India continuing steps to restore normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir: US report

Wednesday 07th April 2021 09:03 EDT

NEW YORK: "The Indian government continued taking steps to restore normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir by gradually lifting some security and communications restrictions," according to the State Department's annual human rights report. The report released in Washington by Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted the release of detained political activists, the restoration of some internet access and the holding of local elections where an opposition coalition won most seats.
The report also drew attention to the killing and torture of government officials and civilians by terrorists while also mentioning human rights abuses by security forces. The separatists, the report said, "committed serious abuses, including killings and torture of armed forces personnel, police, government officials, and civilians, and recruitment and use of child soldiers."

The 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which took a comprehensive look at the human rights situation across India, devoted a part of it to Kashmir. It was based on secondary and tertiary sources, including government reports and statements, news stories and reports by non-governmental organizations.

The State Department report quoted the United Nations special rapporteurs as saying that since August 2019, when Kashmir's special status was rescinded, "the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir has been in free fall" and that they were "particularly concerned that during the Covid-19 pandemic, many protesters are still in detention and internet restrictions remain in place."

But the report also said, "The government released most political activists from detention. In January, the government partially restored internet access; however, high-speed 4G mobile internet remained restricted in most parts of Jammu and Kashmir." The State Department said that according to the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, 662 individuals were arrested under the Public Safety Act in 2019, of whom 412 remained under detention as of August.

The report said that the government released most political activists from detention and that on Sept. 15, the Home Affairs Ministry said that only 223 Kashmiri political leaders who had been detained after August 2019, remained in detention "but added 'no person is under house arrest.'"

On the political front, it said: "Local district development council elections took place in December in which a coalition of Kashmiri opposition parties won the majority of seats." The report took note of the plight of Kashmiri Pandits and said that tens of thousands of them "fled the Kashmir Valley after 1990 because of conflict and violent intimidation, including destruction of houses of worship, sexual abuse, and theft of property by Kashmiri separatists."

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