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UN human rights chief to India: Restore the rights of locked Kashmiris

  • Published at 01:41 am October 30th, 2019
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Indian paramilitary troopers patrol along a street during a lockdown in Srinagar on Tuesday AFP

Delhi urged to independently and impartially investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment of the detained people 

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has voiced extreme concern as the population of Indian-administered Kashmir continues to be deprived of a wide range of human rights, urging New Delhi to improve the situation and ensure their rights.

“We are extremely concerned that the population of Indian-Administered Kashmir continues to be deprived of a wide range of human rights and we urge the Indian authorities to unlock the situation and fully restore the rights that are currently being denied,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet Jeria, said in a statement in Geneva yesterday.

Twelve weeks ago, on August 5, the Indian government revoked the constitutional provisions granting partial autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and announced the creation of two separate federally-administered union territories, which will come into effect tomorrow, the statement said.

At the same time, very restrictive measures were imposed in the region, some of which have been relaxed, but their impact on human rights continues to be widely felt, it added.

The undeclared curfew imposed by the authorities in the region was lifted from much of Jammu and Ladakh region within a few days, but is reportedly still in place in large parts of the Kashmir Valley, preventing the free movement of people, as well as hampering their ability to exercise their right to peaceful assembly, and restricting their rights to health, education, and freedom of religion and belief, the statement further said.

There have been several allegations of excessive use of force, including the use of pellet-firing shotguns, tear gas and rubber bullets by security forces during sporadic protests, with unconfirmed reports of at least six civilian killings and scores of serious injuries in separate incidents since August 5, it said.

“We have also received reports of armed groups operating in Indian-Administered Kashmir threatening residents trying to carry out their normal business or attend school, as well as several allegations of violence against people who have not complied with the armed groups’ demands. At least another six people have been killed and over a dozen injured in alleged attacks by armed group members since 5 August,” the OHCHR statement said.

Hundreds of political and civil society leaders, including three former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, have been detained on a preventative basis, the statement stated, adding that while some political workers have reportedly been released, most senior leaders – especially those from the Kashmir Valley – remain in detention.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

“We have also received a number of allegations of torture and ill-treatment of people held in detention. These must be independently and impartially investigated. Torture is totally and unequivocally prohibited under international law,” the statement said.

While restrictions on landline telephones were eventually lifted, and a state-run telecommunication company allowed to resume partial mobile services, all internet services remain blocked in the Kashmir Valley, the statement further added, noting that media outlets continue to face undue restrictions, with at least four local journalists allegedly arrested in the past three months.

“The Supreme Court of India has been slow to deal with petitions concerning habeas corpus, freedom of movement and media restrictions. The Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission, the State Information Commission (which implements the right-to-information laws) and the State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights are among key institutions being wound up, with the new bodies to replace them yet to be established,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, major political decisions about the future status of Jammu and Kashmir have been made without the consent, deliberation or active and informed participation of the affected population, it added. 

“Their leaders are detained, their capacity to be informed has been badly restricted, and their right to freedom of expression and to political participation has been undermined,” it said.