GENEVA: The UN rights chief yesterday voiced alarm over the situation in Kashmir, following India’s decision to revoke the autonomous status of the Muslim-majority region last month. “I am deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions by the government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris,” Michelle Bachelet said in her opening statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
She pointed among other things to “restrictions on internet communications and peaceful assembly, and the detention of local political leaders and activists.” India imposed a military clampdown on Kashmir from August 5 to prevent unrest as New Delhi revoked the disputed region’s autonomy, with mobile phone networks and the internet still cut off in all but a few pockets. Kashmir, split between India and Pakistan since 1947, has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between the two nuclear-armed arch-rivals.
Indian-administered Kashmir has seen a decades-old armed rebellion-backed by Pakistan, New Delhi claims-against Indian rule with tens of thousands, mostly civilians, killed. Bachelet said she had urged both India and Pakistan to ensure that rights in the region are 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 are respected for those who have been detained.”
“It is important that the people of Kashmir are consulted and engaged in any decision-making processes that have an impact on their future,” she said. Her comments came as Indian authorities tightened the security lockdown in Indian Kashmir on Sunday after breaking up religious processions by Shiite Muslims who defied a ban. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is scheduled to address the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, with a speech expected to focus heavily on the situation in Kashmir.
Bachelet also voiced concern Monday over India’s controversial citizenship register in Assam state, which critics fear is a cover for the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to expel Muslims. Pointing out that some 1.9 million people had been excluded from the final list, published on August 31, Bachelet lamented that the register has “caused great uncertainty and anxiety”. “I appeal to the government to ensure due process during the appeals process, prevent deportation or detention, and ensure people are protected from statelessness,” she said.-AFP