India ‘regrets’ UN body’s ‘irresponsible’ Kashmir remarks

August 29th, 2008 - 6:14 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 29 (IANS) India has expressed regret over the “irresponsible” remarks by a UN body about alleged human rights abuse in Jammu and Kashmir and underlined that New Delhi “did not need any advice to protect the rights of its citizens”. “We regret that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has issued a statement on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said in a statement late Thursday night.

“This is uncalled for and irresponsible; India does not need any advice in respect of the protection and promotion of the human rights of its citizens,” he said.

He was referring to a statement by the Geneva-based OHCHR expressing concerns over “recent violent protests in Indian-administered Kashmir that have reportedly led to civilian casualties as well as restrictions to the right to freedom of assembly and expression.”

The OHCHR also called on the Indian authorities, in particular security forces, to respect the right to freedom of assembly and expression, and comply with international human rights principles in controlling the demonstrators.

Reacting sharply, New Delhi pointed out that Jammu and Kashmir has been “a victim of terrorist violence for almost two decades” and the authorities have acted “within the law and with restraint” throughout this period.

“Terrorist groups have targetted innocent civilians. They have not refrained from taking women and children as hostages as in the recent incident in Jammu,” he said.

“In all their actions against terrorists, personnel of the security forces have sought to ensure that no innocent lives are lost, and for this objective have on many occasions laid down their lives,” he added.

“The Acting High Commissioner calls for thorough and independent investigations into all killings that have occurred so far,” Michele Montas, spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said in New York Wednesday.

“That the Secretary-General himself does not issue a statement should not be read as a sign that he is not aware of, or concerned about, the situation,” Montas added when asked why the UN Secretary-General himself has not issued a statement on the situation in Kashmir.

Over 40 people have died in clashes between security forces and protesters since a row erupted in Kashmir two months ago over 40 hectares of land allotted to a Hindu shrine for constructing temporary shelters for pilgrims along the route to a much revered shrine.

The UN body’s statement is seen here as a diplomatic setback for India as recent protests have drawn international attention to what some see as human rights violations in Indian Kashmir and India’s dispute with Pakistan over this issue.

In a bid to internationalise the Kashmir issue, Pakistan has accused India of using disproportionate use of force and of human rights violations. India has repudiated Pakistan’s contention saying Islamabad has no right to interfere in the internal affairs of India. Experts have warned the Indian government that if the crisis in Kashmir is not defused, the issue could be internationalized.

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