GENEVA - The U.N. human rights office has denounced what it calls the ongoing repression in Indian-administered Kashmir and is urging the government to restore the rights stripped from the region’s millions of Muslim inhabitants in August.
India’s only Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir has officially ceased to exist. On August 5, the Indian government revoked constitutional provisions that granted partial autonomy to the area. As a result, the region was divided into two federally administered states - one being Jammu and Kashmir, which will include the restive Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley and the Hindu-majority Jammu. The second territory will include the high-altitude Buddhist enclave of Ladakh.
This move, which came into effect on Thursday, ends seven decades of self-rule for the region.
The office of the U.N. high commissioner for human rights says it deplores the restrictive measures and what it calls the wide range of rights abuses that have continued unabated since August. In large parts of the Kashmir Valley, it reports an undeclared curfew is preventing the free movement of people and restricting their rights to health, education and freedom of religion and belief.
Human rights office spokesman Rupert Colville says the agency has heard about allegations of excessive use of force by security forces during sporadic protests. He says at least six people reportedly have been killed and scores seriously injured in separate incidents since the area was split into two.
“We have also received reports of armed groups operating in Indian-administered Kashmir threatening residents trying to carry out their normal business or attend school, as well as several allegations of violence against people who have not complied with the armed groups’ demands…Hundreds of political and civil society leaders, including three former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, have been detained on a preventative basis,” Colville said.
Colville says his office also has received allegations of torture and ill-treatment of people held in detention. He notes torture is banned under international law and says these allegations must be independently and impartially investigated.
Colville says restrictions on landline telephones have been lifted, but all internet services remain blocked in the Kashmir valley. At the same time, he says media outlets face restrictions and several journalists allegedly have been arrested in the past three months.
He says the people of Kashmir remain bound to the whims and will of the government. He says major political decisions about the future status of Jammu and Kashmir are taken without their consent. He notes the region’s leaders are being detained and their right to freedom of expression and political participation undermined.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has defended the split, saying the special status had impeded the region’s progress, given rise to terrorism and was used as a weapon by rival Pakistan to “instigate some people.”
India has long accused Pakistan of supporting and training militants to foment a separatist insurgency in Kashmir, charges Islamabad denies.