kashmir, observed that India had deployed more than 800,000 troops in Kashmir where as many as 90,000 people had been killed since early 1990s when the people of Kashmir launched their freedom struggle. Talking about the atrocities committed by Indian troops in Kashmir, Mr. Burton said 'Facts speak for themselves ... thousands of women have been raped, many gang- raped, 105,000 children have been orphaned, more than 21,000 women have been widowed.' Mr Kozak agreed with his observations but said such abuses were more common in the early 1990s when India felt threatened by the uprising in Kashmir. 'It does not mean it has stopped now. Some rapes and killings are still happening,' he added. Mr Burton, however, said he had seen pictures showing that Indian forces were still committing those atrocities and asked another State Department official, Donald A. Camp, deputy assistant secretary at the Bureau of South Asian Affairs, to explain what had the US government done to enable the people Kashmir to use their right to self-determination. 'This issue needs to be decided by India and Pakistan, taking into account the wishes of the people of Kashmir,' said Mr. Camp while stating the official US policy.