Speakers urge EU to insist on human rights in its talks with India

Speakers of a webinar in Brussels called upon the European Union (EU) to insist on safeguarding the human rights particularly rights of the oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir in its strategic partnership negotiations with India.

The webinar titled, “India’s Democracy: Shrinking Space for Freedom of Expression, Press Freedom and Human Rights Defenders,” was organized by Kashmir Council Europe (KCEU) based in Brussels, the European capital.

Speaking on the occasion, the KCEU Chairman, Ali Raza Syed, said that the EU should pay attention of the worse situation of human rights in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir as well as different parts of India where minorities and lower castes were being oppressed by the extremists backed by the state.

As the topic of his speech was “EU-India Relations (Free Trade Agreement) and the human rights dimensions,” Ali Raza Syed reiterated that EU’s authorities have already decided to strengthen the EU-India Strategic Partnership based on shared principles and values of democracy, freedom, rule of law, and respect for human rights, aiming at delivering concrete benefits for the people in the EU and India. He added, the leaders of the European Union should not ignore the fact that India continuously harms the human rights in IIOJK.

He further said, the rapporteurs of the UN observed continued deterioration of human rights conditions in IIOJK following severe restrictions imposed after 5th August 2019, in particular illegal detentions, violations to the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment and sacked the citizen rights of the people of the occupied territory.

The KCEU Chairman also drew attention towards the Indian attempt for demographic changes in Jammu and Kashmir saying that the situation is getting even worse as up to 25,000 non-Kashmiri people have been granted domicile certificates in IIOJK since May 18 this year which is raising fears of the beginning of demographic changes of the disputed region. This certificate, a sort of citizenship right, entitles a person to residency and government jobs in the region, which till last year was reserved only for the local Kashmiri population.

Another speaker of the online seminar Khaoula Siddiqi, Co-founder of Student International League of Kashmir (SILK) based in Canada said, around 38,000 additional troops from Indian were brought into IIOJK to enforce military lockdown in august last year, which in addition to the 800,000 that had already existed there and now Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most densely militarized region in the world. “Kashmiris were cut off the internet and telephone services and public prayer was prohibited. 100 of the main political people were placed under preventive detention including almost all of the elected legislators of IIOJK, not to mention the lawyers, journalists, teachers who fight for human rights and freedom of expression. In addition there were thousands of youth who were also detained and held in various jails in India and even detention places some of them are still unknown. Industries have suffered large economical blows, hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs, schools and universities have been greatly affected, health care has been restricted even during COVID-19 and the media has been shut down,” she said.

Farzana Yaqoob, Former Minister For Social Welfare and Women Development, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, in her speech said, it has been over 70 years that the situation in IIOJK went from bad to worse. “The life of the women is even worse because not only they have to go through the agony of sexual violence but they also have to suffer the loneliness and the constant fear that their children, their brothers and their husbands once they leave house that they will not come back. Every women live in tears of fear that they might never see their loved ones back alive, and this is extremely painful situations to live in,” she added.

Ewout Klei, Historian & Editor of de Kanttekening Magazine from Holland, who was also among the speakers said, freedom of the press in IIOJK is under serious threats from Indian forces as a report of an international media institute urged the Indian government to end restrictions and harassment of journalists. He also quoted a statement of the Press Club of India and said that “the Cyber Police appears to be super-active” in the Kashmir region, “parsing every word written and then summoning journalists to the police station”. “Journalists in Kashmir have been summoned and questioned by the police, the filing of first information reports (FIRs) against them for their journalistic work appears to be the latest trend or tool to target the media in Kashmir. Besides legal harassment and the monitoring of content of news reports and social media, journalists have also been subjected to physical attacks like beatings since August last year,” he deplored.

Ms Iffy Bukhari, the Student in International Relations and Politics at University of Sheffield (UK) in her speech said, Hindu nationalism has been collectively referred to as the expression of social and political thought, based on the native spiritual and cultural traditions of India. She said, the native thought streams became highly relevant in Indian history when they helped form a distinctive identity in relation to the Indian polity and provided a basis for questioning colonialism. They inspired the independence movements against the British Raj based on armed struggle, coercive politics, and non-violent protests. They also influenced social reform movements and economic thinking in India. After the landslide victory, critics wondered whether Modi would double down on the Hindu nationalism and illiberalism that characterized his first term in office, or rein it in. In the months since then, the answer has become clearly the former. In August, Modi revoked Kashmir’s special status and imposed a media and internet blackout on the territory, she said.

The speakers also condemned recent extrajudicial killing of Kashmiri youth and urged the world community to help stop crimes against humanity in IIOJK and play its role for a peaceful and just resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

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