Ahead of India’s G20 meeting of the working group on tourism on May 22-24, the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues Fernand de Varennes, has warned that the government of India is seeking to normalize “what some have described as a military occupation” by instrumentalizing a G20 meeting and portray it as an international “seal of approval”.
“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”, Varennes warned in a statement.
The G20 is happening despite what Volker Türk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, told the UN Human Rights Council a few weeks ago was a worrying human rights situation in the Kashmir region, it said.
The Special Rapporteur issued a statement describing the “massive rights violations as including torture, extrajudicial killings, 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”.
“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,” the statement said.
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”.
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. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
India is all set to hold a working group meeting of the international forum in Kashmir. The third G20 tourism working group meeting will be held from May 22 to 24 at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) in Srinagar.