J&K: Concerns Raised Ahead of G20 Meetings Hosted in Kashmir
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: PTI
Srinagar: The UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes, has raised concerns over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, where G20 nations will gather for a Tourism Working Group meeting from May 22-24.
Ahead of the major event being hosted by the Union territory, the UN’s independent expert said that human rights violations had risen dramatically in the region since 2019 when the government of India revoked the ‘special status’ by abrogating Articles 370 and 35 A.
On Monday, the Special Rapporteur issued a statement describing rights violations, including torture, extrajudicial killings, and denial of political participation rights of Kashmiri Muslims and minorities following the suspension of democratic rights and local elections with direct rule from New Delhi.
"By holding a G20 meeting of the working group on tourism on 22-24 May,” warned Fernand de Varennes, "the Government of India is seeking to normalise what some have described as a military occupation by instrumentalising a G20 meeting and portray an international 'seal of approval.” This is despite what Volker Türk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, told the UN Human Rights Council a few weeks ago was a worrying human rights situation in the Kashmir region."
In the statement, de Varennes argued that the G20 is “unwittingly” providing a veneer of support to a facade of normalcy at a time when massive human rights violations, illegal and arbitrary arrests, political persecutions, restrictions and even suppression of free media and human rights defenders continue to escalate.
"International human rights obligations and the UN Declaration of Human Rights should still be upheld by organisations such as the G20,” he added. "The situation in Jammu and Kashmir should be decried and condemned, not pushed under the rug and ignored with the holding of this meeting," the statement read.
India, however, slammed the expert’s statement terming them as “baseless” and “unwarranted” in its response shared by India’s mission at the UN on Twitter.
“We @IndiaUNGeneva strongly reject the statement issued by SR on minority issues @fernanddev & the baseless & unwarranted allegations in it. As G20 President, it’s India’s prerogative to host its meetings in any part of the country,” the government said.
“We are aghast that @fernanddev has acted irresponsibly to politicize this issue, misused his position as SR to publicize on social media his presumptive and prejudiced conclusions in a gross violation of the Code of Conduct for Srs,” it added.
‘Azaadi Sentiment is Stronger’
Meanwhile, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government drew sharp criticism from regional political leadership who claimed that the UT is being mishandled due to unjustifiable iron-fist policies against the people.
“GOI’s hard-line approach towards Kashmir coupled with the elimination of our political mainstream is creating fertile grounds for radicalisation where the azaadi sentiment is stronger than ever," former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti wrote on Twitter.
The president of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) also shared the party’s monthly newsletter ‘Speak Up’, which pointed out that the authorities are treating the G20 event as a “crisis” and using it as an opportunity to harass Kashmiris. The party also alleged that the security agencies have lost their grip in the Pir Panjal areas of Poonch and Rajouri.
Pertinently, amidst the G20 preparations, the law enforcement agencies like the SIA and NIA continued their crackdown against alleged militant networks in which scores of locations were raided and properties worth crores of rupees attached. The hosting of G20 in Kashmir was also opposed by Pakistan earlier in May, terming it an “irresponsible move”.
“Perhaps this would be a good time for them to re-evaluate their priorities. If there is one thing that they can learn from recent events, it is that the tables can turn at any given moment. What was once the hunter can just as easily become the hunted,” the party newsletter read.
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