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Indian accused of using ‘draconian laws’ to silence journalists, rights activists in Kashmir

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Aug 26, 2022 - 09:19 AM

ISLAMABAD (AA) – An international advocacy group in its latest report has accused the Indian authorities of using “draconian laws” against journalists and human rights defenders to silence their voices in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

The report, titled India Silencing Journalism & Human Rights in Kashmir, was released on Wednesday by the Legal Forum for Kashmir (LFK) in collaboration with an investigations unit of Stoke White, a UK-based legal investigation firm.

According to the report, India is using “draconian laws against journalists and human rights defenders in Kashmir,” who are the last line of defense for basic human rights protection.

“It appears that the Indian authorities are running a strategy to disrupt, detain and punish those engaging in reasonable journalism and human rights advocacy — particularly against those who have the capability to document rights violations and report newsworthy incidents to the global arena,” it said.

In the last two years, about 10 journalists and human rights activists have been charged with terrorism, waging war against India, rioting, murder, and conspiracy, the report revealed.

“Kashmiri dissenters are often designated as ‘terrorists’ in an ongoing conflict directed against human rights defenders, journalists and other political dissidents,” it added.

Since New Delhi revoked the disputed region’s special status in August 2019, over 20% of journalists have switched to work as public relations executives or academics, according to the statement, which cited LFK Executive Director Nasir Qadri.

“The fact is that even after they quit journalism, the authorities do not spare them,” Qadri said, adding that they can simply pick a line or a paragraph from a news story published a decade ago and summon him or her.

Indian authorities raided houses of journalists and tried to mentally torture them, he alleged.

Disputed region

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts but claimed by both in full. A small sliver of the region is also controlled by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, New Delhi and Islamabad have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965 and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.

Already strained relations between the two neighbors further plummeted after India’s controversial move in 2019.

On Aug. 5, 2019, the Indian government revoked Article 370 and other related provisions from its Constitution, scrapping the state with its autonomy. It was also split into two federally administered territories.

Simultaneously, it locked the region down, detained thousands of people, imposed movement restrictions and enforced a communications blackout.​​​​​​​

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