Report flags HR violations in J&K, calls for release of prisoners, early elections

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 8/5/2023 12:19:54 AM

NEW DELHI, Aug 4: In their fourth annual report released on Thursday, the Forum for Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir (JFHRJK) has called the government claims on Kashmir hollow and averred that the civil liberties of the people of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state continue to be violated and that they are trapped in a growing spiral of violence.
Among the several recommendations to the government, the JFHRJK has demanded the release of all political detainees imprisoned on or after August 4, 2019 and called for withdrawal of charges against journalists and activists. It has also called for holding the assembly elections immediately while putting the current reservation bills on hold. It has also called for including Ladakh in the sixth schedule.
In 76 pages, the report lists the rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir that have been violated and gives a detailed overview of five specific areas – civilian security, elections, Ladakh, Industry and Employment as well as Land and Demography.
Based on its findings, it makes 12 recommendations for the government. These are:
1. Release all remaining political detainees who were taken into preventive detention on or after August 4, 2019. Strictly implement the rights to bail and speedy trial. Repeal the PSA and other preventive detention legislation or amend them to bring them in line with our constitutional ethos. Strictly implement juvenile protection legislation in letter and in spirit. Withdraw unsubstantiated charges under the PSA/UAPA against political leaders, journalists and activists. Release Irfan Mehraj, Fahad Shah, Aasif Sultan and Khurram Pervez, amongst others.
1.a Treat overcrowding of prisons, which is partially a by-product of indiscriminate arrests to suppress dissent, and contributes to custodial deaths, as a human rights issue in line with UN guidelines7, and supreme court instructions that it is a violation of fundamental rights.8
2. Hold the assembly election immediately, as sought by the political leaders and people of Jammu and Kashmir. Put the current reservation bills on hold until the supreme court rules on the constitutionality of the August 2019 Presidential orders, the reorganisation act and the measures taken under it.
3. Accept and implement the tribal welfare ministry’s recommendation that Ladakh be included in the sixth schedule. Restore the executive authority of the Kargil and Leh hill councils. Discuss statehood with concerned stakeholders, including in Jammu and Kashmir.
4. Initiate criminal and civil actions against personnel of police, armed forces and paramilitary forces found guilty of violation of human rights, especially with regard to attacks on journalists. Release action-taken reports on the July 2020 extra-judicial killing of three Rajouri youth in Shopian, the December 2020 Hokersar deaths and the alleged custodial death of Irfan Ahmed Dar of Sopore, and the status of subsequent prosecutions.
5. Ensure that the army’s additional directorate for human rights is given full freedom in the role it can play in investigating alleged human rights abuses and monitoring adherence to the humanitarian guidelines to be followed when conducting cordon and search operations (CASO), to prevent civilian deaths, injuries or any other damage or loss.
6. Adequately compensate innocent citizens whose houses have been destroyed in CASO, eviction or land reclamation drives. Ensure that nomadic tribes are extended the rights that they are entitled to under the Forest Rights Act of 2006.
7. Reconsider the establishment of village defence guards and the reinstatement of special police officers. In each case, these initiatives have been found to increase the vulnerability of employees as well as the public to acts of violence.
8. Ensure that local communities are involved in facilitating the return of Kashmiri Pandits. Without local support, returnees will not be safe, and their reintegration will prove extremely difficult.
9. Reinstate all the former state’s statutory oversight bodies, especially those monitoring human rights, such as the Jammu and Kashmir Human Rights Commission and the Jammu and Kashmir Women and Child Rights Commissions. In the interim, their national counterparts under whose purview these rights fall, such as the National Human Rights or Women’s Commissions, should set up branches in Jammu and Srinagar cities.
10. Rollback the new media policy, including police checks and/or raids on media outlets, bans on drones used by video-journalists and the bar on reporting from counter-insurgency sites. Review the empanelment policy to ensure media outlets are not punished for dissent.
11. Involve panches in a transparent land for the landless program to ensure genuine beneficiaries.
12. Explain the allocation of close to two lakh houses under the affordable housing scheme and adopt a transparent process for it.
The Forum’s co-chairs are former union home secretary, Gopal Pillai and former member of the Group of Interlocutors for Jammu and Kashmir, Radha Kumar. Other members of the group are Justice Ruma Pal, former judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice AP Shah, former Chief Justice of the Madras and Delhi High Courts, Justice Bilal Nazki, former Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court, Justice Hasnain Masoodi, former judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, Justice Anjana Prakash, former judge of the Patna High Court, Gopal Pillai, former Home Secretary, Government of India, Nirupama Rao, former Foreign Secretary, Government of India, Probir Sen, former Secretary-General, National Human Rights Commission, Amitabha Pande, former Secretary, Inter-State Council, Government of India, Moosa Raza, former Chief Secretary, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Shantha Sinha, former chairperson, National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, Major-General Ashok Mehta (retd), Air Vice-Marshal Kapil Kak (retd), Lieutenant-General H S Panag (retd), Colonel Yoginder Kandhari (retd), Enakshi Ganguly, Co-founder and former Co-director, HAQ Centre for Child Rights, Ramachandra Guha, writer and historian, and Anand Sahay, columnist.



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