India: Six months on, draconian restrictions remain in place in Jammu & Kashmir

Press release
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New Delhi, Paris — The Indian government must immediately end all draconian restrictions on fundamental freedoms in Jammu & Kashmir, and fully reinstate communications, FIDH and its member organization People’s Watch urge today.

In conjunction with its call, FIDH releases a briefing note that highlights some of the human rights concerns that have remained unaddressed since 5 August 2019.

“For the past six months, the people of Jammu & Kashmir have been living under siege and denied their fundamental rights under the most draconian of measures. These grave violations of human rights must come to an end, and accountability must be established for the serious violations that have occurred since 5 August.”

Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Secretary-General

On 5 August 2019, the Indian government implemented repressive measures in Jammu & Kashmir to limit the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and movement, while the ruling party-controlled Parliament repealed Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. These provisions had conferred a special autonomous status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Since then, the state has been split into two Union Territories (UT) – the UT of Jammu & Kashmir and the UT of Ladakh – which come under the direct control and authority of the government in New Delhi.

Since the evening of 4 August 2019, internet communications, and initially telephone lines, have been cut in Jammu & Kashmir, effectively isolating residents from the rest of the world. Although phone lines were gradually reinstated and internet access restored in certain places, personal internet connections are limited to 301 government-approved websites through a very slow 2G connection.

“The people of Jammu & Kashmir have now lived through the longest internet shutdown in India’s history, which is an unacceptable denial of their basic rights. The government must take immediate steps to reinstate and guarantee all fundamental freedoms in the region.”

Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Secretary-General

Although accurate figures are unavailable, thousands of arbitrary detentions have been reported since 5 August 2019, including hundreds of detentions under the abusive 1978 Public Safety Act (PSA). Many detainees, particularly youth and low-ranking political activists, have been transferred to jails outside of Jammu & Kashmir, the location of which is unknown in many cases. There have also been numerous reports of excessive use of force by army and police forces, including reports of deaths and injuries as a result of the improper use of pellet guns and teargas.

The reorganization of Jammu & Kashmir has also resulted in a number of measures that will have long-term implications for the human rights situation in the region, including the disbanding of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) of Jammu & Kashmir - one of the few avenues for justice available to local people - at the end of October 2019. More than 500 cases of alleged enforced disappearances were pending before the SHRC at the time of its disbandment.

“Human rights violations of the gravest nature are nothing new in Jammu & Kashmir, and have gone unpunished for decades. But taking away the little autonomy the state had will only make the situation worse, especially when the people most affected by these changes have been denied their right to express their opinions.”

Henri Tiphagne, People’s Watch Executive Director

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

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

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