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Lift restrictions, end repression in Kasumir: Top US committee, rights body

By Our Representative
Pressure from the United States to lift restrictions in Kashmir has shown an upward trend, with the US House Foreign Relations Committee censuring the Narendra Modi government ahead of slated hearing on Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) in Washington DC on October 22, and a top US-based human rights organization seeking end to "repressive" measures.
The US House Foreign Relations Committee, in a statement, said, “India’s communication blackout in Kashmir is having a devastating impact on the lives and welfare of everyday Kashmiris. It’s time for India to lift these restrictions and afford Kashmiris the same rights and privileges as any other Indian citizen.”
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a communique from Washington, even as condemning revocation of "constitutional autonomy" to J&K and splitting the state into two centrally administered territories, said, abusive restrictions, including a lockdown on internet and mobile phone services, continue to remain intact.
HRW's Meenakshi Ganguly said, "Numerous foreign leaders have expressed concern over the government’s continued detention of Kashmiri leaders and anyone deemed likely to protest, alleged use of torture, restrictions on movement enforced by a massive military presence, and problems in accessing public services, including emergency medical care."
Asserting that "Indian activists filed a complaint with the Supreme Court to ensure protection of children after the media reported that many had been detained, beaten, or denied safe access to schools", Ganguly said, even police has provided "a list of 144 children, one as young as 9, who had been taken into custody", though police claims, most have been released after warnings against participating in violent protests.
"Indian authorities have relied on pro-government media and social media supporters to defend the crackdown and denounce rights activists. Any criticism of the government can draw swift rebuke, including sedition allegations, which can stifle peaceful dissent. The government also often equates support for Kashmiri rights with support for Pakistan, with whom India disputes ownership over the former kingdom", Ganguly said.
Asking the Government of India to ensure that rights are protected after lifting some restrictions in J&K, Ganguly said, "But fear of arbitrary arrests and shootings by security forces has left the Kashmir valley full of shuttered shops and empty classrooms."
Noting that the authorities have "blocked visits by diplomats, international journalists, Indian activists, and opposition politicians" from visiting Kashmir, HRW demanded end to repressive actions and hold to account security force personnel responsible for abuses. "Months of a broad-based clampdown on civil liberties can’t be justified by vague claims of maintaining order", it added.

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