The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), a US based advocacy organisation, has said civil and political liberties, human rights, and religious freedom in Jammu and Kashmir had sharply declined since India stripped the region of its statehood and autonomy three years ago.
When on August 5, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu supremacist government revoked the Article 370 of the Indian constitution that gave the region its autonomous status, an already bad situation was made worse, the IAMC said in a statement.
“Extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, prolonged detention, torture, internet bans, severe restrictions on freedom of movement and peaceful assembly, and other forms of persecution of Kashmir’s eight million Muslims have escalated over the last three years. The fears of the global civil rights community have come true,” IAMC president Syed Ali said.
Making tall claims about ensuring security and reforms, the Modi government had three years ago also ended J&K’s statehood and bifurcated it into two separate federally governed territories. Since then, the government has tried to whitewash its terrible record of governance in Kashmir by painting a false and rosy picture, Ali said.
“Kashmiri citizens have suffered unprecedented persecution due to the increased militaristic response to suppress their democratic aspirations since August 2019,” Ali said. “Scores of political rights activists and even politicians such as former chief ministers were jailed or put under house arrest. Every voice of dissent is gagged.”
Ali also criticized India’s Supreme Court for failing to take up the many petitions before it that have challenged the rescinding of its autonomy.
“The Supreme Court itself had in 2018 ruled that Article 370 had acquired the status of being a permanent part of India’s Constitution and that it cannot be abrogated,” Ali said. “And yet, ever since Modi summarily revoked it just a year later, the Supreme Court has failed to take up challenges to that decision even though it violates the court’s clearcut ruling.”
Welcoming a statement from Human Rights Watch (HRW), a global watchdog, Ali also said the organization’s reports had “nailed the lies” of the Modi administration, which falsely claimed the situation in India’s only Muslim-majority province had improved.
“The HRW report has exposed how the Indian Army has engaged in extrajudicial killings of hundreds of innocent Kashmiri Muslims in the name of fighting terrorism,” Ali said.
The HRW report said Modi’s repressive policies and failure to investigate and prosecute alleged security force abuses had increased insecurity among Kashmiris. The report also called out India’s intensified crackdown on news outlets and civil society groups.
HRW’s South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly said Indian authorities “appear to be more concerned with projecting an image of normalcy than ensuring rights and accountability. The government needs to end the assault on fundamental freedoms and act to protect minority groups at risk.”
Ali demanded that the Indian government immediately free Kashmiri journalists and activists including Fahad Shah, Aasif Sultan, Sajad Gul, and globally recognized human rights defender Khurram Parvez, who was arrested in November on false charges of terrorism, as well as hundreds of others who have not even been charged with any crime.