New Delhi: UN high commissioner for human rights Michele Bachelet has welcomed the discharge of some Jammu and Kashmir political leaders and therefore the limited internet restoration in two Kashmir districts, but expressed concern that a lot of still remained behind bars and involved the complete reversal of the communication blockade in J&K.
At the beginning of the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Monday, Bachelet gave a “Global Human Rights Update” on the situation across the planet, from China to Sri Lanka, Venezuela to the US.
In her section on India, Bachelet mentioned that within the last one year in Jammu and Kashmir, “incidents of military and police violence against civilians continue, including use of pellet guns, as well as incidents related to militancy”.
Kashmir and other human rights issues in India had also been a part of Bachelet’s updates in previous sessions of the UNHRC.
She observed that changes within the constitutional status and domicile rules of J&K have generated “deep anxiety”. The new media policy unveiled by the J&K administration has also constricted the space for criticism, she noted. “…the space for political debate and public participation continues to be severely restricted, particularly since new media rules have prohibited vaguely defined ‘anti-national’ reporting,” she said.
During the changes in Jammu and Kashmir’s constitutional status in August 2019, most mainstream politicians were taken into custody. a number of the big names, like former chief ministers Omar and Farooq Abdullah have been released, but several, including Mehbooba Mufti, are still in detention.
“While I welcome the discharge of some political and community leaders, many people remain in arbitrary detention, with many habeas corpus petitions still pending – including those of the many of Jammu and Kashmir’s political leaders,” stated Bachelet.
On the recent tentative loosening of the restriction on the web in Kashmir, Bachelet said, “I welcome the initiatives to increase services to remote areas, and therefore the recent conditional restoration of full Internet connectivity in two districts – which should be applied promptly to the remainder of Jammu and Kashmir.”
She also commented critically on things in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, noting that residents of POK “also have limited Internet access, creating difficulties in accessing education and other vital services”.
“I remain concerned about ongoing restrictions to the rights to freedom of expression and association,” Bachelet added.
The UN human rights chief stated that her office was “committed to continuing its engagement with both India and Pakistan, to uphold the rights of the Kashmiri people – which is that the best thanks to preventing further tensions and conflict”.
The Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlighted Bachelet’s statement on Jammu and Kashmir but didn't mention her views on PoK.
While there was no immediate response from the Ministry of External Affairs, on Tuesday, India’s permanent representative to UN in Geneva, Indra Mani Pandey expressed regret that Bachelet mentioned Jammu and Kashmir in her oral update.
While there was no immediate response from the Ministry of External Affairs, on Tuesday, India’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Indra Mani Pandey expressed regret that Bachelet mentioned Jammu and Kashmir in her oral update.
The Indian ambassador added that by extending coverage of “positive and affirmative federal legislation” and repealing “outdated laws”, the govt has “reaffirmed its commitment to delivering socio-economic justice to disadvantaged people within the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, including women, children, minorities and refugees”.
The Indian ambassador added that by extending coverage of “positive and affirmative federal legislations” and repealing “outdated laws”, the govt has “reaffirmed its commitment to delivering socio-economic justice to disadvantaged people within the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, including women, children, minorities and refugees”.
While the Indian statement claimed that there had been unprecedented governance benefits, there was no response on the UN human rights chief’s call to release all political detainees and take away restrictions on internet within the state.