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Pro-India Kashmiri politician tortured in custody, say UN experts human rights news

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Srinagar, Indian Administered Kashmir UN experts have expressed concern over the “widespread pattern of repressive measures and systematic violations of fundamental rights” in Indian-administered Kashmir and asked the Indian government to respond to allegations of rights violations in the disputed territory.

In a letter sent to the Indian government in late March and made public on Monday, five UN experts sought New Delhi’s response to three main allegations: the “forced disappearance” of Nasir Ahmed Wani from south Kashmir’s Shopian district. , the “extraordinary killing” of Irfan Ahmed Dar in north Kashmir’s Sopore and the “arbitrary detention” of pro-India Waheed-ur-Rehman Para from Pulwama.

In November last year, the letter said, Para, who was arrested by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) on “terrorism charges”, was allegedly subjected to “misconduct” and “defamatory inquiries”, It lasted for 10 to 12 hours a day.

“She was kept in a dark underground cell at sub-zero temperature, deprived of sleep, kicked, slapped, thrashed with a rod, naked and hung upside down,” the letter said. was given.”

“Para was examined thrice by a government doctor… and thrice by a psychiatrist. He requested medicine for insomnia and anxiety,” it added.

An Indian police officer detains a protester during a protest after Friday prayers in Srinagar [File: Danish Ismail/Reuters]

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, who rule parts of it but have full claims over the Himalayan region. The two nuclear-armed nations have fought two of their three wars on the region.

In the early 1990s, an armed rebellion against Indian rule shaped the Indian side, a conflict that killed thousands, mainly civilians. The rebels demand either an independent state or merger with neighboring Pakistan.

The region also has a small group of pro-India politicians and political parties that participate in national and regional elections.

The letter from UN experts said that Para, a youth leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), one of the pro-India political parties, was arrested in July last year after his virtual meeting with members of the UN Security Council. in which he denounced “humanitarian”. Violation of rights in Indian-administered Kashmir”.

In his meeting with UNSC members, Para “raised alarm about India’s actions in Jammu and Kashmir, its treatment of Muslim minorities and recent border tensions with China,” UN experts said in the letter.

“After this engagement, Para received threats from NIA officials, indicating that he was inviting trouble by attending such events. He gave them an ultimatum that action would be taken against them if they did not stop speaking about the government.

Para was arrested days after he filed his nomination papers for the local elections from his home constituency Pulwama. While he was granted bail in the “terrorism” case, he was re-arrested in another case by the area’s counter-terrorism force.

‘Para set an example’

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, who is also the region’s last elected chief minister, told Al Jazeera that Para believed in “democracy and peace”.

“It is very unfortunate that a person who believes in democracy and who was a torch bearer in bringing youth into the mainstream, has been kept in this way. When we say in Kashmir that we want to bring and attract youth into the mainstream, Waheed (Para) has been set an example in a very negative way,” she said.

An Indian police officer aims a pellet gun at protesters during a protest after Friday prayers, Srinagar, March 5, 2021 [File: Danish Ismail/Reuters]

“What effect does it give? If this could happen to someone who was part of the mainstream and who advocated democracy and peaceful means, what would happen to others and what would be their future?

One of Para’s family members, who did not wish to be identified, told Al Jazeera that he was being punished for “connecting with people in Kashmir”.

“He is innocent and has become weak in jail. When BJP leaders used to come to Kashmir, they wanted him to mingle and connect with the people, mainly the youth. He did it and now it has suddenly become his crime,” said the relative.

During a visit to the Muslim-majority region in 2018, the then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh praised Para for organizing an event “full of young people”.

“He also approached stone pelters and tried to bring them into the mainstream. He was praised for doing so at the time. We don’t know how long he can be detained, but he still has confidence in the judiciary to come out,” Para’s relative told Al Jazeera.

Irfan Dar and Naseer Wani

UN experts have raised another case of Irfan Ahmed Dar, a 23-year-old shopkeeper from North Kashmir’s Sopore district, who was arrested on September 15 by officers who arrived at his shop in civilian clothes.

“Dar was taken into custody without warrant at Sopore police station,” the letter said.

The next morning, according to the letter, Dar’s family was informed that he was dead.

“Police claimed that Dar was killed when he was trying to escape from their custody. However, while performing his last rites on his body, it was found that he had fractured facial bones, broken front teeth and marks of blunt force trauma to his head. His family was allowed to see his body for about 10 minutes before burial,” the experts wrote.

He said that “in response to the protests against the murder, the district administration ordered an inquiry. During the investigation, two policemen were suspended from their duties for ‘negligence of duty’ in allowing them to escape, However, no one was held responsible for his murder.

UN experts have also sought a response from the Indian government on the case of 19-year-old Nasir Ahmed Wani of Doompora village in the southern district of Shopian.

“On November 29, 2019, a 44 Rashtriya Rifles (44 RR) team raided his house, where he lives with his family, allegedly claiming that his phone was used by terrorists, In his letter, he said, “every corner was searched and property ransacked”.

“During the search of the house, the army personnel kept two children with them, using them as human shields. Both were also beaten up. The army men gathered all the women in a room and asked their names, took their pictures and requested everyone to hand over their mobile phones. They were threatened that if they did not comply, they would be nudged,” the letter said.

It was further said that “five soldiers entered Wani’s room, and locked the door from inside”.

“For more than half an hour, the family members locked in the adjoining room heard her scream while she was being beaten up. Then the soldiers took him out with them.”

‘Pattern of serious rights violations’

UN experts wrote that on November 30, 2019, the family went to the police, who sent them to an army camp, from where they were driven away.

“Late that evening, the same army officers went to Wani’s house. The Army Major told his family that there was no need to return to the police station or initiate any legal proceedings as he had released Wani,” the letter said.

But Wani did not come home. “The next evening, on December 1, the Major returned to Wani’s house along with some personnel. He gathered all the family members in a room and pointed a gun around the neck of one of the family members and threatened them not to conduct any further inquiry or take legal action,” the letter said.

The letter mentions that the police had filed a missing report on December 2, 2019, following an earlier request by the family.

“However, the fate and whereabouts of Wani are still not known,” it said.

“While we do not wish to speculate on the accuracy of these allegations, we are expressing our serious concern that if they are confirmed, they will lead to arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and abuse, forcible disappearances.”

UN experts said the allegations are “part of an ongoing pattern of serious human rights violations by the police, military, security agencies and judiciary in the Jammu and Kashmir region”.

He said the allegations come as part of a “pattern of serious human rights violations” that “in our view receive the most serious attention from the highest authorities” and that “they can publicly express their concerns”. near future”.

“[We] They believe that the wider public should be informed of the implications of these allegations on the exercise and enjoyment of their human rights,” he said.

In July 2019, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a 43-page report recommending the setting up of a commission of inquiry to conduct a “comprehensive, independent, international investigation” into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir. was.

The Commission of Inquiry is one of the highest-level investigations of the United Nations, usually reserved for significant global crises. The Indian government has often called the allegations of rights violations in the region “false”.

Human Rights Watch’s South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly told Al Jazeera that UN experts had raised some “extremely serious concerns”, which she said were also raised by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“Wahed Para may have been arrested in retaliation for testifying at the UN Security Council, which is particularly concerning and in violation of India’s international obligations,” she said.

“Indian authorities should order an independent inquiry into these allegations and hold those responsible.”

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of knews.uk and knews.uk does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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