UN Experts Say Kashmir’s Autonomy Loss Undermines Rights of Muslim Minorities

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Security forces patrol the streets of Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir. — File photo

The Ministry of External Affairs react sharply terming the statement ‘deplorable’

Team Clarion 

NEW DELHI — United Nation human Rights Commissioner have expressed concern over Indian government’s unilateral decision of removing Jammu and Kashmir’s semi autonomous status in August 2019 saying that the move threatened the rights of its Muslim citizens.

The loss of autonomy and enactment of subsequent laws “could curtail the previous level of political participation of Muslim and other minorities in the country, as well as potentially discriminate against them in important matters including employment and land ownership,” the office of the High Commissioner on human rights at the UN said in a statement issued on Thursday.

On 5 August 2019, the Government unilaterally and without consultation revoked the constitutional special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the statement said. The statement by the UN body came months after New Delhi  introduced domicile rules and new laws which allow non-Kashmiris to buy land in Jammu and Kashmir.

“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”, Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, and Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, were quoted in the statement as saying.

The experts also raised concerns of demographic changes due to the increasing number of successful applicants for domicile certificates that appear to be from outside Jammu and Kashmir.

According to the statement, the new legislation overrides previous laws which granted the Kashmiri Muslim, Dogri, Gojri, Pahari, Sikh, Ladhaki and other established minorities rights to buy property, own land, and access certain state jobs.

“These legislative changes may have the potential to pave the way for people from outside the former state of Jammu and Kashmir to settle in the region, alter the demographics of the region and undermine the minorities’ ability to exercise effectively their human rights,” the experts said.

In the statement, the experts appealed to the Government of India to ensure that the economic, social and cultural rights of the people of J-K are secured, that their political views are expressed and that they engage in matters affecting them in a meaningful manner.

The Ministry of External Affairs reacted sharply terming the raising of issues in Kashmir and those of minorities by the UN body as “deplorable”.

“It is deplorable that the SRs after sharing their questionnaire on February 10 did not even wait for our response. Instead, they chose to release their inaccurate assumptions to the media,” The spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Anurag Srivastava, was quoted in The Hindu as saying. He said that the press release of the UN body was “deliberately timed” to coincide with the visit of diplomats to Jammu and Kashmir.

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