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India urged to ease restrictions in Kashmir

India urged to ease restrictions in Kashmir
Rights bodies paint grim picture of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir due to strict lockdown since Aug. 4 midnight

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA (AA) - The human rights wing of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned the clampdown on Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir by the Indian government.

In a statement on Twitter, Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of OIC late Thursday urged the Indian government to immediately lift curfew in the disputed region.

"#OIC IPHRC strongly condemns the ongoing security clampdown, communications blockade and denial of #religious #freedoms to the #Kashmiris in #IOK [Indian-occupied Kashmir] and urges for immediate lifting of the curfew in #IOK and restoration of #fundamental #freedoms and #liberties of the #Kashmiris," the statement said.

It is the 13th consecutive day of clampdown on Kashmir after the communication blockade started on Aug. 4.

In a presidential order, India on Aug. 5 scrapped the "special status" granted to the disputed region under Article 370 of its constitution and also divided the region into two centrally controlled "Union Territories".

The Indian government also scrapped a law which disallowed outsiders from buying land in India's only Muslim-majority state, raising fears of an attempt to change the demography of the region.

The Himalayan state with a population of 12 million has since been placed under a communication blockade by the Indian government, with Internet, cell phones and landlines shut. Key Kashmiri leaders have been placed under house arrest.

On Aug. 14, OIC slammed the Indian government for restrictions on Eid, one of the main events on the Muslim calendar.

"Denial of religious rights constitutes a serious violation of international human rights law & is an affront to Muslims across the world. The OIC urges #Indian authorities to ensure the protection of the rights of #Kashmiri Muslims & the exercise of their religious rights," the OIC statement posted on its Twitter handle said.

It also asked international community, including the United Nations and other relevant bodies, "to increase efforts for a negotiated settlement of Jammu and Kashmir dispute on the basis of relevant UN Security Council resolutions".


- ‘Let Kashmiris speak’

In a Twitter statement on Aug. 15 when India celebrated its 73rd Independence Day, human rights watch dog Amnesty International called on Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to let "Kashmiris speak".

"It's a paradox that as India celebrates Independence Day, Jammu & Kashmir continue to be subjected to a lockdown. If India's Prime Minister Modi believes that his decisions regarding J&K have the support of the people of India, then he must immediately lift the communications blackout," the statement said.

In a separate video statement referring to internet and telecommunications shutdown in the region, it said: "The rights of the people of Jammu & Kashmir must not be violated. Let them speak."

Amnesty asked Modi to listen to the people of the disputed region. "He [Modi] must listen to the people in the region, engage with them & hear what they have to say when it comes to decisions that affect their lives. This sadly has just not happened since 5th August."

The group said that Indian security forces are "flooding the streets" of the disputed region. "Curfew rules [are] introduced [while] gatherings of people are banned," the statement added.



- ‘Blow to rule of law’

Reacting to the Indian government move, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said that revocation of the "special status" guaranteed to the disputed Jammu and Kashmir is "a blow to the rule of law and human rights in the state and in India”.

The move has violated the "rights of representation and participation" guaranteed to the people of Jammu and Kashmir under the Indian Constitution, said a statement by the jurists.

The report claims that over 1,000 people have been arrested, many of whom have been shifted out of state to Indian jails.

"The Indian Government has pushed through these changes in contravention of domestic and international standards with respect to the rights of people in Jammu and Kashmir to participate and be adequately represented, accompanied by draconian new restrictions on freedoms of expression, assembly, and travel, and with an influx of thousands of unaccountable security personnel," said Sam Zarifi, the ICJ’s secretary general.

"The legality of the Indian government’s measures to eviscerate Article 370 will certainly be tested before the Indian judiciary, which should look closely at the serious violations of proper legislative and Constitutional processes," Zarifi said, referring to the article formerly giving Jammu and Kashmir special status.

"It appears to be incompatible with judgments and observations of high courts and the Indian Supreme Court," said the ICJ.


- Canada asked to take up issue with India

Meanwhile, expressing concern over India's lockdown of the Jammu and Kashmir region, Canada’s New Democrats Party (NDP) asked its government to "firmly communicate these human rights concerns to Indian authorities."

In a statement late Tuesday, the party's foreign affairs critic Guy Caron said: "New Democrats are deeply concerned by reports of the Indian government’s crackdown in recent days in Kashmir".

"[NDP] is troubled by such actions, which provide fertile ground for more human rights abuses in a region where the people of Kashmir regularly suffer abuses such as excessive force, arbitrary detention and the lack of due process, and communications blackouts," Caron said.

"The Liberal [Canadian] government must find the courage to firmly communicate these human rights concerns to Indian authorities. We must always have a foreign policy that is based on human rights and international law, not one that pays lip service to a ‘rules-based international order’ without actually standing up for those rules," he added.


- Restore access to communications: CPJ to India

New York-based global watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed alarm at the communication blackout and the arrest of a journalist in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

"All communication lines in Kashmir were being cut," the committee said, adding that their efforts to contact journalists in Kashmir via messaging apps, emails, social media, and phone calls have almost all failed.

"A large-scale communication disruption at such a crucial time for Kashmir is an egregious violation of citizens’ rights to information from a free press,” said Aliya Iftikhar, senior researcher for CPJ’s Asia program.

"We call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his administration to guarantee that all communication blocks in Kashmir are lifted and that journalists are able to report freely. Communication blocks have no place in a democracy."

Jammu and Kashmir is held by India, Pakistan and China in parts.

Since Pakistan and India were partitioned, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.

Thousands have been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989, according to several human rights groups.

source: News Feed
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