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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

‘Reason for concern’: UN human rights chief on clampdown on Kashmir civil society

Days after United Nations human rights experts have expressed concern over India’s decision to strip Kashmir’s limited autonomy in 2019 and the subsequent passing of new laws, which they warned “could curtail the previous level of political participation of Muslims and other minorities”, the human rights chief of the global body on Friday said that the “clampdown on civil society” in the disputed Himalayan region, and “raids against human rights defenders are a reason for concern”.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet said in a statement: “We continue to monitor the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir, where restrictions on communications, and clampdowns on civil society activists, remain of concern.”

She said: despite recent restoration of 4G access for mobile phones, the communications blockade has seriously hampered civic participation, as well as business, livelihoods, education, and access to health-care and medical information.

“Raids against human rights defenders in October and November exemplify the continued restrictions on civil society, and resulting impact on the rights of the people of Kashmir to impart and receive information, and to engage in free, open debate on Government policies affecting them,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

Earlier, Special Rapporteur on minority issues Fernand de Varennes and Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Ahmed Shaheed published a press release on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and made critical observations against India on the withdrawal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in 2019.

Fernand de Varennes and Ahmed Shaheed had noted in the press release: “The loss of autonomy and the imposition of direct rule by the government in New Delhi suggests the people of Jammu and Kashmir no longer have their own government and have lost power to legislate or amend laws in the region to ensure the protection of their rights as minorities.”

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