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Rights body urges India to release detainees in Kashmir

India is making 'mockery of its human rights commitments' by jailing political leaders, suspending basic freedoms, says HRW

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 16.09.2019
Rights body urges India to release detainees in Kashmir


A global rights body on Monday called on the Indian government to immediately release detained people in Jammu and Kashmir.

"Indian authorities should immediately release detained Kashmiris who have not been charged with a recognizable offense," Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement.

It said that "nearly 4,000 people, including supporters of political parties, separatist leaders, lawyers, journalists" have reportedly been detained in Jammu and Kashmir since Aug. 5 when the government scrapped the special status of the Muslim-majority region.

"There have been serious allegations of torture and beatings. Many detainees have not been allowed to contact their families or lawyers," the statement read.

The New York-based rights group underlined that the authorities "in many cases detained people or placed them under house arrest without providing a legal basis." 

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at the HRW, said that anyone who has been detained in Kashmir "without evidence of a crime should be immediately and unconditionally released", calling on the authorities to allow "every detainee access to lawyers and family members", according to the statement.

“India is making a mockery of its human rights commitments by denying Kashmiris a voice in their future, jailing political leaders, and suspending basic freedoms,” Ganguly added.

Violation of right to information

Meanwhile, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Indian Journalists Union have strongly condemned the internet shutdown in the disputed region, saying it as "a violation of the right to information."

“We again, reiterate our calls to the Indian government to end the internet shutdown that has stifled the flow of information in and out of Jammu & Kashmir for over a month now," said a statement by the IFJ.

Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir has been under a near-complete lockdown since Aug. 5, after India scrapped its special status. Since then the Indian government has also blocked communication access and has imposed restrictions to thwart any protests in the Muslim-majority region.

Several rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have repeatedly called on India, to lift restrictions and release political detainees.

Indian authorities, however, claim that daytime restrictions have been lifted in 90% of the region.

From 1954 until Aug. 5, 2019, Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed special status under Indian constitution, which allowed it to enact own laws. The provisions also protected the region's citizenship law, which barred outsiders from settling in and owning land in the territory.

India and Pakistan both hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.

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