Human Rights Watch (HRW) South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly has urged the Indian government to lift the communications blackout and step back in occupied Kashmir after the Indian government scrapped the special autonomous status provided to the disputed valley.

In a statement, Ganguly said since one week Kashmiris remain mostly under lockdown and their leaders are under arrest.

“Kashmiris remain mostly under lockdown, their leaders under arrest. Phones, even landlines, are still severed. The internet is shut down. Their main mosques remained closed to Muslim Kashmiris during Eid," Ganguly said. 

The South Asian director further said there are reports of worried families unable to contact loved ones and a lack of proper access to medical services.

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“Instead of continuing repressive restrictions, Indian authorities should ensure justice and accountability for human rights abuses, repeal abusive laws like the Public Safety Act or the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which gives government forces immunity from prosecution, end aggressive treatment of Kashmiris at checkpoints and during search operations and work towards the safe return of all the displaced, including Hindus displaced from the valley in 1990,” she added.

She further urged the authorities to release political detainees, lift the communications blackout, allow proper access to media and independent observers and order security officials to respect human rights .

“While international law does allow governments to temporarily suspend some rights in exceptional circumstances, this cannot be allowed to become the new ‘normal.’ Unless it wants to inflame tensions in Kashmir for another generation, the Indian government needs to step back, and fast,” she concluded.