JCB should be horrified: Amnesty International on the company's role in Kashmir's anti-encroachment drive

Amnesty stated that the company has a history of being complicit in “brutal” acts of human rights violations

JCB should be horrified: Amnesty International on the company's role in Kashmir's anti-encroachment drive

Amarabati Bhattacharyya

International human rights organisation Amnesty International on Tuesday published a press release which highlights the role of UK construction equipment giant JCB in the ongoing anti-encroachment drive in Jammu and Kashmir. 

JCB is India’s top manufacturer & supplier of heavy construction machines – their bulldozers are being used in demolishing the homes of J-K. Amnesty has defined the drive has a “gross-violation” of human rights, and as “anti-people” and “anti-Muslim.”

“JCB should be horrified that their equipment is being used in some of these demolitions. They must take active steps to prevent this. At the very least, JCB should use their dealer and customer contracts and their diagnostic technology to prevent such misuse, including by decommissioning machines remotely where possible,” said Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK’s Economic Affairs Director.

“If JCB fails to act over Kashmir it would be another example of the company falling short of its obligation to conduct proper human rights due diligence over how its machines are being used around the world,” Frankental added. 

Amnesty stated that the company has a history of being complicit in “brutal” acts of human rights violations. For instance, JCB bulldozers and diggers had similarly been used in Israel’s unlawful destruction of Palestinian homes. 

In a damning report against the company in 2021, Amnesty revealed that JCB’s sole agent in Israel has contracts for the maintenance of JCB’s equipment with Israel’s Ministry of Defence, including for the type of bulldozer known to have been used in the demolition of Palestinian properties and the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land which are illegal under international law.

“JCB’s failure to take appropriate steps to prevent its equipment being used in this way puts the company in breach of its responsibilities under international human rights standards applicable to business,” reads the press release. 

The anti-encroachment drive of the J-K administration was started in January this year with the aim of “freeing up encroached land” originally belonging to the state government. The district municipal corporation and state revenue authorities in association with the state police have been demolishing civilian homes for over a month using JCB bulldozers in at least four districts of J-K – Srinagar, Budgam, Anantnag and Baramulla.

According to various media reports, several affected civilians have alleged that they were not intimated about these mass eviction drives and the authorities denied their legal claim on their respective properties while “ruthlessly” crushing their homes with bulldozers. 

The administration claims that this land has been occupied “illegally by influential people” and that “common people with homes on small plots” will not be affected. However, this eviction drive has seen massive protests from the civilian population, terror outfit The Resistance Front (TRF) has also issued threats against officials responsible for the drive. 

Meanwhile, the regional parties in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday lashed out at the administration for the ongoing ‘brutal’ anti-encroachment drive and called it ‘anti-people’ – highlighting that bulldozers “cannot be the face of any government across the globe.”

"People across J&K are troubled. There is chaos and confusion. The government should stop this intimidation and threatening process of sending bulldozers without following any process. Bulldozers cannot be the first response and the face of any government," said former J-K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

While addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Monday, former CM Mehbooba Mufti alleged that the ruling party of India has turned J-K into Afghanistan with the use of bulldozers. 

"BJP has weaponized their brute majority to bulldoze the constitution of this country. Our land and resources are being given to outsiders – what is left with us is our homes. BJP thought that they cannot raise the standard of the country and give homes to everybody across the country so they decided to bring J&K at par with rest of the country and make people homeless and demolish their homes and snatch their lands in the so called anti-encroachment drive,” said Mufti. 

“The Indian authorities must immediately halt the demolition drive. They must offer adequate compensation to all those affected without discrimination, ensure that victims of forced evictions have access to effective remedy, and those responsible are held to account,” said Amnesty International India’s Chair Aakar Patel – stating that this drive serves as an extension of the historical brutal human rights violations of Jammu and Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority region of India.

JCB bulldozers have also been employed in recent demolition drives and anti-encroachment drives carried out in other parts of India, such as Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi, and Rajasthan.

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