- International bodies call for releasing detained Kashmiris
Six international human rights organisations have issued a statement calling on the Indian government to release detained Kashmiris who were arrested after the August 5 lockdown of Indian-Occupied Kashmir and to protect their basic human right to health, liberty, freedom of movement and protection from torture. These Kashmiris are in danger of catching Covid-19 while in Indian jails, where there is already a programme of releases going on to reduce the overcrowding in Indian jails, which was at 117 percent of capacity. The organisations, which include Amnesty International India, FORUM-ASIA, CIVICUS, ICJ, FIDH and OMCT, have also called on the Indian government to end the lockdown in IOK, because that lockdown threatens the spread of Covid-19. The Internet shutdown prevents the transmission of reliable information in an area equally affected with the rest of the world, and thus makes it vulnerable to rumour, not to mention the potentially fatal breakdown between healthcare professionals, who need timely information to do their job. One of the primary requirements of a successful anti-Covid-19 programme, extensive testing, has been rendered impossible by this absence of information and connectivity.
The human rights organisations pointed out that the lockdown had led to large numbers of Kashmiris being detained under preventive-detention laws. Releasing them would not mean prematurely ending punishment for a crime, but would prevent them from catching Covid-19 in any of India’s overcrowded and insalubrious jails. It must be clarified that many of these detenus have been transferred to jails outside IOK, and thus are deprived of contact with lawyers or relatives. The latter, in particular, do not know what is happening with their imprisoned loved ones.
As pointed out by the Pakistani representative at the SAARC videoconference on Covid-19, the IOK lockdown is no longer just a human rights issue, but has become a public health problem. The refusal of the Indian government to give the Kashmiri people their right of self-determination is not just violating the rights of 14 million Kashmiris, but the survival of a billion Indians. The Indian government has moved to endangering the lives of its own people in order to maintain its illegal occupation of Kashmir.