Kashmir dispute: UN 'deeply concerned' over restrictions

August 8, 2019

The UN has said the latest restrictions imposed on Indian-administered Kashmir are deeply concerning and "will exacerbate the human rights situation".

 

A UN spokesperson highlighted a telecommunications ban, the arbitrary detention of leaders and a ban on political assembly.

 

The region has been on lockdown since Sunday with communication cut off.

 

It came as India made the controversial decision to remove its special constitutional status.

 

Article 370 - as the constitutional provision guaranteeing special status is known - gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir special dispensation to make its own laws on everything apart from matters of foreign affairs, defence and communications. 

 

This formed the basis of its complex relationship with India for some 70 years.

 

The Himalayan region is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, but each country controls only part of it.

 

 

By revoking it, Delhi has irrevocably changed its relationship with the region. The move came as a shock, and has been met with harsh criticism from some opposition lawmakers, constitutional experts and even ordinary citizens. But it has also been welcomed by many, including Supreme Court lawyers who have argued that it is not unconstitutional. 

 

What is happening in Kashmir? 

 

In the days leading up to the parliamentary announcement on Monday, India's federal government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had moved tens of thousands of troops into Kashmir. 

 

On Sunday evening, the internet, mobile phone networks and landlines in the region were cut off; and political leaders, including two former chief ministers, were put under house arrest. They are reportedly still detained.

The region remains under lockdown, with Kashmiris in other parts of the country saying that they are unable to get through to their families. 

 

The government has justified the lockdown, saying it was a precaution to prevent unrest or violence over its controversial move. 

 

But the BBC has spoken to people inside the region, and has seen some protests which have involved people throwing stones at security forces.

There has been an armed insurgency against Indian rule in the region since 1989, and security forces have repeatedly clashed with stone-throwing protesters, leading to thousands of deaths over the years. 

 

But many say the lockdown this time is unprecedented in its scale. 

 

What does the UN say?

 

In the video statement posted on Twitter, UN spokesperson Rupert Colville reiterated the organisation's previous concerns over the human rights situation in Kashmir saying a previous report had "documented how authorities have repeatedly blocked communications networks to muzzle dissent, used arbitrary detention to punish political dissidents and employed excessive force while dealing with protests leading to extra judicial killings and serious injuries".

 

But he said the new restrictions had taken the situation to "a new level".

 

The UN was now "seeing again blanket telecommunications restrictions, perhaps more blanket than we have seen before", he said. 

 

He warned the bans would prevent people from "participating fully in democratic debate about the future status of Jammu and Kashmir".

 

Why is Kashmir considered a disputed territory?

 

India and Pakistan have fought two wars and a limited conflict over the region. 

 

India's decision revoking Article 370 drew a swift reaction from Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan who said the move was in breach of international law. 

 

Pakistan has also announced plans to expel India's top diplomat and suspend trade relations with its neighbour, deepening the row between the countries over Kashmir.

 

India has responded saying they "regret" Pakistan's statement, adding that Article 370 was an internal matter.

 

 

© August 2019 BBC. All Rights Reserved. 

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