The lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir, which has been in place for over 11 months now, has caused numerous violations of human rights, including “bail, and fair and speedy trial”, a report by the Forum for Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir said. The members of the forum include former Supreme Court Justice Madan B Lokur as co-chair along with Radha Kumar, the former member of Group of Interlocutors for the erstwhile state.
“Counter-insurgency concerns have been given absolute priority over public, civilian and human security, leading to an across-the-board violation of human rights, including the vitiation of protections...” the report, tiled “Jammu and Kashmir: The Impact of Lockdowns on Human Rights” read. “There has been denial of the right to bail and fair and speedy trial, coupled with misuse of draconian legislation, such as the Public Safety Act (PSA) and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), to stifle dissent.”
The lockdown brought on frequent shutdowns, “harassment at barricades and checkpoints”, and restrictions on communication. The report added that these have “enormously impacted public health, and caused trauma and stress amongst the people of Jammu and Kashmir, violating the rights to health and medical care under the Indian, and Jammu and Kashmir, constitutions”.
It further pointed out that the curbs in the Union Territory had severely impacted education in the region as institutions functioned for barely 100 days between 2019 and 2020. Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, restricting networks to 2G had made it difficult for online classes to function efficiently, it added.
The report further notes the involvement of Pakistan and China following the Indian government’s August 5, 2019, decision to rescind the region’s special status and bifurcate the former state into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. “China’s attempts to mobilise the UN Security Council against the August changes, and its own army’s May 2020 intrusions in Eastern Ladakh have added further diplomatic and security concerns for the Indian Government,” the report said. “They have also highlighted a tri-lateralisation of the dispute over Kashmir between India, Pakistan and China, lending a new edge to the strategic China-Pakistan nexus against India, specifically in Jammu and Kashmir.”
The forum has called for the release of all political leaders who were taken into preventive custody amid the August 5 decision. “Repeal the PSA and any other preventive detention legislation, so that they cannot be misused against political opposition, or amend them to bring them in line with our constitutional ethos. Remove all restrictions on freedom of representation and expression. Strictly implement juvenile protection legislation in letter and in spirit,” the report added.
Last August, as the Indian government announced its decision to repeal Article 370, the state was placed under the tightest lockdown in its history, with restrictions on movement, a communications blackout, and mass arrests. Almost all of the Kashmir Valley’s political leadership, including three former chief ministers – Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti – were locked up. Some of those detained have been released, including the Abdullahs, but Mufti still remains under detention.