Report flags huge human rights violations in IoK

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New Delhi: The 11 months of lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir has not only resulted in an “across-the-board violation of human rights”, it also led to the “denial of the right to bail and fair and speedy trial, coupled with misuse of draconian legislation, such as the Public Safety Act (PSA) and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), to stifle dissent”.
Moreover, this period saw “frequent closures, harassment at barricades and checkpoints, and restrictions on mobile telephony and internet connectivity,” which enormously impacted public health, and caused trauma and stress amongst the people, a report titled ‘The Impact of the Lockdowns on Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir, August 2019-July 2020’ has revealed.
Brought out by the Forum for Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir, which was formed in May 2020 by an informal group of jurists, former civil servants, former military officers, academics and human rights experts, the report highlights the trauma people in the state have undergone since August 4, 2019 – the day the state was put under a lockdown. A day later, the president voided all clauses of Article 370 of the Indian constitution and suspended the Jammu and Kashmir constitution. The Forum, which is co-chaired by former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan Lokur and former member of the Group of Interlocutors for Jammu and Kashmir Radha Kumar, has in the report also delved into the impact of some recent developments on the state.
`Kashmir dispute tri-lateralised with strategic China-Pak nexus against India’
It states that “China’s attempts to mobilise the UN Security Council against the August changes, and its own army’s May 2020 intrusions in Eastern Ladakh have added further diplomatic and security concerns for the Indian Government. They have also highlighted a tri-lateralisation of the dispute over Kashmir between India, Pakistan and China, lending a new edge to the strategic China-Pakistan nexus against India, specifically in Jammu and Kashmir.”
As for Pakistan, the report states that its “seven-decades-long efforts to fish in the troubled waters of Kashmir continue unabated. But after the August 2019 political changes in Jammu and Kashmir, it has gone into overdrive, infiltrating terrorists, ramping up cross-LoC firing, inciting and radicalising Kashmiris through virulent social media campaigns, and establishing Kashmir cells in its missions abroad as part of Kashmir-specific anti-India information war strategy.”
The early days
Referring to how around 38,000 additional troops were flown in to Jammu and Kashmir to enforce the lockdown, the report recalled how public assembly was prohibited under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and thousands, including minors and almost all the elected legislators of J&K (except those of the BJP), were put under preventive detention. It went on to state that just five days later, parliament passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, dividing the state into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
In the months that followed, the report said, national political figures were denied permission to enter the former state and were turned back from Srinagar airport.
“The economic, social and political impact of these actions, and their long duration – eleven months thus far – have been disastrous,” it added. On how these actions impacted the state, the report said: “All the former state’s industries suffered severe blows, pushing the majority into loan defaults or even closure; hundreds of thousands lost their jobs or underwent salary deferment or cuts; closures of schools and universities gravely impaired education and added to the trauma of children and parents; healthcare was severely restricted by curfew and roadblocks; the local and regional media lost what little independence they had.”
Worst of all, it said, there was no elected representative left to advocate the interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, since the majority of political leaders were put in preventive detention. With statutory bodies to which citizens could go to seek redress virtually ceasing to exist, it added that “there has been a near-total alienation of the people of the Kashmir valley from the Indian state and people”. The report further documented the numerous human rights violations under the categories of civilian security, health, children and youth, industry and media.
`Decline in terrorist incidents, but ceasefire violations increased’
The report said the clampdown resulted in a “decline in terrorist related incidents, overall fatalities and employment of improvised explosive devices (IEDs)” with the security forces eliminating roughly 130 terrorists and their top commanders and arresting around 250 ‘over-ground workers’ who constituted their logistics lifeline.
On the flip side, it said, instances of attempted and net infiltration increased and so did cease-fire violations which escalated from 449 in 2016 to 3,168 in 2019.
The report also cited the South Asia Terrorism Portal to state that there were 37 terrorism-related civilian deaths during the past year.
Also, the report said the period witnessed mass detention of politicians and activists with 6,605 people, including “miscreants, stone-pelters, over ground workers (OGWs), separatists”, being taken into preventive custody after August 4, 2019 as per the Ministry of Home Affairs data. Out of these, it said, 444 were booked under Jammu and Kashmir’s Public Safety Act (PSA) of 1978.–Agencies