Geneva: The UN human rights chief on Thursday voiced “great concern” over India’s amended citizenship law and reports of “police inaction” in the face of communal attacks in Delhi, urging political leaders to prevent violence.
Updating the ongoing 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on human rights developments around the world, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also spoke about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
She said the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) adopted last year by India’s Parliament was 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,” she said.
“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. I appeal to all political leaders to prevent violence,” said the former Chilean president.
The communal violence over the amended citizenship law in northeast Delhi has claimed 34 lives so far and left over 200 people injured. Frenzied mobs have torched houses, shops, vehicles, a petrol pump and pelted stones at police personnel.
Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Thursday that law enforcement agencies were working on the ground to prevent violence and ensure restoration of confidence and normalcy.
“Senior representatives of the government have been involved in that process. The prime minister has publicly appealed for peace and brotherhood. We would urge that irresponsible comments are not made at this sensitive time,” Kumar said.
In her statement on Jammu and Kashmir, Bachelet said some political leaders had been released and ordinary life may be returning to normal in some respects in the region.
She, however, said as many as 800 people were reportedly 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,” she said.
“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,” she said in her statement.
India abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 on August 5 and bifurcated it into two Union territories.
India has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 is its “internal matter”.
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.
He said the political processes in Jammu and Kashmir have resumed, telecom facilities have been largely restored, developmental activities are being undertaken at a rapid pace and there is access for all to education and healthcare.