India on Tuesday told the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights it had been able to “revive grass root democracy” In Jammu and Kashmir even as a photojournalist said he was beaten up by security forces near the site of an encounter in Pulwama.
Kamran Yousuf said he sustained leg injuries when he was thrashed by security forces while carrying out his professional duties at Marwal in Pulwama where an encounter with militants was on.
Journalists Reshi Irshad and Faisal Bashir were also chased and beaten up by the police, Free Press Kashmir reported.
“My camera was damaged when a posse of armed forces personnel chased us and started beating without any reason,” Irshad told the news site. He also said this was not the first time that police had used force on journalists doing their jobs.
While police did not deny the allegations levelled byYousuf, it said the mediapersons were “duly stopped” as they were moving close to the cordoned area.
“Today an exchange of fire took place at village Marwal between terrorists and SFs. Cordon was placed to prevent people from venturing inside as that would have endangered their security. However some media persons tried to move close who were duly stopped,” police said in a tweet.
Yousuf detailed the incident in a Twitter thread in which he said at least 10 policemen had hit him with refile butts. “Journalism is not a crime. Please let us do our job,” Yousuf said.
The Kashmir Press Club denounced the thrashing of journalists by police in Pulwama and urged the Lieutenant Governor to take strong note of the incident.
Yousuf was injured due to thrashing by the police and was rushed to SMHS Hospital in Srinagar for treatment, the club said in a statement.
On the same day, India’s permanent representative Indra Mani Pandey spoke during a debate at the 45th Session of the Human Rights Council.
Pandey countered and expressed regret over UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet ’s reference to Kashmir last week in which she raised concerns about incidents of military and police violence against civilians continue, use of pellet guns, and the new media policy unveiled by the J&K administration.
“I am deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions by the Government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris, including restrictions on internet communications and peaceful assembly, and the detention of local political leaders and activists,” she said in her statement.
“…the space for political debate and public participation continues to be severely restricted, particularly since new media rules have prohibited vaguely defined ‘anti-national’ reporting,” she said.
Bachelet had said she remain concerned about “ongoing restrictions to the rights to freedom of expression and association”.
Pandey said on Tuesday noted that as the largest and most vibrant democracy, India had since independence been “an ardent supporter of human rights”.
“We have encouraged OHCHR to continue engaging States in a constructive manner, while emphasising the need to specifically avoid politicisation of the discourse on human rights, which is not conducive to achieving our collective goal of promoting and protecting human rights,” he said.
“We urge the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to recognise the enormity of challenges that we face due to our large and very diverse population of 1.3 billion and act as our partner in a cooperative and constructive spirit in our endeavour to secure for our people all their basic human rights, he said.
Pandey on Tuesday said that India remained committed to upholding all human rights. He said the human rights agenda and discourse must be pursued in a transparent and impartial manner with respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs of States.
Referring to the abrogation of the Article 370 in 2019 that revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, Pandey said that since the changes, people in Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir have been enjoying the same fundamental rights as people in other parts of India.
“We have been able to revive grass root democracy and provide a new momentum to social and economic development, despite the challenge posed by COVID-19 pandemic and persistent attempts by one country to infiltrate terrorists to derail this process by all possible means,” he said.
“Over the past one year, the Government’s efforts aimed at socio-economic development and ensuring better governance have yielded unprecedented results.
“By extending coverage of positive and affirmative federal legislations and repealing discriminatory or outdated local laws, the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to delivering socio-economic justice to disadvantaged people in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, including women, children, minorities and refugees, he said.
He added that India will continue its constructive engagement with the Council and OHCHR for the promotion and protection of human rights.
(With PTI inputs)