Focus signed on to this joint open letter to Prime Minister Modi on the situation in Jammu & Kashmir


Prime Minister Narendra Modi
New Delhi

12 August 2019

Dear Prime Minister Modi,

We, the undersigned civil society activists and organizations, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, and academics from around the globe, write to express our deep concern regarding the recent actions your government has taken over the past week in the State of Jammu & Kashmir.

The state’s unilateral repeal of the special status of Jammu & Kashmir, the reconfiguration of the State of Jammu & Kashmir, and the process through which these legislative changes were imposed in the midst of a complete lock-down of the region, are egregious. These actions violate the people of Jammu & Kashmir’s fundamental right to self-determination under international law and their right to participate in crucial decisions that affect their lives. Further, these actions have sent shock waves of fear and uncertainty among the people of Jammu & Kashmir and contravene both domestic and international law.

Beyond the questionable legality of your actions with regard to the Constitution, we are concerned over reports that over 500 people have been arbitrarily arrested or placed under house arrest in Jammu & Kashmir over the past days and such treatment appears to be continuing. We understand that some of these may include activists, academics, and opponents, who have been detained under the Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) of 1978 or the Jammu & Kashmir Preventive Detention Act of 1964.

We recall that the PSA has been widely criticized for violating international human rights law, as it operates outside normal judicial safeguards and oversight and thus denies due process to individuals arrested under it. Concerns regarding abuse of the PSA, as well as the Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Powers Act of 1990 and the Disturbed Areas Act, have been raised repeatedly over the years by local and international civil society organizations, as well as the United Nations. Regrettably, your government has continued to abuse these laws and has taken no action to align the above laws with India’s international human rights obligations.

We are extremely worried about the ongoing curfews and curfew-like conditions and the shut-down of communications inside Jammu & Kashmir. The violations of rights to freedom of expression and freedom of movement that these restrictions entail create conditions of psychosocial trauma. These curbs constitute severe violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which India ratified in 1979, and under no circumstances can be justified in the guise of public order.

We strongly believe that for India to be able to continue to define itself as a democracy it must allow public discourse and debate on these issues. This includes ensuring that the people of Jammu & Kashmir are able to exercise their right to take part as primary stakeholders in the critical decisions regarding their future. This certainly cannot be achieved by blocking communications, detaining political leaders and civil society activists, and restricting movements within Jammu & Kashmir.

In line with these concerns, we respectfully request that your government take the following measures with the utmost urgency:

  • Immediately revoke the curfew and its attendant conditions and reinstate
    communications in and out of Jammu & Kashmir;
  • Immediately and unconditionally release from detention all those who have been
    arbitrarily detained or arrested under the PSA or other legislation over the past
    several days;
  • Immediately and unconditionally restore the status of Jammu & Kashmir under
    Article 370 of the Constitution of India; and
  • Implement in full the recommendations made in 2018 and again in 2019 by the UN
    High Commissioner for Human Rights with regards to Jammu & Kashmir, including
    respecting the right to self-determination, and guaranteeing fundamental freedoms.

We hope that you will heed these recommendations.

Please note that this letter will be made public.

Yours sincerely,

Signed, in alphabetical order:

Bondita Acharya
Human Rights Activist, Assam, India

Advocacy Forum – Nepal

Emmanuel Amistad
Executive Director, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL)

Professor Paola Bacchetta
Gender and Women’s Studies, University of California, Berkeley

Vineeta Bal
Pune, India

Daniel Bastard
Asia-Pacific Director, Reporters Without Borders

Anjuman Ara Begum
Human Rights Activist, Guwahati, Assam, India

Bytes For All, Pakistan

Sr. Celia
National Alliance for People’s Movement, Karanataka

Umaa Chakravarti

Professor Indrani Chatterjee
University of Texas at Austin

Professor Partha Chatterjee
Columbia University

Professor Angana P. Chatterji
Co-chair, Political Conflict, Gender and People’s Rights, Center for Race and Gender,
University of California, Berkeley

Dimitris Christopoulos
President, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL)

Karuna D. W.
Academic, Chennai

Sejal Dand

In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND)

A Devaneyan
Social Activist

Arundhati Dhuru

DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights

Jose Marie Faustino
Secretary General, Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND)

Brito Fenando
Families of the Disappeared

Ruki Fernando
INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, Colombo

Focus on the Global South

Bryan Ezra Gonzales
President, National Society of Parliamentarians (Philippines)

Roshmi Goswami
Feminist, Social Activist

Christian Gultia
President, Youth for Human Rights and Democracy (Philippines)

Hinna Hamid

Ifat Hamid

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

Guissou Jahangiri
Executive Director, Armanshahr/OPEN ASIA

Amina Masood Janjua
Defence for Human Rights Pakistan

Professor Abdul R JanMohamed
University of California, Berkeley

Dr. M.H. Jawahirullah
President, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi

Hina Jilani
Advocate, Supreme Court of Pakistan & Human Rights Activist

SiddharthK J
Independent Researcher, Bengaluru

Mamatha Karollil
New Delhi

Dr. Sylvia Karpagam
Public Health Doctor and Researcher

Poonam Kaushik
General Secretary, Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan Delhi

Adilur Rahman Khan
Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh; Secretary, Odhikar

Komite Independen Pemantau Pemilu (KIPP – Indonesia)

Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections (NICFEC – Cambodia)

Michael Non
National Co-Convenor, Koalisyon ng Kabataan Para sa Karapatang Pantao (Youth Coalition
for Human Rights – Philippines)

Nonviolence International Canada

Odhikar (Bangladesh)

People’s Action for Free & Fair Elections (PAFFREL – Sri Lanka)

People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE)

Judge Dr. Navanethem Pillay
Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (2008-2014)

Manjula Pradeep
Chairperson, WAYVE Foundation

Professor Jyoti Puri
Simmons University

Dr Sagari R Ramdas
Food Sovereignty Alliance, India

Arundhati Roy

K.P. Sasi
Filmmaker, Write & Cartoonist

Swathi Seshadri

Geeta Seshu
Journalist & Co-Founder, Free Speech Collective, Mumbai, India

Nilda L. Sevilla
Secretary General, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)

Gopal Krishna Siwakoti
President, INHURED International

Debbie Stothard
Coordinator, ALTSEAN-Burma

Aijaz Zaka Syed
Journalist & Columnist

Ambika Tandon
Researcher, New Delhi

The Commission for The Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS)

Henri Tiphagne
Executive Director, People’s Watch

Professor A K M Wahiduzzaman

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

For any queries regarding this letter, please contact Angana Chatterji at
[email protected] or Juliette Rousselot at [email protected].