India on Tuesday said that United Nations Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s remarks on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir were unwarranted and did not reflect the ground reality.
Bachelet, at a UN Human Rights Council session on Monday, had spoken about restrictions on gatherings and frequent “communication blackouts” in the Union Territory, the Hindustan Times reported.
The UN official had also highlighted the “worrying use” of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in India, claiming that Jammu and Kashmir had “among the highest number of cases in the country”.
Bachelet had added: “Hundreds of people remain in detention [in Jammu and Kashmir] for exercising their right to the freedom of expression, and journalists face ever-growing pressure.”
On Tuesday, Ministry of External Affairs Secretary (West) Reenat Sandhu said India was disappointed with Bachelet’s statement.
Sandhu also said that basic human rights are set down as fundamental rights in the Indian Constitution.
The foreign ministry official added: “Any shortcomings in upholding human rights must be addressed in a transparent and impartial manner, anchored in respect for national sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs of states.”
Sandhu, in her statement, described India as a pluralistic and inclusive society. “We believe that promotion and protection of human rights are best pursued through dialogue, consultation and cooperation among States and through provision of technical assistance and capacity building,” she added.
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The United Nations’ concerns about the use of UAPA in Jammu and Kashmir come amid reports that the stringent anti-terror law is being used frequently against protestors.
“The UAPA is being used for anything and everything in Kashmir,” a lawyer in Srinagar had told Scroll.in in April. “Earlier, a stone-pelting incident would invite the charges of rioting, attempt to murder or other provisions, but now even those cases are being registered under UAPA.”
Journalists in Jammu and Kashmir have also reportedly faced more threats and harassment after the Centre scrapped the erstwhile state’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution in 2019.
In June this year, the United Nations had expressed concern about the “alleged arbitrary detention and intimidation” of journalists in the region.
The world body had sought a reply from the Indian government about the measures taken to ensure that journalists could work in a safe environment.