G20 meeting in J&K normalizes denial of rights to Kashmiris: UN expert on minorities

Workers inflate a hot air balloon during a function ahead of the G2O summit in Srinagar on May 12, 2023. | Tauseef Mustafa / AFP

by Muslim Mirror Staff

On Monday, Fernand de Varennes, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, expressed concerns that India’s decision to hold G20 meetings in Jammu and Kashmir could be an attempt to normalize and legitimize the oppressive treatment and denial of democratic and other rights of Kashmiri Muslims and minorities.

“…The Government of India is seeking to normalise what some have described as a military occupation by instrumentalising a G20 meeting and portray an international ‘seal of approval’,” Varennes said in a statement on Monday.

According to the UN expert, there have been extensive reports of significant human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir since it came under direct central rule in August 2019.

“These included torture, extrajudicial killings, denial of political participation rights of Kashmiri Muslims and minorities,” he said.

Varennes, along with other independent experts from the United Nations, expressed serious concerns to the Indian government in 2021 regarding the potential consequences of the loss of political autonomy and the introduction of new domicile rules in Jammu and Kashmir. They feared that these actions could lead to significant changes in the demographic composition of the region.

“On all counts this seems to be occurring on the ground, in a repressive and sometimes brutal environment of suppression of even basic rights,” Varennes said.

According to Varennes, there have been reports indicating that a notable influx of Hindus from outside Jammu and Kashmir has resulted in substantial demographic shifts, which may marginalize native Kashmiris in their own land.

“The G20 is unwittingly providing a veneer of support to a facade of normalcy at a time when massive human rights violations, illegal and arbitrary arrests, political persecutions, restrictions and even suppression of free media and human rights defenders continue to escalate,” the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues noted.

The Permanent Mission of India in Geneva dismissed Varennes’ statement as “baseless and unwarranted”.

“As G20 President, it is India’s prerogative to host its meetings in any part of the country,” the Indian mission said. “We are aghast that Fernand de Varennes has acted irresponsibly to politicise this issue, misused his position as SR [Special Rapporteur] to publicize on social media his presumptive and prejudiced conclusions.”

On December 1, India took over as the G20’s (Group of 20) president. Rotating among the member countries is the leadership of the intergovernmental forum, which includes the 20 largest developed and developing economies.

The third meeting of the G20 working group on tourism is slated to take place in Srinagar from May 22 to 24. This will be the first significant summit to take place in Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5, 2019, which removed the former state’s special status.

Along with officials from the member countries, delegates from guest countries and a number of international organisations will attend the G20 conference in Srinagar.




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