Moon Desk: In its annual report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) exposes that Indian authorities are restricting free expression, peaceful assembly and other basic rights in Jammu and Kashmir after revoking the region’s special autonomous status.
The government’s repressive policies and failure to investigate and prosecute alleged security force abuses have increased insecurity among Kashmiris. On 5th August 2019, after revocation of Article 370 and 35-A, Indian government actions were accompanied by serious rights violations including arbitrary detention of hundreds of people, total communications blackout and severe restrictions on freedom of movement.Director South Asia at Human Rights Watch, Meenakshi Ganguly said, “Three years after the government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s constitutional status, Indian authorities appear to be more concerned with projecting an image of normalcy than ensuring rights and accountability.
The government needs to end the assault on fundamental freedoms and act to protect minority groups at risk.”
Indian authorities have invoked Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act to conduct raids and arbitrarily detain journalists, activists and political leaders without evidence and meaningful judicial review.
In November 2021, Indian authorities arrested a prominent Kashmiri human rights activist, Khurram Parvez, on politically motivated charges under the abusive Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
Journalists in Kashmir face harassment by Indian security forces, including raids and arbitrary arrests on terrorism charges. Since August 2019, at least 35 journalists in Kashmir have faced Police interrogation, raids, threats, physical assault, restrictions on freedom of movement, or fabricated criminal cases for their reporting.
In 2022, authorities rearrested Fahad Shah, Aasif Sultan and Sajad Gul under the Public Safety Act after they had been granted bail separately in other cases filed against them in retaliation for their journalism work.
In March 2021, five UN experts raised concerns about “repressive measures and broader pattern of systematic infringements of fundamental rights used against the local population, as well as of intimidations, searches and confiscations committed by national security agents.”
There has been no accountability for recent alleged extrajudicial killings or past killings and abuses by security forces, in part because of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the law has become a tool of state abuse, oppression, and discrimination.
Human Rights Watch said, instead of addressing human rights concerns, Indian officials have sought to project the appearance of progress.
Meenakshi Ganguly said, “The security forces’ raids and targeted attacks by militants in Kashmir are grim reminders of the unending cycle of violence linked to repressive Indian government policies and the failure to bring abusive forces to account. Indian authorities should ensure justice for security forces abuses and end policies that violate the fundamental rights of Kashmiri people.”