People of Kashmir must be "consulted and engaged in any decision-making processes," Michelle Bachelet tells the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, as Indian military lockdown and communications blackout completes 36 days in the disputed region.
The UN rights chief on Monday voiced alarm over the situation in India-administered Kashmir following New Delhi's revocation of the historical semi-autonomous status of the Muslim-majority region and military siege of the region.
"I am deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions by the government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris," Michelle Bachelet said in her opening statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
She pointed among other things to "restrictions on internet communications and peaceful assembly, and the detention of local political leaders and activists."
India imposed a military clampdown on Kashmir from August 5 to prevent unrest as New Delhi revoked the disputed region's autonomy, with mobile phone networks and the internet still cut off in all but a few pockets.
Kashmir’s unprecedented information blockade—suspension of internet, dysfunctional mobile phones and restrictions on movement—completes 36 days. Since the intervening night of 4 and 5 August, Kashmir is cut off from the world. Kids not been to schools. A new normal. The Dark Age.— Gowhar Geelani (@GowharGeelani) September 9, 2019
Kashmir must be 'consulted and engaged'
Kashmir, split between India and Pakistan since 1947, has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between the two nuclear-armed arch-rivals.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir's mostly Muslim population and most people support the rebels' cause against Indian rule. Nearly 100,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown since 1989.
The Indian military, some 500,000 personnel, has been accused of suppressing the Kashmiri uprising using brutal tactics, including the infamous pellet guns which have wounded or blinded many Kashmiris.
On Monday, Bachelet she said she had "appealed particularly to India to ease the current lockdowns or curfews, to ensure people's access to basic services, and that all due process rights are respected for those who have been detained."
"It is important that the people of Kashmir are consulted and engaged in any decision-making processes that have an impact on their future," she said.
Her comments came as Indian authorities tightened the lockdown in the region on Sunday after breaking up religious processions by Shia Muslims who defied a ban.
I’m in Delhi for two days and without any doubt yesterday was the worst curfew ever in Srinagar. A CRPF official told us at a barricade, “This is not old #Kashmir anymore... you never know when will you land in Tihar now.”— Fahad Shah فهد شاه (@pzfahad) September 9, 2019
Day 34: I have come back from Srinagar and I think yesterday was probably the hardest day for journalists in #Kashmir since the lockdown. A CRPF personnel told me “keep this press card in your a** and turn around.”— Ahmer Khan (@ahmermkhan) September 9, 2019
'Prevent deportation or detention'
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is scheduled to address the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, with a speech expected to focus heavily on the situation in Kashmir.
Bachelet also voiced concern Monday over India's controversial citizenship register in Assam state, which critics fear is a cover for the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to expel Muslims.
Pointing out that some 1.9 million people had been excluded from the final list, published on August 31, Bachelet lamented that the register has "caused great uncertainty and anxiety".
"I appeal to the government to ensure due process during the appeals process, prevent deportation or detention, and ensure people are protected from statelessness," she said.
Opening statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights— Suhasini Haidar (@suhasinih) September 9, 2019
Michelle Bachelet mentions both Kashmir restrictions and Assam NRC. Spl MEA team in Geneva for session pic.twitter.com/vt8QmfXpsu