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New laws depriving locals in Kashmir: Rights group

SRINAGAR (AA): Eminent citizens of India and Pakistan have said that India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was bent to overturn the Muslim majority character of Jammu and Kashmir.

They accused New Delhi of committing “gross injustices, ranging from kidnapping and torture of minors to decimating the identity of people”.

The 196-page report, titled The Siege: A Year Since Abrogation, drafted by the members of Jammu and Kashmir Solidarity Group and Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy was released on Friday.

The comprehensive report based on eye witness accounts and findings of fact-finding teams, who visited the region said the Indian government “has violated internationally recognized fundamental rights and its constitutional values and guaranteed freedoms”.

Author and activist Rita Manchanda said the fact-finding teams worked as a commission of inquiry and included journalist, social and rights activists besides researchers.

“The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) [patron organization of various Hindu rightwing groups, including the BJP] could not live with the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim majority region and that its status was protected by law, that is, Article 370 and Article 35A of Indian constitution, “the report said.

On August 5 last, the Indian government derogated Article 370, which allowed Kashmir to have its constitution, flag, and a legislature that could make laws independently from the Indian parliament. The Article 35A barred outsiders from buying property or applying for government jobs in Kashmir to protect its demographic character.

The move has raised fears that outsiders in large numbers will be settled in the disputed region to change its Muslim-majority character.

“The whole purpose of revoking Article 370 was to settle outsiders here and change the demography of the state. Now, this law has been created to provide modalities to settle many categories of Indians in Jammu and Kashmir,” the report added.

Detention on flimsy grounds

The report further said that laws have been introduced in the past one year that undermines ownership rights of Kashmiri people over immovable properties and at the same time facilitates the takeover of land for industry and military control. Noting that torture has been used in Kashmir earlier also but, the report said that in post-Aug. 5, 2019 period it is no longer used individuals but to inflict collective silence and impose might of the Indian state.

“Kashmiris were detained on the flimsiest grounds, most of them fabricated, making the entire exercise of detentions a mere paperwork formality,” the report said.

The report noted that during the past year the assets were being transferred out of the Kashmir Valley.

“Kashmir’s economy, which was self-sufficient and catered to local businesses and employment, is being dismantled piece by piece, through both active planning by the Indian state, and passive standing-by during the pandemic,” the report claimed.

Despite odds, the report found that there were a quite defiance and silent civil disobedience.

“People seem to be shunning the public arena, reducing the state’s supervisory abilities and in turn expressing a refusal to accept the rules of normalcy set by New Delhi,” the report said.

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