Restore 4G, Release Detainees: Amnesty International India on J&K

On the one-year anniversary of abrogation of Article 370 , Amnesty International India has released a report.

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Former Union Minister Saifuddin Soz claims he is under house arrest in Kashmir. 

“Over the last one year the Government of India has been systematically dismantling all avenues for justice for the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India, was quoted as saying in a press release on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

On the one-year anniversary of abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, Amnesty International India has issued a situation update and analysis of the region.

“With zero representation, protracted internet restrictions, arbitrary use of some of India’s most stringent laws, verbal orders of detention and crippling of the local media – most of this disproportionately higher in Kashmir - it’s been a complete year since we have heard the people of Jammu and Kashmir speak.”
Amnesty International India, in press release

The press release to the report points out that the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K into separate union territories was carried out “amidst a complete communication clampdown, restrictions on movement and mass detentions.”

Amnesty International India, in the press release, mentions that it has documented the “heavy handed tactics” of the Government of India since 5 August, 2019. Acknowledging that Government of India may have legitimate security concerns that may merit “reasonable restrictions”, the press release goes on to say that “these restrictions must always be limited in duration and demonstrably proportionate as set out under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which India is a state party.”

Repressive Laws

“Despite moderate ease of restrictions in 2020, the government’s near-total control over the information coming out of the region was strengthened through use of repressive laws such as the Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).”
Amnesty International India

The organisation says that it has also “documented physical attacks on, harassment and intimidation of at least 18 journalists since 5 August 2019". The "draconian media policy introduced by the government in the region which openly aims to create a sustained narrative on the functioning of the government in media” by checking on “anti-national activities, fake news and plagiarism” has "further extinguished independent media in the region.”

Amnesty International India also points out that 70 political leaders were placed under administrative detention. “However, it could not find a single case of detention of a political member belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – the current ruling party in India.”

The organisation observes that many leaders still languish in detention on the basis of “verbal orders or repressive laws”, which is in “complete violation of their fair trial rights guaranteed by the ICCPR and Indian Constitution.”

The Double Whammy

“Forced to transition from one lockdown to another, government policies during the COVID-19 pandemic have further marginalised the people of Jammu & Kashmir and severely affected their access to justice.”
Amnesty International India

The organisation points out that over 300 habeas corpus petitions were filed before the Srinagar wing of J&K High Court between 2016 and 2019. However, since 2019, up till 4 August, 2020 only 11 such petitions were filed.

“This sharp fall may be attributed to the punitive emergency measures invoked by the government to curb the COVID-19 pandemic but also the lack of hi-speed internet required for uninterrupted online hearings. The closure of the State Human Rights Commission along with six other commissions, including the State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights, has further left the people of Jammu & Kashmir with absolutely no redressal for their human rights violations.”
Amnesty International India

Demands of Amnesty International India

Amnesty International India chief has asserted that the government’s “ruthless attempts to create a public opinion of ‘normalcy’ while curbing the freedom of independent press, imprisoning the entire political leadership, arbitrarily arresting those likely to dissent and imposing communication restrictions have usurped the voice of the region.”

Further, Kumar said that Amnesty International India demands the government to restore 4G mobile Internet in J&K, and an end to criminal probes under UAPA and PSA against scribes.

Amnesty International India, as informed by Avinash Kumar, has also asked the government to immediately release all persons deprived of their freedom. “They should not have been detained in the first place,” says Amnesty International India.

“A rights-respecting government must know that an end to the abuses in Jammu & Kashmir cannot come without the involvement of its people.”
Avinash Kumar

Read the full report here.

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