United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday expressed concern about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, and said the National Register of Citizens verification process in Assam has caused great uncertainty and anxiety to the people of the state.
Bachelet asked India and Pakistan to ensure that the human rights of the people of Kashmir were respected and protected. In her opening statement at the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council, Bachelet said her office continued to receive reports on the human rights situation on both sides of the Line of Control.
“I am deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions by the Government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris, including restrictions on internet communications and peaceful assembly, and the detention of local political leaders and activists,” she said in her statement.
The UN Human Rights chief said it was important that the Kashmiri people were consulted and engaged in any decision-making processes that has an impact on their future. “While I continue to urge the Governments of India and Pakistan to ensure that human rights are respected and protected, I have appealed particularly to India to ease the current lockdowns or curfews; to ensure people’s access to basic services; and that all due process rights are respected for those who have been detained,” Bachelet added.
India and Pakistan have engaged in a war of words ever since Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was revoked on August 5. Pakistan, which has fought three wars with India for Kashmir since Independence, has not taken the decision well. Several leaders in Jammu and Kashmir were taken into custody or put under house arrest after the state lost its special status. These include former Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, and former bureaucrat Shah Faesal.
Jammu and Kashmir was put under prohibitory orders and an unprecedented communications blackout on August 4. Prohibitory orders are being lifted gradually but the communications blockade remains in most parts. Some protests have been reported in the region after the decision. India has maintained its decisions are its internal matter. Last week, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said most countries viewed the Kashmir matter the same way.
Bachelet said Assam’s National Register of Citizens has caused great uncertainty and anxiety after more than 19 lakh people were excluded from the final list of the updated citizens’ database, published on August 31. The number of people left out comprise around 6% of Assam’s entire population, two times the number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and the population of Nagaland. They will now have to appeal against the decision in foreigners’ tribunals.
She appealed to the Indian government to ensure due process during the appeals, prevent deportation or detention, and ensure people were protected from statelessness.
The Home Ministry last week issued a statement where it said that those excluded in the final National Register of Citizens were “not to be detained under any circumstance” till they exhaust all options for legal recourse. The ministry said that a judicial process was available for those left out of the register to appeal to the foreigners’ tribunal within a stipulated time.
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