UN official concerned over Kashmir situation, anti-Muslim violence in Delhi

GENEVA: The United Nations’ top official for human rights has expressed concern over the situation in India-held Kashmir as well as the escalating anti-Muslim violence in New Delhi where a number of people have been killed during peaceful protests against a controversial law.

Speaking at the Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, appealed to Indian leaders to take steps to prevent violence.

“In India more broadly, the Citizenship Amendment Act adopted last December is of great concern,” she told the 47-member Geneva-based council.

“Indians in huge numbers, and from all communities, have expressed in a mostly peaceful manner, their opposition to the act, and support for the country’s long tradition of secularism,” Ms. Bachelet said.

The high commissioner expressed concern over reports of police inaction in the face of attacks against Muslims by Hindu groups, as well as previous reports of excessive use of force by police against peaceful protesters.

“This has now widened into broader inter-communal attacks, with 24 people killed since Sunday 23 February. I appeal to all political leaders to prevent violence,” she added.

In India-held Kashmir, Ms Bachelet regretted, no steps had been taken to address allegations of excessive use of force and other serious human rights violations by security forces.

At the same time, she noted that while some political leaders had been released, and routine life may be returning to normal, at least 800 people reportedly remain in detention, including political leaders and activists.

“Schools, businesses and livelihoods have been disrupted by the continued heavy military presence,” the high commissioner said.

Ms Bachelet also noted that the Indian government had partially restored mobile and internet services, after a decision by the Indian Supreme Court, adding that authorities continue to impose excessive restrictions on the use of social media.