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India urged to stop using COVID-19 as a tool to persecute Kashmiris

KIIR webinar proposes Ex Norwegian PM as special envoy on Kashmir 

Islamabad: Speakers at a Webinar organized by Kashmir Institute of International Relations (KIIR) in collaboration with World Muslim Congress sought the international community’s urgent intervention in early release of Kashmiri political prisoners who have been languishing in highly congested jails in many parts of India despite surge in coronavirus. 

The webinar titled “Upsurge of Pandemic COVID-19 in India, Plight of Kashmiri Detained Political Leaders” was attended by noted human rights activists, scholars, academicians, international law experts and representatives of civil society rights organizations hailing from different parts of the world including Mr. Lars Rise, Former MP, Norwegian Parliament, Ms. Nayeema Ahmed Mehjoor  senior journalist and author , rights activist Aga Syed Muntazir Mehdi, Information Secretary Tehreek-e-Kashmir UK Advocate Rehana Ali, Ms. Seher Shabir Shah daughter of senior Hurriyat leader Shabir Ahmed Shah, Mr. Ashan Untoo  Prof. Dr. Shagufta Ashraf coordinator event at KIIR . Whereas the event was moderated by chairman KIIR Altaf Hussain Wani. 

Speakers while voicing their serious concerns over the continued detention of Kashmiri prisoners said that the Indian government was using detention as a weapon to suppress the voices of dissent in the occupied territory. The ruthless suppression of dissent in the region, they said, has led to illegal and unlawful detention of thousands of Kashmiris.  

“A sizable number of Kashmiri detainees who were arrested by the Indian authorities before and after 5th August 2019 have been detained in Tihar, Haryana, UP, Tamil Nadu, Madya Pardesh, Karnatka jails where there is lack of proper sanitation, hygiene and medical facilities”, the speakers said. 

They said that along with thousands of other prisoners, top-rank Hurriyat leaders including Muahmmad Yasin Malik, Shabir Ahmad Shah, Nayeem Ahmed Khan, Masrat Alam Bhat, Dr. Qasim Faktoo, Asiya Andrabi , Dr. Shaif Khan and  other leaders continue to languish in over-crowded jails, which have already been declared as a potential hotbed for the coronavirus disease. 

Speakers demanded international investigation on the extra judicial killing of Kashmiri leader Ashraf Sahrai , who died in custody , denied proper medical care and was declared COVID-19 Positive Posthumously.  

Referring to their life-long struggle the speakers said, “These leaders have to spent most of their lives in jails owing to their political beliefs, they went through trials and tribulations, endured horrific pain and suffering in the struggle”. 

“They are being persecuted for the expression of their conscientiously held political beliefs and for raising the banner of revolt against injustices and indiscrimination meted out to the people of Jammu and Kashmir at the hands of Indian authorities”, the speakers maintained. 

Seeking an immediate release of all illegally detained Kashmiri leaders they said, “Since the third wave of the Novel Coronavirus had hit the country (India) badly, prisoners’ coronavirus case fatality has also risen to an alarming level”. A large number of prisoners they said have contracted the deadly virus. 

In the wake of fast spreading coronavirus in the prisons, they said, since the lives of prisoners were in grave danger and heightened risk of the COVID infection it was imperative that the Indian government should releases all illegally detained Kashmiri prisoners especially the ones who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 infections. They also asked the government of India to take urgent steps to make sure that prisoners and detainees have access to adequate medical care and protective measures against covid19. 

The speakers also urged the Indian government to cease the dirty game of using COVID-19 as a tool to punish and persecute Kashmiris. 

Denouncing the Indian government’s indifference towards the plight of Kashmiri prisoners they said BJP government had blatantly refused to heed the growing calls from international human rights groups regarding the release or shifting of Kashmiri prisoners back to Kashmir valley. “Even, the government of India seems reluctant to implement the verdict of the Indian Supreme Court that seeks immediate decongestion of prisons in the wake of the recent surge in Covid19 cases”, they added. 

Regarding the worsening political and human rights situation in the IoK, they demanded the Indian government to take the recommendations of human rights commissioner serious and form an an international inquiry commission to investigate the human rights violations in Kashmir. 

They appealed to UN Secretary-General urging him to appoint a special envoy on Kashmir to investigate the human rights violations being committed of Indian forces in the region. 

Suggesting the name of former prime minister of Norway Mr, Kjell Majne Bondevik as special envoy, they said, Mr. Bondevik is a person of international repute and has met all stake holders and leaders on both sides of line of control (LoC). 

Participants of webinar showed their serious concern on the upsurge of deadly Corona virus in India and raised alarm on the health conditions of political leaders in languishing in different Indian jails.

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