Experts assert Indian version of 21st century Gestapo in Jammu & Kashmir

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Experts at a launch of dossier titled ‘India Silencing Journalism and Human Rights in Kashmir’ asserted that whatever is happening in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) is the Indian version of 21st century Gestapo.

The comprehensive dossier was launched by Legal Forum for Kashmir (LFK) in collaboration with StokeWhite investigations unit, UK here Wednesday on the treatment meted out by India against Kashmiri Journalists and Human Rights Defenders.

The investigative report draws attention to India’s counterinsurgency strategy in silencing journalism and human rights in IIOJK, where the human rights defenders and journalists are concerned as the last line of ‘defense’ for basic human rights protections.

Investigations by SWI unit and LFK have uncovered the names of officers responsible for the disruption and detention of journalists and human rights defenders, which will be subject to a broader legal submission. The Indian military and police, in sum, have been instructed by the government with the responsibility of commanding and directing the profiling of journalists and human rights defenders.

LFK and SWI-unit has documented cases of human rights lawyers and practitioners being subject to home/office raids, disruption of normal work flow, and arrest while on fieldwork or malicious confiscation of travel documents to prevent legitimate journalism or human rights work.

We saw, only, in 2019, J&K experienced heightened disconnection of high-speed internet, including of mobile phone signal infrastructure for 18 months. In 2020, India restricted the internet some 109 times.

According to LFK’s findings, Tahir Ashraf Bhatti is the head of the Counter Insurgent unit, where he summoned many journalists and harassed them for purely reporting on events in Kashmir. The current head of the cyber cell is Syed Sleet Shah, who recently was recruiting “serious candidates” for a special cyber project via her personal twitter account. This has become a norm and many social media users in Kashmir has stopped using their social media and even if they are using, they are absolutely silent in matters of politics and political changes happening in the valley.

The speakers in the press conference included Advocate Nasir Qadri, Executive Director LFK, Mushahid Hussain Syed, Member of Senate of Pakistan, Mehmood Ahmed Saghar, Convenor APHC, Ms Mushaal Mullick, Altaf Hussain Wani, Director KIIR; Dr Waleed Rasool, Director IDDS.

The gathering constituted of media fraternity, All Parties Hurriyat Conference leadership which included Shaikh Yaqoob, Imtiaz Ahmad Wani, Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat, Zahid Ashraf, Zahid Safi, Mukhtar Ahmad Baba.

Advocate Nasir Qadri, Executive Director LFK while speaking at the press conference said, the report launched today is testimony based depicting how India is silencing the journalists and Human rights defenders in IIOJK. The report includes testimonies of renowned Human Rights defender Khurram Parvez, and Ahsan Untoo whose testimony has already been shared with the metropolitan war crimes unit under Universal Jurisdiction in UK, he added.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed commended LFK and SWI unit for documentation of war crimes perpetrated by Indian authorities in IIOJK. Indian pogrom in IIOJK is on lines with the Israeli unlawful actions against Palestinians, he said and added that Kashmiri Human Rights activist Khurram Parvez’s only crime has been to speak truth against despotic powers.

Despite being a peaceful activist, he was false-fully accused of abetting terrorism. Whatever is happening in Kashmir is the Indian version of gestapo in 21st century which brutalises and eliminates any voices that speak truth, he expressed. Quoting Arundhati Rai, he said an architecture of fascism is being erected in India and RSS is the only state in India right now.

Convenor APHC Mehmood Ahmed Saghar, addressing the gathering condemned India’s highhandedness against journalists and human rights defenders in IIOJK. He highlighted the plight of Kashmiri prisoners which include resistance leaders, journalists, and human rights defenders. He urged Pakistan to up the ante and take up the cases of Kashmiris being arbitrarily detained by India under black laws, and assure their release as soon as possible.

Ms Mushaal Mullick, wife of incarcerated Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik, lauded LFK and Stoke White for publishing a joint report on Indian excesses against journalist and human rights defenders. Regarding India as a devil of the time, she urged that all the India’s human rights violations in IIOJK must be documented and the perpetrators need to be held accountable. She requested Pakistani media to focus on research based and evidence based documentation of human rights violations in IIOJK.

She further said that the Kashmiri journalists and human rights defenders continue to be intimidated, and arbitrarily detained under black colonial laws. She also expressed willingness to present testimony against India under universal jurisdiction.

Altaf Hussain Wani, Director KIIR, highlighted the importance of reports documenting India’s war crimes in Kashmir. All Kashmiri resistance political leaders are human rights defenders as they strive for the rights of the Kashmiri people.

He further added that the UN Rapporteur’s tweet condemning the detention of Khurram Parvez is a slap on the face of India’s fascist regime. He urged that the need of the hour is to disseminate these evidence based reports, reviews be written, and given proper media coverage, so that it reaches global arena.

Dr Waleed Rasool, Director IDDS, said that the introduction of legal warfare or Lawfare dimension was in itself a remarkable contribution in the resistance struggle. He highlighted that the media was significant in communicating the higher echelons of power in the world about happenings in IIOJK. He also urged for a need to document India’s atrocity crimes by gathering data from the ground in IIOJK itself and shape it so as to apprise the international community of Indian excesses in IIOJK.

Elaborating the key points, Advocate Nasir Qadri said that according to the CPJ, Kashmiri media had reached a breaking point, where journalists had begun to doubt their career choice. Many journalists who have faced the heat have either switched to work as public relations executives or have become academics. Some have gone abroad to study. The fact is that even after they quit journalism, the authorities do not spare them, he expressed.

“They can just pick up a line or a paragraph from a story that appeared a decade ago and summon him or her,” he said while quoting a Srinagar-based reporter as saying.

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, he said and added, in view of this, the Indian authorities must recognise the work of journalists and human rights defenders. There is need of urgent review of the use of UAPA /PSA to align its laws with India’s obligations under international law, particularly the international human rights law, he expressed.

Halting India’s disingenuous application of counter-terrorism is urgently required. It must be questioned, even if a state is running a censorship strategy, why there is a preference for using a counter terrorism framework to disrupt, detain and punish media and human rights professionals? Such a strategy is questionable at best and triggers many legal questions over the motives of such a security law, he concluded.

 

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