UN Rights Chief Highlights Concern Over CAA, Anti-Muslim Violence, Police Force

'I am concerned by reports of police inaction in the face of attacks against Muslims by other groups.'

New Delhi: In its update to the Human Rights Council on rights concerns and its progress across the world, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights highlighted both Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act. The latter and the violence into which the capital city has descended as a result of it was described as a cause for “great concern.”

In her address to the Human Rights Council, in its 43rd Session, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet spoke on the prevailing situations in countries across the world. Her mention of India began with the detention of political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir.
The UN has taken cognisance of the Indian government’s excesses in the region a few times before and since the reading down of Article 370, on October 29, the spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville acknowledged that an “undeclared curfew” had been lifted from much of Jammu and Ladakh regions within a few days.

Bachelet had expressed concerns about restrictions imposed on Kashmir in her inaugural speech at the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva as well, in September 2019.

After Article 370 of the constitution was read down in August, five UN-appointed independent human rights experts had described the communication clampdown and security restrictions as a “collective punishment” for the population.

Earlier, the UN Human Rights office had published two reports on alleged human rights violations by Indian security forces in June 2018 and July 2019, which were dismissed by the Centre.

This time, the OHCHR’s focus remained on the treatment of political leaders, activists, the closure of schools, the partial restoration of mobile and internet services, the restrictions on social media and the often excessive use of forces.

Bachelet said:

“In Jammu and Kashmir, while some political leaders have been released, and ordinary life may be returning to normal in some respects, as many as 800 people reportedly remain in detention, including political leaders and activists.

“Schools, businesses and livelihoods have been disrupted by the continued heavy military presence, and no steps have been taken to address allegations of excessive use of force and other serious human rights violations by security forces.

“The Indian government has partially restored mobile and internet services, after an important decision by the Indian Supreme Court, but authorities continue to impose excessive restrictions on the use of social media.

Defending India’s actions in Jammu and Kashmir, Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West), the Ministry of External Affairs, on Wednesday told the UNHRC in Geneva that “most temporary restrictions – imposed solely to ensure safety of the people from Pakistani trained terrorist attacks – have already been removed.

On the CAA, Bachelet said the following:

“In India more broadly, the Citizenship Amendment Act adopted last December is of great concern.

“Indians in huge numbers, and from all communities, have expressed – in a mostly peaceful manner – their opposition to the Act, and support for the country’s long tradition of secularism.

“I am concerned by reports of police inaction in the face of attacks against Muslims by other groups, as well as previous reports of excessive use of force by police against peaceful protesters.

“This has now widened into broader inter-communal attacks, with 34 people killed since Sunday 23 February. I appeal to all political leaders to prevent violence.