HRW condemns Indian government over atrocities in IOK
New York, January 15, 2020 (PPI-OT): The New York-based Human Rights Watch has criticized the Indian government for gross human rights violations including arrests, torture and communication blackout after abrogation of Kashmir’s special status in August, last year.
Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2020 posted on its website said, Indian authorities also failed to protect religious minorities, used draconian sedition and counter-terrorism laws to silence peaceful dissent, and invoked foreign funding regulations and other laws to discredit and muzzle nongovernmental organizations, critical of government actions or policies.
“The Indian government has tried to shut down Kashmir, hiding the full extent of the harm caused there,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch in a press release. “Instead of addressing growing attacks on minorities, Indian authorities bolstered their efforts to silence critical voices in 2019,” she added.
The report said, “Prior to its actions in Jammu and Kashmir, the government deployed additional troops …, shut down the internet and phones, and arbitrarily detained thousands of Kashmiris, including political leaders, activists, journalists, lawyers, and potential protesters, including children. Hundreds remain in detention without charge or under house arrest to prevent protests.” It said that the Indian government blocked opposition politicians, foreign diplomats, and international journalists from independent visits to occupied Kashmir.
“The Indian government’s actions in Kashmir have led to loss of livelihood and access to education. The repression resulted in international criticism including in the United States’ Congress, the European Parliament, and the United Nations Human Rights Council. Throughout the year, UN experts have raised concerns over a series of issues in India, including extrajudicial killings, potential statelessness of millions in Assam, possible eviction of tribal communities and forest-dwellers, and the communications blackout in Kashmir,” the report added.
The report said that the February 14 Pulwama attack in which over 40 Indian troops were killed, led to military escalation between India and Pakistan. Following the incident, Kashmiri students and businessmen in different parts of India were harassed, beaten, and even forcibly evicted from rented housing and dorms by BJP supporters. In the 652-page World Report 2020, its 30th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries.
The report said that despite numerous independent recommendations, including by United Nations experts, the India government did not review or repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives soldiers effective immunity from prosecution for serious human rights abuses. The law is in force in occupied Kashmir and in several states in northeast India.
The HRW said that in November, following a petition by child rights activists, the Indian Supreme Court sought a detailed report from the juvenile justice committee of occupied Kashmir High Court on the detention of children and other abuses during the lockdown imposed since August. The committee earlier submitted a police list of 144 detained children, the youngest being 9, it added.
About mob lynching of Muslims by Hindu extremists in India, the report said, “The government failed to properly enforce Supreme Court directives to prevent and investigate mob attacks, often led by BJP supporters, on religious minorities and other vulnerable communities. Since May 2015, extremist Hindu groups have killed 50 people and injured over 250 amid rumours that they traded or killed cows for beef. Muslims were also beaten and forced to chant Hindu slogans. Police failed to properly investigate the crimes, stalled investigations, ignored procedures, and filed criminal cases against witnesses to harass and intimidate them.”
“Nearly two million people from tribal communities and forest-dwellers remained at risk of forced displacement and loss of livelihoods after a Supreme Court ruling in February 2019 to evict all those whose claims under the Forest Rights Act were rejected,” the HRW report maintained.
“In the northeast state of Assam, the government published the National Register of Citizens, aimed at identifying Indian citizens and lawful residents following repeated protests and violence over irregular migration of ethnic Bengalis from Bangladesh. The list excluded nearly two million people, many of them Muslims, including many who have lived in India for years, in some cases their whole lives. There are serious allegations that the verification process was arbitrary and discriminatory. While there is a right to appeal, the government plans to build detention centers for those denied citizenship after appeal,” the report said.
“The government has also said that citizenship verification will be implemented across the country and that the government will amend the citizenship laws to include all irregular migrants from neighbouring countries, but excludes Muslims from the list,” it pointed out.
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