The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Indian government’s actions over the past year have caused enormous suffering and rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.
In the 30th edition of World Report 2020, a 652-page document that reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries, the rights watchdog slammed Delhi for its unilateral revocation of Kashmir’s special constitutional status, while also hitting out the increasing marginalization of minorities and the use of draconian laws to silence criticism. “The Indian government has tried to shut down Kashmir, hiding the full extent of the harm caused there,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of addressing growing attacks on minorities, Indian authorities bolstered their efforts to silence critical voices in 2019,” she added.
Listing Delhi’s atrocities in Kashmir over the past year, Human Rights Watch noted that the government had deployed hundreds of thousands of troops to the disputed territory; shut down the internet and phones; and arbitrarily detained thousands of Kashmiris, including children. “Hundreds remain in detention without charge or under house arrest to prevent protests,” it added.
Delhi’s actions in Kashmir have “led to loss of livelihood and access to education,” it said, noting that the ongoing repression had drawn criticism from a majority of the global community. “Throughout the year, U.N. experts have raised concerns over a series of issues in India, including extrajudicial killings, potential statelessness of millions in Assam, possible eviction of tribal communities and forest-dwellers, and the communications blackout in Kashmir,” it added.
In addition to the ongoing clampdown of Kashmir under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said the rights watchdog, the government had failed to prevent mob violence perpetrated by BJP supporters against vulnerable communities. “Since May 2015, extremist Hindu groups have killed 50 people and injured over 250 amid rumors that they traded or killed cows for beef. Muslims were also beaten and forced to chant Hindu slogans,” it said, adding that police often failed to properly pursue these crimes.
According to Human Rights Watch, India’s recent moves to implement a citizenship verification nationwide, including fast-tracking citizenship for non-Muslims who migrated from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh before 2015 were highly exclusionary. There are serious allegations, it added, that Delhi’s National Register of Citizens, published in Assam, conducted verifications in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner that risked leaving millions virtually stateless.
“Nearly two million people from tribal communities and forest-dwellers remained at risk of forced displacement and loss of livelihoods after a Supreme Court ruling in February 2019 to evict all those whose claims under the Forest Rights Act were rejected,” it added.