Washington, January 13 (KMS): Washington-based rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch in its latest annual report has said that the Indian authorities have intensified restrictions on free expression and peaceful assembly in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir since Modi government revoked special status of the territory in August 2019 while violence and arbitrary detentions continue.
The HRW in its report titled ‘World Report 2023’ summarizing human rights conditions worldwide in 2022 said that during the period 229 deaths were reported in IIOJK as of October, including 28 civilians, 29 forces’ personnel, and 172 suspected militants. It added that although local Kashmiris complained that some of those described as militants killed in gunfights were in fact civilians, no independent investigation was made public.
The report said that since August 2019, at least 35 journalists in Kashmir have faced police interrogation, raids, threats, physical assault, restrictions on freedom of movement, or fabricated criminal cases for their reporting. In January, it said, police forcibly took over the Kashmir Press Club, an independent media body, which authorities later shut.
The report added that authorities also invoked draconian law, Public Safety Act against journalists. In this regard, it said that in January, police arrested Sajad Gul, a journalist at the Kashmir-based digital news site The Kashmir Walla, on false charges after he reported a public protest. A month later, it said, the authorities arrested editor-in-chief Fahad Shah on sedition and terrorism charges after his site published a report contradicting claims of the Indian Army about a shootout in which the troops killed four people who they said were militants. The authorities rearrested both Shah and Gul under the PSA after they had been granted bail separately in cases filed against them and the two still continue to remain in arbitrary detention.
The report also talked about attacks on minority Hindu and Sikh communities by unidentified gunmen in the Kashmir Valley.