India's premier human rights organization, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has asked the Government of India to allow the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) to visit Jammu & Kashmir immediately, taking strong objection to blocking attempts by the top UN body to “intervene and inquire” into allegations of human rights abuses by Indian security forces in Kashmir.
In a statement, PUCL's national president Prof Prabhakar Sinha and general secretary Dr V Suresh have simultaneously sought the release of Khurram Parvez, a human rights defender who is a member of Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a network organisation of civil liberties groups, traders, families of disappeared persons, and students.
Parvez was arrested under the preventive detention law, the Public Safety Act, Refusing to allow him to fly out of the country to represent before the UNHRC on September 14, Pervez was detained a day later in Srinagar by the police, on the allegation that he incited a mob to throw stones at the Tourist Reception Centre, Srinagar. Ever since, he has been isolated from his family and legal counsel.
“It is important to note that the Public Safety Act is a colonial law under which Bhagat Singh and others were detained during the freedom struggle”, the PUCL states, adding, “While being shunted from one detention centre to another, Parvez has been repeatedly denied access to essential medical facilities”, notes PUCL.
Refusal to allow the UNHRC team, says PUCL, has led to “a medico-legal crisis, where Kashmiris suffering from pellet-gun injuries do not have access to critical health services and equipment for their treatment, because of the de facto blockade set up by the Indian state in Kashmir.”
India disallowed the request by the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, for conducting an enquiry by independent observers in Kashmir, stating that it is an internal matter. The Government of India took this stance despite the fact that, according to PUCL, “India is a signatory to various UN conventions on human rights.”
“Despite being a signatory to 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, there have been no measures taken by the Indian state to facilitate the work of human rights defenders, or to prevent their harassment, and the Indian State has in fact been complicit in the targeting of human rights defenders”, adds PUCL.
Insists PUCL, “We note with serious concern that India’s policy in Kashmir has been marked by a culture of impunity, preventing scrutiny by national judicial mechanisms as well as independent international bodies into the actions of various security agencies of the state and central governments.”
Calling it “part of a larger design by the Indian state to crush dissent, stifle democratic debate, and silence demands for accountability, thereby suppressing Kashmiri voices articulating their political aspirations and their experiences of human rights violations”, PUCL says, all this has followed alongside “ongoing attack on civilians by Indian security forces in Kashmir.”
Recalling the killings of more than 80 young people, causing injuries to nearly 9000 people and the loss of vision of more than 500 people, PUCL says, the current situation has “caused a deep humanitarian crisis of the Kashmiri people.”