UN experts express concern over India ending IIOJK’s special status, enacting new laws

India’s decision to end IIOJK’s autonomy could curtail the political participation of Muslims, says UN experts


Reuters/News Desk February 19, 2021
PHOTO: AA/FILE

Human rights experts of the United Nations have expressed serious concern over India's "decision to end Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy and enact new laws" that could curtail the earlier level of political participation of Muslims in the occupied valley.

“The loss of autonomy and the imposition of direct rule by the Government in New Delhi suggests the people of Jammu and Kashmir no longer have their own government and have lost power to legislate or amend laws in the region to ensure the protection of their rights as minorities,” said Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues and Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

The special rapporteur added that the region was "established with specific autonomy guarantees to respect the ethnic, linguistic and religious identities of its people. It was also the only state in India with a Muslim majority".

 

New Delhi, in August 2019, illegally and unilaterally revoked the constitutional special status of occupied Jammu and Kashmir. and in May 2020, passed a special domicile law allowing people from the mainland to settle in the disputed region as a means to try and change the demographics of the region.

"Subsequent changes to land laws are further eroding these protections," said the UN experts.

“The number of successful applicants for domicile certificates that appear to be from outside Jammu and Kashmir raises concerns that demographic change on a linguistic, religious and ethnic basis is already underway,” added the experts.

Urging the right-wing government of Narendra Modi to ensure that the economic, social and cultural rights of the people of occupied Kashmir are protected, the experts said the people of the region should be able to "express their political opinions and participate meaningfully in matters affecting them".

However, India has criticised UN rights experts for their concerns about constitutional changes made in the Muslim-majority territory of occupied Kashmir, where residents have been fighting for independence for three decades and said the officials lacked neutrality.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India and the changes made in its status were enacted by parliament.

Also read: Pakistan disapproves US tweet referring IIOJK not as ‘disputed region’

“This press release calls into question the larger principles of objectivity and neutrality that the SRs (Special Rapporteurs) are mandated by the Human Rights Council to adhere to,” he said in a statement late on Thursday night.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has maintained it revoked Kashmir’s special status in an effort to integrate the revolt-torn region in India and open it up for faster economic growth.

Srivastava said the experts had issued their statement just when India was hosting a group of ambassadors in Kashmir to show them the ground situation and did not wait for a response from the Indian government to their questionnaire.

“Instead, they chose to release their inaccurate assumptions to the media. The press release has also been deliberately timed to coincide with the visit of a group of ambassadors to Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

More than 50,000 people have died in an uprising against New Delhi’s rule in Kashmir that began in 1989, by government count. Others put the toll at well over 100,000.

 

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