An open letter jointly signed by prominent human rights organizations calls for G20 countries to address the pressing issue of human rights violations in Kashmir.
The letter, signed by Amnesty International, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and development, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Front Line Defenders, and the Kashmir Law and Justice Project, underscores the urgency of putting an end to these violations and securing the release of incarcerated human rights defenders and political prisoners in the lead-up to the G-20 summit in New Delhi, India. The letter sheds light on the ongoing repression in Kashmir since India’s revocation of Article 370 A and Article 35 A in 2019, emphasizing the need for international intervention to ensure compliance with international legal obligations and safeguard the rights and freedom of the people in the region.
“Since 2019 when India revoked Article 370A and Article 35A, stripping Jammu and Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status the government has continued its repressive policies including restricting freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association and failed to investigate and prosecute alleged violations committed by its military, paramilitary, police and other forces”.
Since 1947, both India and Pakistan have asserted their rights to the contested territory, with each nation administering portions of it. In November 2021, prominent human rights defender Khurram Parvez was detained by India’s National Investigation Agency. Parvez, the director of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for “funding terrorism under the garb of protection of human rights”. In March 2023, the National Investigation Agency summoned noted Kashmiri journalist Irfan Mehra, who had worked with JKCCS, and arrested him for his association with the non-profit organization. The BJP uses extreme law and policy to further forms of coloniality in Kashmir to establish a Hindu nationalist state.” Impunity and authoritarian laws are used to repress civilians, disallow bail, silence civil society dissent and social movements, punish expressions of grief, rage and mourning, and harm human rights work and media reportage.
The letter urges the Indian government to immediately and unconditionally release Parvez, and Mehraj, as well as to drop all charges against them and end “the ongoing persecution and targeting of Kashmiri human rights defenders, journalists, dissenters, and political prisoners”. They also called on them to allow civil society to freely operate in IAK and cease their “longstanding obstruction of international civil society and inter-governmental organizations.” The arrest and detention of persons for exercising their human rights are arbitrary. There must be accountability and remedy where such abusive actions are taken.” Time and time again, the Indian government has been called upon to address the fundamental issues with the country’s anti-terrorism framework and its misuse to smear and silence human rights defenders.
In conclusion, the joint appeal made by these reputable human rights organizations serves a crucial reminder of the persistent human rights concerns in Kashmir. As the G20 summit in New Delhi approaches, it is imperative for member countries and international organizations to take principled stance against human rights violations, political imprisonments, and the stifling of civil society in the region. The world’s attention is now on G20 member countries to fulfil their obligations under International Law, advocate for change and ensure that the people of Jashmir are not denied their basic human rights any longer. The voices in this letter resonate with a global call for justice, accountability, and the protection of human dignity in one of the world’s most contested territories.