UN rights chief 'deeply concerned' over India actions in Kashmir
The UN rights chief on Monday voiced alarm over the situation in Kashmir, following India's decision to revoke the autonomous status of the Muslim-majority region last month.
"I am deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions by the government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris," Michelle Bachelet said in her opening statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. She pointed among other things to "restrictions on Internet communications and peaceful assembly, and the detention of local political leaders and activists."
India imposed a military clampdown on Kashmir from 5 August to prevent unrest as New Delhi revoked the disputed region's autonomy, with mobile phone networks and the internet still cut off in all but a few pockets.
Kashmir, split between India and Pakistan since 1947, has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between the two nuclear-armed arch-rivals.
Indian-administered Kashmir has seen a decades-old armed rebellion – backed by Pakistan, New Delhi claims – against Indian rule with tens of thousands, mostly civilians, killed.
Bachelet said she had urged both India and Pakistan to ensure that rights in the region are respected and protected.
India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price
India and Pakistan continue to clash over Kashmir, a volatile Himalayan region that has been experiencing an armed insurgency for nearly three decades. Many Kashmiris are now fed up with both Islamabad and New Delhi. By Shamil Shams
An unprecedented danger? On 27 February , Pakistan's military said that it had shot down two Indian fighter jets over disputed Kashmir. A Pakistani military spokesman said the jets were shot down after they'd entered Pakistani airspace. It is the first time in history that two nuclear-armed powers have conducted air strikes against each other
India drops bombs inside Pakistan: the Pakistani military has released this image to show that Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistani territory for the first time since the countries went to war in 1971. India said the air strike was in response to a recent suicide attack on Indian troops based in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan said there were no casualties and that its airforce repelled India's aircraft
No military solution: some Indian civil society members believe New Delhi cannot exonerate itself from responsibility by accusing Islamabad of creating unrest in the Kashmir valley. A number of rights organisations are demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government reduce the number of troops in Kashmir and let the people decide their fate
No end to the violence: on 14 February, at least 41 Indian paramilitary police were killed in a suicide bombing near the capital of India-administered Kashmir. The Pakistan-based Jihadi group, Jaish-e-Mohammad, claimed responsibility. The attack, the worst on Indian troops since the insurgency in Kashmir began in 1989, spiked tensions and triggered fears of an armed confrontation between the two nuclear-armed powers
A bitter conflict: since 1989, Muslim insurgents have been fighting Indian forces in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir – a region of 12 million people, about 70 percent of whom are Muslim. India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over Kashmir, which they both claim in full but rule in part
India strikes down a militant rebellion: in October 2016, the Indian military launched an offensive against armed rebels in Kashmir, surrounding at least 20 villages in Shopian district. New Delhi accused Islamabad of backing the militants, who cross over the Pakistani-Indian "Line of Control" and launch attacks on India's paramilitary forces
Death of a Kashmiri separatist: the security situation in the Indian part of Kashmir deteriorated after the killing of Burhan Wani, a young separatist leader, in July 2016. Protests against Indian rule and clashes between separatists and soldiers have claimed hundreds of lives since then
The Uri attack: in September 2016, Islamist militants killed at least 17 Indian soldiers and wounded 30 in India-administered Kashmir. The Indian army said the rebels had infiltrated the Indian part of Kashmir from Pakistan, with initial investigations suggesting that the militants belonged to Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad group, which has been active in Kashmir for over a decade
Rights violations: Indian authorities banned a number of social media websites in Kashmir after video clips showing troops committing grave human rights violations went viral on the Internet. One such video that showed a Kashmiri protester tied to an Indian army jeep – apparently as a human shield – generated outrage on social media
Demilitarisation of Kashmir: those in favour of an independent Kashmir want Pakistan and India to step aside and let the Kashmiri people decide their future. "It is time India and Pakistan announce the timetable for withdrawal of their forces from the portions they control and hold an internationally supervised referendum," said Toqeer Gilani, the president of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in Pakistani Kashmir
Secession not an option: most Kashmir observers don't see a referendum happening in the near future. They say that while the Indian strategy to deal strictly with militants and separatists in Kashmir has partly worked out, sooner or later New Delhi will have to find a political solution to the crisis. Secession, they say, does not stand a chance
But she said she had "appealed particularly to India to ease the current lockdowns or curfews, to ensure people's access to basic services, and that all due process rights are respected for those who have been detained."
"It is important that the people of Kashmir are consulted and engaged in any decision-making processes that have an impact on their future," she said.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is scheduled to address the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, with a speech expected to focus heavily on the situation in Kashmir.
Bachelet also voiced concern on Monday over India's controversial citizenship register in Assam state, which critics fear is a cover for the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to expel Muslims.
Pointing out that some 1.9 million people had been excluded from the final list, published on 31 August, Bachelet lamented that the register has "caused great uncertainty and anxiety".
"I appeal to the government to ensure due process during the appeals process, prevent deportation or detention, and ensure people are protected from statelessness," she said. (AFP)