New Delhi: The situation for civilians in Jammu and Kashmir has taken a “new turn for the worse” under the Lieutenant Governor’s rule with activists and journalists targeted with sedition and anti-terror laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Public Safety Act being misused to target in the union territory, a report by judges, ex-bureaucrats has said.
The scathing report chaired by Justice AP Shah (former chief justice of the Delhi high court) is also critical of the delimitation recommended by the Justice (retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai commission and the “hype” around the film The Kashmir Files, which it said rendered panches (village heads) and Pandits more vulnerable in the Valley.
”After three years of Lieutenant Governor’s rule, civilian security has taken a new turn for the worse. The abuse of sedition and anti-terror laws such as the UAPA and PSA against activists and journalists continues,” the report said.
The annual report – ‘Three Years as a Union Territory: Human Rights in J&K’ – was shared by the forum for Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir, an independent body co-chaired by former Delhi high court Chief Justice A P Shah and former union Home Secretary Gopal Pillai. The forum has retired Supreme Court Justices Ruma Pal and Madan Lokur, former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, and Lieutenant General HS Panag (retd.) among its members and covers the period from August 2021 to July 2022.
Claiming that the delimitation recommended by the Justice Desai commission “violates the one-person-one-vote principle”, the report has urged the centre to “restore statehood to Jammu and Kashmir as promised”.
”The election commission must announce dates for Assembly elections and hold them under previously demarcated constituencies,” it said.
The report also asked the government to relocate Kashmiri Pandits employees – who it said were vulnerable due to hype around the film The Kashmir Files – to safer locations within the Valley.
The report is in stark contrast to the government’s stand on the situation in the Valley.
Last month, junior Home Minister Nityanand Rai today told the Parliament that no Kashmiri Pandit has left the Kashmir valley during 2022, denying reports that many from the community had threatened to leave the valley following a spate of targeted killings by terrorists.
Over 4,000 Pandit employees who had returned as part of the Prime Minister’s special employment package since 2010 – had earlier refused to attend their duties for at least one month. According to reports, most of them had already left the valley and shifted to Jammu.
In 2019, shortly before the government scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated it into two Union Territories on August 5 last year, several senior politicians in the state including former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were placed under detention under the stringent Public Safety Act for more than six months.
While Mr Abdullah was released after seven months, Ms Mufti was kept under detention for longer than a year.