UN HR Experts Voice Concern Over New Laws in J&K

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Say Changes Risk ‘Undermining Minorities’ Rights’ In The Erstwhile State

Srinagar: At a time when envoys of over two dozen countries conducted two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir to assess the ground situation, the United Nations human rights experts on Thursday expressed concern over special status revocation and enactment of new laws saying that the changes in the erstwhile state risk undermining minorities’ rights

In a statement put out on its official website, the UN human rights experts Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues and Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief expressed concerned over India’s decision to end Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy and enact new laws could curtail the previous level of political participation of Muslim and other minorities in the country, as well as potentially discriminate against them in important matters including employment and land ownership.

The human rights experts said that the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the only state in India with a Muslim majority, was established with specific autonomy guarantees to respect the ethnic, linguistic and religious identities of its people.

They said that on 5 August 2019, the Government unilaterally and without consultation revoked the constitutional special status of Jammu and Kashmir, and in May 2020, passed the “so-called Domicile Rules” which removed protections given to those from the territory and subsequent changes to land laws are “further eroding” these protections.

“The loss of autonomy and the imposition of direct rule by the Government in New Delhi suggests the people of Jammu and Kashmir no longer have their own government and have lost power to legislate or amend laws in the region to ensure the protection of their rights as minorities,” the experts said.

“The number of successful applicants for domicile certificates that appear to be from outside Jammu and Kashmir raises concerns that demographic change on a linguistic, religious and ethnic basis is already underway,” they added.

They further said that the new legislation overrides previous laws which granted the Kashmiri Muslim, Dogri, Gojri, Pahari, Sikh, Ladhaki and other established minorities rights to buy property, own land, and access certain state jobs.

“These legislative changes may have the potential to pave the way for people from outside the former state of Jammu and Kashmir to settle in the region, alter the demographics of the region and undermine the minorities’ ability to exercise effectively their human rights,” the experts said.

They urged the Government of India to ensure that the economic, social and cultural rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir are protected, and that they are able to express their political opinions and participate meaningfully in matters affecting them.

“The experts are in contact with the Government on this matter,” the handout read.

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