Indian state and opinion makers have rushed to trash OHCHR report on Kashmir. It merits a close look

Can they not look beyond the recommendation to ‘fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law’?

On June 14, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a pointedly titled Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir: Developments in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018, and General Human Rights Concerns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the high commissioner, makes clear that its findings are based on documentary evidence in the public domain, including from governmental sources in Kashmir, India and Pakistan. There is little in this report that will come as news to observers of Kashmir, including the fact that the Indian government has steadfastly refused to act upon abuses documented by its own institutions (yes, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act provides a tiny and disreputable fig leaf for such refusals). Equally egregiously, the local police use the Public Safety Act to book thousands of civilians, including children, and to otherwise suborn legal protocols.

Why then have spokesmen for the Indian government rushed to condemn this report, which they might equally easily have downplayed or ignored? Is it because, in closing, the high commissioner makes a recommendation “to the authorities in India” to “fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law”? So exercised is the Ministry of External Affairs about this “recommendation” that its official response is a near-hysterical refusal to see anything of value in the report: “India rejects the report. It is fallacious, tendentious and motivated. We question the intent in bringing out such a report.” The report is labelled a “selective compilation of largely unverified information. It is overtly prejudiced and seeks to build a false narrative”. And the response contains the well-worn claim, which represses the contested history of the “accession” of the kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir to India in 1947 (as well as the subsequent division of these territories in wars fought between Pakistan and India, and ratified by the Simla Agreement of 1972). “The report violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the response states.

“The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan is in illegal and forcible occupation of a part of the Indian state through aggression. We have repeatedly called upon Pakistan to vacate the occupied territories. The incorrect description of Indian territory in the report is mischievous, misleading and unacceptable. There are no entities such as ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ and ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’.”

In fact, it is the report, rather than the Indian government, that takes seriously the post-1947 developments in this region. Paragraph 21 of the report’s Executive Summary states:

“OHCHR recognizes the complexity of the historical background and political issues that has led to the current situation in Kashmir, which has been divided between India and Pakistan. People on both sides of the Line of Control have been detrimentally impacted and suffer from limitations or denial of a range of human rights.” 

The next paragraph goes on to ask, in reasonable – if idealistic – terms for justice:

“There remains an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and to deliver justice for all people in Kashmir who have been suffering seven decades of conflict...Such a resolution can only be brought about by meaningful dialogue that includes the people of Kashmir.”

Herein lies the rub: the Human Rights Council, an institution of the United Nations, has dared produce a report that endorses the historical right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to define their political future.

To the point

It is important though to make one observation about the report before thinking about the implications of this fact. The bulk of the report follows from the Human Rights Council’s mandate to examine the laws and practices that grant impunity to Indian forces in the state as well as those that are invoked to repress fundamental rights, including freedom of expression. Since it is concerned about human rights abuses across the board, the report does not only scrutinise the actions of government agents; it also registers the abuses committed by members of the “armed groups” operating in Kashmir since 1990. (The report also notes: “Despite the Government of Pakistan’s assertions of denial of any support to these groups, experts believe that Pakistan’s military continues to support their operations across the Line of Control in Indian-Administered Kashmir.”) The report also attends to the role of these armed groups in the displacement of Kashmiri Pandits, and insists on the right of the Pandits “to an effective remedy and repatriation”. Within its own limitations, as my summary here suggests, this report pays attention to those who have suffered as well as to those who have caused suffering (and yes, Section VII of the report turns at some length to “human rights violations in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir”).

It is also important to note that Al Hussein’s introduction to the report speaks of his concern that “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” is now the subject of global skepticism, if only because powerful member nations of the UN have no qualms about manipulating its operations. Any reader of Al Hussein’s statement will see it as haunted also by the perception that the UN is home to self-serving, careerist bureaucrats who are unwilling to speak forcefully for the principles that underlie the institutions of the UN. But it also contains a poignant passage that is worth repeating:

“I have spent most of my career at, and in, the UN. What I have learned is this: the UN is symptomatic of the wider global picture. It is only as great or as pathetic as the prevailing state of the international scene at the time. I also have come to understand how weak human memory is. That to many people history matters only in so far as it can be unsheathed and flung into political battle: they do not view it as a service to deeper human understanding.”

Indian opinion-makers have offered simplistic denunciations of the motivations, findings, and recommendations of this report, and of Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein himself. Photo credit: AFP
Indian opinion-makers have offered simplistic denunciations of the motivations, findings, and recommendations of this report, and of Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein himself. Photo credit: AFP

Al Hussein’s slide away from bureaucratese into a more philosophical idiom stems from his awareness that the report has been written without being able to send observers to the unstable territories on which it comments. He rues “the troubling failure by a number of countries to grant access”. He does not back away though, and insists that “where there is sustained denial of access, and serious reasons to believe violations are occurring, we will consider the option of remote monitoring. The Office’s mandate to conduct such monitoring is unassailable, and if the Government concerned fears there may be inaccuracies it should permit us in to see the situation on the ground”.

Al Hussein makes clear that this has been the case with Kashmir:

“I have sought to engage substantively with both India and Pakistan over the past two years regarding the situation in Kashmir, on both sides of the Line of Control. Refusals by both India and Pakistan to enable unconditional access have led us to conduct remote monitoring, with a first report issued last week. I encourage the Council to consider establishing a Commission of Inquiry for a more comprehensive investigation of the human rights situation in Kashmir, and reiterate my calls for access.”

Need to listen

Instead of paying attention, the Indian government has condemned the report. Worse, important opinion-makers in our mainstream press have offered simplistic denunciations of the motivations, findings, and recommendations of this report (and indeed of Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein himself). The fact that Al Hussein is Muslim has not escaped comment, with a former Indian ambassador to the UN asking the genteelly Islamophobic question: does Al Hussain have “the same obsession with Kashmir as the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation?” Should we not have hoped for more thoughtful, more genuinely democratic and nationalist responses, particularly since journalists, government servants, members of the armed forces and politicians will in private conversations admit that Kashmiris have been treated violently and condescendingly, as unwilling and threatening conscripts to the Republic of India?

In the last three decades and more, the actions of the security apparatus have so brutalised and alienated ordinary Kashmiris that few can think of any form of political rapprochement with India (it is not for nothing that tens of thousands of people gather to mourn the killing of local men who have turned to militancy, with each funeral becoming a venue for political protest). Given these developments, should we not be reading such a report to see what we can learn from it, even if it only confirms what we know – but refuse to admit – that Indian and Pakistani power represses the political aspirations of people in the component parts of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir?

This is particularly important now that the elected government of Jammu and Kashmir has collapsed, and governor’s rule has been imposed. Our media is full of reports of the armed forces acting even more forcefully against militants and the civilians who sympathise with them, and we read of the commandos and snipers of the National Security Guard being moved to Srinagar in order to enhance firepower. We are told that we should expect more violence, for as Indian political parties prepare for the next general elections, they will vie with each other to demonstrate their muscular hold over a Muslim-majority state. Kashmir, and Kashmiris, will once again be held hostage to the dictates of Indian domestic politics. As violence escalates (it is my fervent hope that it will not), we might do well to remember the intense histories of suffering compressed into this report. When we learn to read, and to listen, we might even see our way forward to imagining a future of lands and peoples released from the punitive stranglehold of modern nation-states.

Suvir Kaul is the author of Of Gardens and Graves: Kashmir, Poetry, Politics.

Corrections and clarifications:
An earlier headline on this article erroneously mentioned this to be a UNHRC report.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.


The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.