United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues Fernand de Varennes on Monday issued a statement criticising India’s plan to hold G20 meetings in Jammu and Kashmir, terming it a bit to normalise the “brutal and repressive denial of democratic and other rights of Kashmiri Muslims and minorities”.
Srinagar will be the venue for the G20 Tourism Working Group meeting scheduled to take place from May 22 to 24.
“Human rights violations have risen dramatically in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir since 2019 when the Government of India revoked the special status of the region,” warned a UN Independent Expert, one week before a scheduled G20 meeting is scheduled to be held in Srinagar.
Last month, Pakistan also expressed its “strong indignation” after India announced that Jammu and Kashmir will be hosting a G20 meeting.
“The Government of India is seeking to normalize what some have described as a military occupation by instrumentalising a G20 meeting and portray an international ‘seal of approval”, despite what Volker Türk, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, told the U.N. Human Rights Council a few weeks ago was a worrying human rights situation in the Kashmir region,” the statement reads.
G20 should on the contrary uphold “International human rights obligations & the #UN Declaration of Human Rights should be upheld… and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir should be decried and condemned, not pushed under the rug and ignored with the holding of this meeting”.
Torture, extrajudicial killings, and denial of political participation rights of Kashmiri Muslims and minorities, following the suspension of democratic rights and local elections with direct rule from New Delhi on 6 August 2019 are noted as “massive rights violations” in the valley.
“The situation there has – if anything – become much worse since myself and fellow UN independent experts transmitted a communication to the Government of India in 2021. We then expressed our grave concerns that the loss of political autonomy and the implementation of the new Domicile Rules and other legislation could alter the demographic composition of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir, may result in political disenfranchisement, and significantly reduce the degree of political participation and representation of the Kashmiri and other minorities previously exercised in the former state, undermining their linguistic, cultural and religious rights”, he said.
“On all counts this seems to be occurring on the ground, in a repressive and sometimes brutal environment of suppression of even basic rights”.
Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.
The Independent Expert noted that there have been reports of significant numbers of Hindus from outside the region moving into the region so that dramatic demographic changes are underway in Jammu and Kashmir to overwhelm native Kashmiris in their own land”.
According to de Varennes, the G20 is unwittingly providing a veneer of support to a facade of normalcy at a time when massive human rights violations, illegal and arbitrary arrests, political persecutions, restrictions and even suppression of free media and human rights defenders continue to escalate.
“International human rights obligations and the UN Declaration of Human Rights should still be upheld by organisations such as the G20”, he added, concluding that “the situation in Jammu and Kashmir should be decried and condemned, not push under the rug and ignored with the holding of this meeting”.