Five human rights experts from the United Nations have urged the Indian government to end the “crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” imposed in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of the state’s special status.
The statement highlights the impact on healthcare aspects such as immunisation, preventing an outbreak of diseases, maternity ward services, transportation facilities among others, amid the clampdown in the valley.
“We request that Indian professional bodies of Medicine, Surgery, Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Pediatrics, Critical Care, Chest medicine, HIV, Tuberculosis, Psychiatry, etc coordinate with the government to put together teams of doctors to understand and address current issues in Jammu and Kashmir to ensure that there are no gaps in service provision,” the signatories said.
The statement came a day after Pakistan claimed that it plans to raise the Kashmir matter at the UN Rights Council.
Use of pellet guns by security personnel was also highlighted by the doctors. The statement said, “use of pellet guns by the army against civilians has to be completely stopped”.
Independent @UN experts urge #India to end communications shutdown in #Kashmir.
“The shutdown of the internet & telecommunication networks, without the Government justification, are inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity & proportionality."https://t.co/BBx9zmBGQG pic.twitter.com/zq9yIZfOoH
— UN Geneva (@UNGeneva) August 22, 2019
Referring to the situation in Kashmir as “collective punishment” for the entire population of Jammu and Kashmir, the experts suggest that the prohibitive measures imposed earlier this month upheld the constitutionally-mandated status of Jammu and Kashmir and exacerbated tensions in the region.
The report was prepared by five UN experts, namely, David Kaye, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Bernard Duhaime, Chair-Rapporteur, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association; Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
“The rights of citizens of Jammu and Kashmir to healthcare and the right to life is currently being compromised. The professional health bodies of India should affirm basic rights of the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, to communication and access to all levels of primary, secondary or tertiary healthcare, both private and government,” the statement read.
Communication across Jammu and Kashmir was restricted on August 4, citing security threats from across the border. Communication was blocked ahead of scrapping Article 370 and the bifurcation of the states into Union Territories.
The experts said that the shutdown of all communication networks “without justification from the government, are inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality”.
However, the BJP-led central government has maintained that these restrictions are necessary to maintain peace and avoid casualties in the valley.
“The Indian government should commit itself to the responsibility of healthcare and public health for the lakhs of citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. Right to the healthcare of the citizens should be prioritized by professional bodies and health system over and above everything else, in keeping with the principles of medical ethics,” the statement read.
The experts also expressed their concern regarding the restrictions on the movement of people in the valley. “We remind the Indian authorities that the restrictions imposed by the Indian government are intrinsically disproportionate because they preclude considerations of the specific circumstances of each proposed assembly,” they said.
India’s representative to UN, Syed Akbaruddin, stated that Kashmir is an internal matter for India and “international busybodies” should not tell the government how to run Kashmir.