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Kashmir has grassroots democracy: India

India on Tuesday made an indirect reference to Pakistan’s involvement in fomenting terrorism in Kashmir and said despite such challenges, grassroots-level democracy has flourished in the volatile region.

Speaking at the 45th regular session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Permanent Representative of india Indra Mani Pandey expressed regret after High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in her “Global Human Rights Update” referred to the law and order in Kashmir where a partial lockdown remains in place more than a year since India ended the special status under Article 370 of the region.

Mr. Pandey said India remained committed to upholding “all human rights”.

“We regret that the High Commissioner in her oral update made a reference to the situation in Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. In this context, I would like to underline that, since the changes made in August 2019, people in Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir have been enjoying the same fundamental rights as people in other parts of India,” Mr. Pandey said.

He argued that the decision to end the special status of the region under Article 370 had brought grassroots democracy to the citizens and safeguarded human rights.

“We have been able to revive grassroots democracy and provide a new momentum to social and economic development, despite the challenge posed by COVID-19 pandemic and persistent attempts by one country to infiltrate terrorists to derail this process,” said Mr. Pandey without naming Pakistan.

Police violence

Earlier on Monday, Ms. Bachelet referred to the continued tension in Kashmir.

She said “incidents of military and police violence against civilians continue, including use of pellet guns, as well as incidents related to militancy”.

Ms. Bachelet was one of the earliest to point out the difficulties created by the communication lockdown that was imposed just before Kashmir’s special status was ended on August 5, 2019.

Crucial session

The human rights session is crucial as it indicates the agenda before the U.N. General Assembly which will convene later this month.

The High Commissioner welcomed some of the initiatives of the government of India at the political front but insisted for greater political liberty in the volatile region.

“While I welcome the release of some political and community leaders, hundreds of people remain in arbitrary detention, with many habeas corpus petitions still pending — including those of many of Jammu and Kashmir’s political leaders,” said Ms. Bachelet.

She also referred to the hostilities between India and Pakistan and urged for peace between the two South Asian neighbours in the context of the tension over Jammu and Kashmir and said, “My office is committed to continuing its engagement with both India and Pakistan, to uphold the rights of the Kashmiri people — which is the best way to prevent further tensions and conflict.”

Ms. Bachelet also referred to several other global hot spots for human rights including Hong Kong where a new National Security Law has increased concern over the civil liberties of the citizens.

...people in Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir have been enjoying the same fundamental rights as people in other parts of India

Indra mani PandeyPermanent Representative, UNHRC

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