Srinagar: The union territory of Jammu and Kashmir has lost nearly Rs 40,000 crore (USD 5.3 billion) since the government abrogated Article 370 last year in August and imposed a severe clampdown in the region which was followed by another lockdown imposed in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the latest report says.
The losses have been reported in the latest report titled Jammu and Kashmir: The Impact of Lockdowns on Human Rights compiled by civil rights group The Forum of Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir released on Wednesday.
The report points out that the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir which was downsized into two union territories was one of the better performing states of India, economically as well as on the human development indices.
“The August 2019 lockdown plunged the state into a sharp downward spiral. By the end of December 2019, the economy of the valley was in dire straits,” the report said.
Quoting the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), the report said that the industries after August suffered a loss of Rs 17,878.18 crore (roughly USD 2.4 billion), while job losses in the valley were just under half a million (497,000) in the first four months after the restrictions were imposed.
The report by the group which comprises of people that refer to themselves as “concerned citizens” concluded that “the eleven months of lockdown—comprising closures, barricades, checkpoints and restrictions on mobile telephony and internet connectivity—have enormously impacted public health, and caused trauma and stress amongst the people of Jammu and Kashmir, violating the rights to health and medical care under the Indian, and Jammu and Kashmir constitutions.”
Former judge of the Supreme Court of India Justice Madan B. Lokur and former interlocutor to J&K Radha Kumar are co-chairs of the rights group. Other members of the group include Justice Ruma Pal, former judge of the Supreme Court of India Nirupama Rao, former Government of India Foreign Secretary Shantha Sinha, former chairperson of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights and Lieutenant-General H S Panag (retd.) among other prominent writers, lawyers, rights activists, defence personnel and bureaucrats.
Taking a strong note of rights abuses in the region, the report states that the government’s prioritisation of counter-insurgency operations over human rights security has led to gross human rights violations in Kashmir. The government, it adds, has choked opposition by employing laws, the report terms as “draconian.”
“The Government’s prioritization of counter-insurgency concerns over human security has led to an across the board violation of human rights, including the vitiation of protections such as habeas corpus, prevention of illegal detention, strict restrictions on arrest and detention of children, right to bail and fair and speedy trial, and misuse of draconian legislation, such as the Public Safety Act (PSA) and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), to stifle dissent,” it said.
In the list of recommendations, the forum has also suggested initiating inquiries followed by criminal and civil actions against personnel of police, armed forces and paramilitary forces found guilty of violating of child rights.
“Sadly, the Supreme Court in its oral remarks on December 9, 2019, while hearing a petition relating to the alleged illegal detention of children in Kashmir, said that petitioners should not be overly alarmed if children are detained for a few hours or for just a day, because in certain situations it is for their own good.69 However, in law, illegal detentions still remain illegal, whatever the quantum of time,” the forum said.
Stating that the impact of successive lockdowns has severely affected education in the region, the report says that the government has caused “wilful harm” to the careers of students, violating the right to education.
“After the pandemic lockdown, limiting networks to 2G has made it impossible for online classes to function adequately,” the report points out.
In the wake of massive losses incurred by the people of the region, the report further states that the new domicile rules introduced by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Jammu and Kashmir administration “erode prior employment protections for permanent residents of the former state.”
The report in a list of 13 recommendations says that the government should follow jurisprudence on the rights to bail and speedy trial and release all remaining political detainees that were taken into preventive detention ahead or after Article 370 was abrogated.
Stating that the media has been one of the worst sufferers while journalists have been harassed with draconian laws slapped on them like the UAPA, the forum has recommended to roll back the newly formed media policy, which it termed as a “death blow to an independent media and the freedom of expression.”
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