India on Tuesday responded to the UN human rights chief’s criticism of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir by saying it had revived grassroots democracy and pushed economic development in the region despite Pakistan’s efforts to derail this process.
In her global human rights update on Monday, UN high commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet had said that both “incidents of military and police violence against civilians” and incidents related to militancy were continuing in Kashmir, while legal changes to the Constitution and domicile rules were “generating deep anxiety”.
Giving India’s response during the debate on Bachelet’s update on Tuesday, India’s permanent representative Indra Mani Pandey said since changes were made in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir in August last year, people in the region have been “enjoying the same fundamental rights as people in other parts of India”.
“We have been able to revive grass root democracy and provide a new momentum to social and economic development, despite the challenge posed by [the] Covid-19 pandemic and persistent attempts by one country to infiltrate terrorists to derail this process by all possible means,” Pandey said.
Though the envoy didn’t name the country, it was obvious he was referring to Pakistan, which India has blamed for supporting cross-border terrorism, especially in Jammu and Kashmir.
Pandey also said the government’s efforts aimed at socio-economic development and ensuring better governance in Kashmir over the past year have “yielded unprecedented results”.
He added, “By extending coverage of positive and affirmative federal legislations and repealing discriminatory or outdated local laws, the government has reaffirmed its commitment to delivering socio-economic justice to disadvantaged people in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, including women, children, minorities and refugees.”
Bachelet had also said in her update that the “space for political debate and public participation continues to be severely restricted” in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly since new media rules prohibited vaguely defined “anti-national” reporting.
She welcomed the release of some political and community leaders, but noted that “hundreds of people remain in arbitrary detention, with many habeas corpus petitions still pending – including those of many of Jammu and Kashmir’s political leaders”.
She also welcome initiatives to extend services to remote areas and the conditional restoration of full internet connectivity in two districts, and said these measures “should be applied promptly to the rest of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Bachelet noted that people in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have “limited internet access, creating difficulties in accessing education and other vital services”. She said she was also concerned about restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and association on the Pakistani side.
“My office is committed to continuing its engagement with both India and Pakistan, to uphold the rights of the Kashmiri people – which is the best way to prevent further tensions and conflict,” she said.
Bachelet had also criticised the situation in Kashmir in her global update in 2019, when she had also spoken out against the National Register of Citizens verification process in Assam, saying it had caused “great uncertainty and anxiety”.
Pandey also said in his intervention that India remains committed to upholding all human rights and is of the view that the human rights agenda and discourse “must be pursued in a transparent and impartial manner with respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs of states”.
India also exercised its right of reply to respond to statements by Pakistan, Turkey and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) during the debate on the UN high commissioner’s update.
It said it has become “habitual” for Pakistan to malign India with false and fabricated narratives for “self-serving malicious purposes”, and that India and other countries don’t deserve an “unsolicited lecture on human rights from a country that has consistently persecuted its ethnic and religious minorities, is an epicentre of terrorism, has the distinction of providing pensions to individuals on UN sanctions list and has a prime minister who proudly admits training tens of thousands of terrorists to fight in Jammu and Kashmir”.
“It’s not surprising that other relevant multilateral institutions have been raising serious concerns on its failure to stop terror financing and lack of effective actions against all terror entities in Pakistan,” the Indian representative said in the reply.
Pakistan’s “nefarious designs” also continue in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and its “zeal to reassert its theocratic ideology” has ensured that “ethnic and religious minorities have no future through systematic persecution, blasphemy laws, forced conversions, targeted killings, sectarian violence and faith-based discrimination”, The Indian representative said.
India also pointed out that “thousands of Sikh, Hindu and Christian minority women and girls have been subjected to abductions, forced marriages and conversions in Pakistan”.
India also noted that Pakistan has been “abusing” various UN human rights mechanisms and platforms to raise issues that are “extraneous to the mandate” of the Human Rights Council and relate to the internal affairs of India.
New Delhi also rejected the OIC’s reference to Jammu and Kashmir and said the organisation has no locus standi to comment on India’s internal affairs. The OIC has also allowed itself to be “misused by Pakistan”, India said in its reply. India also advised Turkey to “refrain from commenting on the internal affairs of India”.