Kashmir and human rights violations

DAILY TIMES

Kashmir and human rights violations

Dr Abdul Razak ShaikhDr Abdul Razak Shaikh

SEPTEMBER 13, 2019

A presidential decree issued on August 5 revoked Article 370 that guaranteed special rights to the Muslim-majority state, including the right to its constitution and autonomy to make laws on all matters except defence, communications and foreign affairs.

In the lead-up to the move, India sent thousands of additional troops to the disputed region; imposed a crippling curfew; shut down telecommunications and internet and arrested political leaders.

The move has worsened the already, heightened tensions with neighbouring Pakistan, which said it would downgrade its diplomatic relations with India.

Human rights abuses in Kashmir are an issue connected to the territory’s disputed and divided status concerning the conflict between India and Pakistan. The issue pertains to abuses, particularly since the beginning of the dispute in 1947 after Partition of India.

Article 370 of the Indian constitution is an article that gave autonomous status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The article was drafted in Part XXI of the Constitution Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions.

In 1949, a special provision was added to India’s constitution providing autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. Article 370 allowed the state to have its constitution, a separate flag and independence over all matters.

The UN human rights chief, on Monday, voiced alarm over the situation in Kashmir; pointing, among other things, to restrictions on internet communication, peaceful assembly and the detention of local political leaders and activists.

I am deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions by the government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris, said Michelle Bachelet in her opening statement to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.

Bachelet said she had urged both countries to ensure that rights in the region were respected and protected. But she said she had appealed particularly to India to ease the current lockdowns or curfews, to ensure people’s access to basic services, and that all due process rights were respected for those who have been detained.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan welcomed Bachelet’s comments in a series of tweets on Monday and called on the UNHRC to form an independent commission to investigate human rights atrocities in Indian-administered Kashmir.

During the session from September 9 to September 27, the council will examine over 90 reports on a wide range of issues, presented by 25 human rights experts, groups, and mechanisms.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, on Tuesday, said that the international community must not remain indifferent to the tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes in occupied Kashmir.

The Indian government has revoked the special status accorded to Indian-administered Kashmir in its constitution; the most far-reaching political move on the disputed region in nearly 70 years

Addressing the 42nd session of the UNHRC in Geneva, Qureshi, while referring to India’s recent actions in Kashmir, said, “Today, I have knocked on the doors of the Human Rights Council, the repository of the world’s conscience on human rights, to seek justice and respect for the people of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.”

“We must not allow this august body to be embarrassed on the world stage. As a founding member of this council, Pakistan feels morally and ethically bound to prevent this from occurring,” he stressed. The minister added that to do so, the body should not remain indifferent to the tragedy unfolding in Kashmir.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is also set to address the 74th UN General Assembly session to highlight Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir, with reports suggesting his speech will be on September 27.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi called for action to end the humanitarian crisis in Kashmir. Lodhi urged the UN to implement its Security Council resolutions for the right of self-determination of Kashmiris to decide their future.

Last week, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that Britain had asked the Indian government to respect international standards of human rights, rights of Kashmiris and end lockdown of occupied Kashmir, which had now entered the second month.

Speaking in the House of Commons to give policy statement of the British government, Dominic Raab expressed alarm at the worsening human rights situation in occupied Kashmir as a result of the draconian clampdown on Kashmiris following the revocation of Article 370.

The foreign secretary revealed that Britain had asked the Indian government that reports of human rights abuses of Kashmiri people must be dealt with transparently, thoroughly and rigorously and international human rights standards must be respected.

Earlier, thousands, mostly Kashmiris, marched in Britain’s capital to show solidarity with the oppressed people of Indian Occupied Kashmir, as the curfew and media and communication blackout in the valley entered more than a month. Human rights violations in Kashmir could be summarised as loss of lives, lack of the right to live and personal immunity and access to courts, illegal and arbitrary decisions on the custody of civilians, including children.

There is also the use of excessive force, including the use of pellet guns and shotguns, the use of torture, illegal abduction of people, lack of access to health and educational services, restrictions on the freedom of expression in traditional and social media, and repression against human rights activists and journalists.

In addition to this list, sexual harassment, repression of civil groups and violations of property rights are the other human rights issues in the region.

Today, we never forget the leader, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who said, “We will fight for the cause of Kashmir and PPP famous till date their support for the people of Kashmir.”

Z A Bhutto always presented Pakistan’s case aggressively concerning Kashmir on international forums.

Jammu and Kashmir is a part of Pakistan, in blood, in flesh, in culture, in history, in geography; in every way and every form.

The writer is a retired doctor of the Sindh Health Department