UN raises concerns over human rights situation in locked down Kashmir

Published 09.08.2019 00:16

The U.N. Human Rights office voiced concerns over an information blackout in Jammu and Kashmir as tensions soared over New Delhi's decision to tighten its grip on the disputed region. "We are deeply concerned that the latest restrictions in Indian-administered Kashmir will exacerbate the human rights situation in the region. The fact that hardly any information at all is currently coming out is of great concern in itself," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"We are seeing again blanket telecommunications restrictions, perhaps more blanket than we have seen before; the reported arbitrary detention of political leaders and restrictions on peaceful assembly," Colville said. Internet, social media, mobile and landline telephone services have been cut off in the region since last Sunday. "These restrictions will prevent the people of Indian-administered Kashmir and their elected representatives from participating fully in democratic debate about the future status of Jammu and Kashmir," the spokesman added.

On Monday, Delhi stripped the Indian-held portion of Kashmir of its special autonomy, bringing it under its direct rule and deepening animosity with Pakistan, igniting days of debate over how the country should respond. Pakistan will not resort to military action in the dispute with nuclear archrival India over Kashmir, its foreign minister said yesterday. The statement from Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi eased fears of an all-out clash between the South Asian neighbors, who have already fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region, but none since they both gained nuclear weapons. "Pakistan is not looking at the military option. We are rather looking at political, diplomatic and legal options to deal with the prevailing situation," said Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi during a press conference in Islamabad.

Tensions remained high, however, with Qureshi's comments coming on the heels of a decision by Islamabad to downgrade its diplomatic ties with India, suspend bilateral trade and expel the country's envoy. Pakistan also said yesterday it would ban the screening of Indian films in the country's cinemas. "No Indian cinema will be screened in any Pakistani cinema. Drama, films and Indian content of this kind will be completely banned in Pakistan," Firdous Ashiq Awan, an adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, said in a tweet.

The diplomatic clash between India and Pakistan came as a petition was filed with the Supreme Court by an activist challenging the curfew in Kashmir, which was imposed to suppress any unrest in response to the loss of autonomy. University professors, business leaders and activists are among the 560 people rounded up by authorities and taken to makeshift detention centers, some during midnight raids, in the cities of Srinagar, Baramulla and Gurez, the Press Trust of India and the Indian Express reported.

The dispute over Kashmir is one of the oldest on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council, along with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The region, which is split between the two countries but claimed by each in its entirety, has been the cause of two wars between the neighbors since they were partitioned in 1947. The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought two of their three wars over the territory and engaged in an aerial clash in February after a militant group based in Pakistan claimed responsibility for an attack on an Indian military convoy.

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