Rights Group Paints Grim Picture Of Kashmir Situation

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CRPF men stand guard at a closed market during lockdown in Srinagar after the abrogation of Article of 370- KO File Photo: Abid Bhat

Srinagar: Nearly a year after Modi-led government scrapped special status of Jammu and Kashmir and split the state into two Union Territories, a report prepared by a New Delhi based group says the overall security situation in Kashmir Valley has been going downhill since 2014 and there hardly seems any improvement in the situation since August 5, 2019.

Titled ‘The Impact of the Lockdowns on Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir, August 2019-July 2020’ the report released by ‘Forum for Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir’ comprising human rights defenders, former civil servants, jurists, former military officers and academics have voiced serious concern over the wide-range of issues, including human rights violations, media gag, communication blockade, arrests and detentions under draconian laws like PSA and UAPA.

“The Government’s prioritization of counter-insurgency concerns over human security has led to an across the board violation of human rights, including the vitiation of protections such as habeas corpus, prevention of illegal detention, strict restrictions on arrest and detention of children, right to bail and fair and speedy trial, and misuse of draconian legislation, such as the Public Safety Act (PSA) and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), to stifle dissent,” reads the 72-page report.

The report further says that the 11 months of lockdown—comprising closures, barricades, checkpoints and restrictions on mobile telephony and internet connectivity—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.

“Prolonged lockdowns, arrests and detentions; restrictions on media and 4G mobile internet services, appear to have caused worrisome disquiet and seething youth anger,” the report points out.

“The rights of children to a trauma-free environment have been arbitrarily ignored. The impact on education has been particularly severe. Schools and colleges functioned for barely 100 days between 2019 and 2020,” the report said.

Referring to the continued high-speed internet ban despite Covid-19 pandemic, the report says that limiting networks to 2G has made it impossible for online classes to function adequately and the graduate students and teachers have been unable to participate in conferences or have their papers published, causing wilful harm to their careers and violating the rights to education under the Indian, and Jammu and Kashmir, constitutions.

“Local and regional industries have suffered large losses in almost every sector. Companies that are heavily or solely reliant on 4G networks that are available in the rest of the country, such as tourism and cottage industries, have been forced out of business,” the report says.

It says that the new domicile rules introduced by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Jammu and Kashmir administration, moreover, erode prior employment protections for permanent residents of the former state.

Terming the local media as one of the worst sufferers, the report says that the journalists have been harassed and even had draconian charges slapped on them, for example under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

“Their content, readership and revenues have suffered such a sharp decline that dozens of journalists have lost their jobs. The new media policy is a death blow to an independent media and the freedom of expression,” the report said.

In the conclusion, the rights groups presented a set of 13 recommendations while terming Kashmir ‘litmus test of Indian democracy’. Among the recommendations included, release of political detainees, speedy trials, amendment of controversial PSA and other detention legislations, release of juveniles and dropping charges against them followed by action against the state forces found guilty of child rights violation, withdrawing UAPA charges against journalists and activists and rollback of new media policy, restricted use of Section 144, compensation to the people whose houses have been launched in cordon and search operations, restoration of high-speed internet, smooth passage of medical staff and patients at checkpoints besides compensation for the local that were forced to shut down due to the government lockdown between August 2019 and March 2020.

The other members of the rights body included pre-eminent columnist and editor Annad K. Sahay; Justice Ruma Pal, former judge of the Supreme Court of India; Justice AP Shah, former Chief Justice of Madras, and Delhi High Court; Justice Bilal Nazki, former Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court; Justice Hasnain Masoodi, former judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court; Justice Anjana Prakash, former judge of the Patna High Court; Gopal Pillai, former Home Secretary, Government of India; Nirupama Rao, former Foreign Secretary, Government of India; Probir Sen, former Secretary-General, National Human Rights Commission; Amitabha Pande, former Secretary, Inter-State Council, Government of India; Moosa Raza, former Chief Secretary, Government of Jammu and Kashmir; Hindal Haidar Tyabji, former Chief Secretary, Government of Jammu and Kashmir; Shantha Sinha, former chairperson, National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights; Lieutenant-General H S Panag (retd); Major-General Ashok Mehta (retd); Air Vice-Marshal Kapil Kak (retd); RD Sharma, former Vice Chancellor of Jammu University; Enakshi Ganguly, Co-founder and former Co-director, HAQ Centre for Child Rights; and Ramachandra Guha, writer and historian.

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