India: Government must immediately reinstate fundamental freedoms in Jammu & Kashmir

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(New Delhi, Paris) The Indian government should immediately lift the severe restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly imposed over the past several days in Jammu & Kashmir State and ensure that the human rights of all are guaranteed, FIDH and its member organization People’s Watch said today.

“The people of Jammu & Kashmir have long suffered violations of their fundamental rights. Delhi’s heavy handed approach to public order in Jammu & Kashmir State must be immediately reversed and all its policies and actions must be respectful of India’s human rights obligations under international law.”

Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Vice-President

Since late night on 4 August 2019, the Indian Army has deployed a reported 10,000 additional troops to Jammu & Kashmir and authorities have almost completely shut down internet and mobile phone communications. In addition, several political leaders in the State have been placed under house arrest, educational institutions have been closed down until further notice, and a blanket prohibition has been imposed on public meetings and rallies. These measures are seemingly connected with the Indian government’s move to repeal Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution, which confer a special status to Jammu & Kashmir State. On 5 August 2019, the Rajya Sabha (the Upper House of India’s Parliament) approved the government’s motion to repeal the two Articles of the Constitution.

“The further militarization of Jammu & Kashmir State poses a threat for the local civilian population, who has been routinely targeted by Indian security forces. Delhi must immediately lift the blanket internet shutdown, which could provide the cover for possible human rights violations committed by the security forces in the State.”

Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Vice-President

FIDH and People’s Watch are concerned about reports that several political leaders in Jammu & Kashmir were placed under house arrest on the night between 4 and 5 August 2019, including former Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah.

“There are absolutely no justifications for the preventive and arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Jammu & Kashmir political leaders. The government of India must immediately release all of those who have been detained over the past several days, and reinstate communication networks without delay.”

Henri Tiphagne, People’s Watch Executive Director

Human rights violations in Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir have been rampant over the past several decades, and range from extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture, to frequent arbitrary arrests and detentions under repressive laws. The rights to freedom of opinion and expression are regularly curtailed by the government, including through censorship, surveillance, bans on social media, and telecommunication shutdowns. According to a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published in July 2019, there were no less than 25 instances of Internet shutdowns in Jammu & Kashmir in the first four months of 2019 alone.

India is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees rights to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.

|Press contacts
FIDH: Ms. Eva Canan (French, English) - Tel: +33648059157 (Paris)

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