The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Tuesday asked India to completely restore the rights being denied to the people of Jammu and Kashmir following New Delhi’s decision to abrogate the special status of the state under Article 370 of the Constitution.
“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,” the office said in a statement. It added that though some of the restrictive measures imposed in Kashmir have been relaxed, “their impact on human rights continues to be widely felt”.
The office said that though India lifted the curfew from much of Jammu and Ladakh within a few days of its August 5 decision, it remains largely in place in the Kashmir Valley. This has restricted the fundamental rights of the people of the Valley, the United Nations agency 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 5 August,” the office said.
The agency claimed that it has also received reports of armed groups threatening residents trying to carry out their daily activities, or attending school. There have also been allegations of violence against people not carrying out the demands of the armed forces.
“We have also received a number of allegations of torture and ill-treatment of people held in detention,” the agency said. “These must be independently and impartially investigated. Torture is totally and unequivocally prohibited under international law.” The office of the High Commissioner also observed that most senior political leaders, including three former chief ministers, remain in detention.
The OHCHR said that while telephone services have partially resumed, internet shutdown continues in the Kashmir Valley. It said that at least four journalists have been arrested so far.
“The Supreme Court of India has been slow to deal with petitions concerning habeas corpus, freedom of movement and media restrictions,” the office said. It added that while state commissions have been wound up as the state is to be converted into a Union territory, new commissions are yet to be set up in their place.
The OHCHR said that major political decisions about Jammu and Kashmir have been taken “without the consent, deliberation or active and informed participation of the affected population”. “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,” the office added.
On Tuesday, a delegation of 23 Members of the European Parliament, mostly from right-wing parties across Europe, visited Kashmir. On Monday, they had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said the trip should help the delegation understand the cultural and religious diversity of the region, and give them a clear perspective on the “development and governance priorities”.
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