NEW DELHI: In a development that would not go down well with the Indian government, in a week before Prime Minister Modi’s visit to United States, India has been criticized in the ongoing 48th session of UN Human Rights Council in Geneva by the Chief of UN body for the use of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) across the country as well as for restrictions on public gathering and communication blackouts in Jammu and Kashmir.
In a special reference to Jammu and Kashmir, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet has remarked that J&K accounts for the highest number of cases under UAPA across the country.
Bachelet also showed her concerns on the detention of several journalists “for exercising their right to freedom of expression”. On acknowledging it as a worrying state of affairs, Bachelet has remarked thus: “Indian authorities’ restrictions on public assembly, and frequent temporary communication blackouts, continue in Jammu and Kashmir, while hundreds of people remain in detention for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and journalists face ever-growing pressure.”
However, the detailed statement issued also acknowledges Government’s resolve and efforts to counter terrorism and promote development in Jammu and Kashmir, but it was also accompanied by cautioning remarks that says such restrictive measures can result in human rights violations and foster further tensions and discontent.
Read detailed statement issued by UNHCR here : https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=27443&LangID=E
She also made her observations on the displacement of people and communities due to environmental disasters and said it has become a serious phenomenon particularly in Asia. “…the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre has reported that in 2019, China,Bangladesh,India and the Philippines witnessed more disaster displacement than all other countries combined – amounting to 70 percent of the global total”, the statement further adds.
In response to the observations made by UN Human Rights Chief , a statement issued by MEA said: “We take note of references to India in the oral update by the High Commissioner and express our disappointment over her unwarranted remarks on the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which do not reflect the ground reality”.
The official response from India is in line with it’s stand on J&K and the country in general that doesn’t allow interference of any third party in the internal affairs of the country . The statement issued by MEA thus further added: “Any shortcomings in upholding human rights must be addressed in a transparent and impartial manner, anchored in respect for national sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs of States“.
India in a rebuttal said human rights in the country is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution and country’s independent judiciary and free media enjoys full human rights. Regarding it’s role in international human rights issues India said, it has been at the forefront of global action and discourse on promotion of human rights and will continue to pursue it in future. India is also seeking a re-election to the Human Rights Council for term 2022-24 for which it has asked continued support from the member countries.
It is however worth noting that recently, a former judge of Supreme Court Justice Deepak Gupta also criticised UAPA saying such a law has no place in Indian statute book in the present form. Also, referring to the statistics from National Crime Records Bureau,conviction rate in UAPA cases was less than 2% during 2015-19.