New York: Human Rights Watch (HRW), an internationally renowned watchdog organization, called on India to change its “abuse policy” in Jammu and Kashmir, and expressed frustration that New Delhi still insists on “repressing Kashmiri Muslims.” The pandemic forces the world to address discrimination and inequality.
“Indian government claims that it was determined to improve Kashmiri lives ring hollow one year after the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s constitutional status,” Meenakshi Ganguly, the New York-based rights group’s South Asia director, said in a statement Tuesday. “The authorities instead have maintained stifling restraints on Kashmiris in violation of their basic rights.”
Human rights groups say the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated government unwarranted restrictions on freedom of speech, access to information, health care and education.
Human Rights Watch cited Monday’s order to restrict movement for two days to prevent “violent protests” against the decision last year to revoke constitutional autonomy in the Muslim majority area.
The new restrictions on Tuesday refreshed people’s memories of the month-long security lockdown that was changed by the Indian Nationalist government of India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 5 last year. Prior to the special status.
Subsequently, as thousands of armed forces were moved to the valley to stop street protests, the government subsequently interrupted communications with telephone and Internet lines.
Since the decision, public anger and dissatisfaction with the government has been evident throughout Kashmir. The decision also heralded changes to the bureaucratic framework and the approval of controversial new laws, which had a negative impact on the rights of Kashmiris.
One of the most famous laws enacted by the government is to grant thousands of people outside the region the right to purchase Kashmir land.
Human Rights Watch said that although the government eased some restrictions in the following months, “hundreds of people were still detained without charge, critics were threatened with arrest, and Internet access was restricted.”
“There have been several allegations of new arrests, torture, and ill-treatment by security forces. The government has also used harsh counter terrorism and sedition laws to clamp down on peaceful critics,” it said.
HRW said the government’s Kashmir policy contains “vague and overbroad provisions that are open to abuse and could unnecessarily restrict and penalize legally protected speech.”
“Indian authorities should take immediate steps to protect rights by releasing political detainees, upholding the right to free speech by withdrawing cases against journalists and activists, restoring full internet access and holding to account officials responsible for rights violations.”
Ganguly urged the government to “reverse its abuse policy and provide remedies for those whose rights have been violated.” She said: “Even if the pandemic forces the world to address discrimination and inequality, the Indian government still insists on suppressing Kashmiri Muslims.”