LAHORE - Human Rights Watch (HRW) South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly, in a statement posted on HRW website, has asked India to immediately release political detainees in its administered Kashmir, lift the communications blackout, allow people of the state proper access to media and independent observers, and order security officials to respect human rights.

Meenakshi said, “It is now one week since the Indian parliament voted to revoke the special autonomous status provided to {Occupied} Jammu and Kashmir under India’s constitution, and to split the province into two separate federally governed territories. Kashmiris remain mostly under lockdown, their leaders under arrest. Phones, even land lines, are still severed. The internet is shut down. Their main mosques remained closed to Muslim Kashmiris during Eid.”

She said there were reports of worried families unable to contact loved ones, and a lack of proper access to medical services. “Some journalists have described mass protests which security forces quashed with tear gas and shotgun pellets, something the government denies. There are unconfirmed reports of numerous ongoing arrests, including of activists,” she said, and added, “When Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation last week, he had conceded that Kashmiris are suffering due to restrictions on communications and movement, accepted that there were many who disagreed with the constitutional changes his government had enacted.”

Asks Delhi to release detainees, end communications blackout

She was of the view that 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 ill-treatment of Kashmiris at checkpoints and during search operations, and work towards the safe return of all the displaced people, including Hindus.

“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,” Meenakshi said.