London, February 23 (KMS): The London-based world human rights watchdog, Amnesty International has expressed serious concern over the impunity enjoyed by the Indian troops for human rights abuses in occupied Kashmir.

The Amnesty International in its annual report for 2017-18 posted on its website said that impunity for human rights abuses persisted in occupied Kashmir, with the Indian forces continuing to use inherently inaccurate pellet-firing shotguns during protests, and the authorities frequently shutting down internet services.

The report, which was released in Delhi, said that in April, eight people were killed by the Indian forces, some of them by the use of excessive force, following protests during a by-election for an Indian Parliamentary seat. One voter, Farooq Ahmad Dar, the report said, was beaten by the army personnel, strapped to the front of an army jeep and driven around for over five hours, seemingly as a warning to protesters. It said that in May, the officer responsible received an army commendation for this work. The report said that in July, the Human Rights Commission of the occupied territory directed the puppet administration to provide Farooq Dar Rs one lakh as compensation, but in November, the authorities refused to pay.

The report maintained that in June, a military court set up under the paramilitary Border Security Force acquitted two soldiers of killing 16-year-old Zahid Farooq Sheikh in 2010. It said that the BSF had successfully prevented the case from being prosecuted in a civilian court.

In July, the report stated, an appellate military court suspended the life sentences of five army personnel convicted by a court-martial of the extrajudicial executions of three men in Machil in 2010. In November, it said, the Human Rights Commission repeated a directive issued to the puppet regime in 2011 to investigate over 2,000 unmarked graves.

The report said that the Indian forces’ personnel continued to use inherently inaccurate pellet-firing shotguns during protests, blinding and injuring several people. The authorities frequently shut down internet services, citing public order concerns, it added.

The report said that the Indian authorities were using repressive laws to stifle freedom of expression while journalists and press freedom came under increasing attack. In September, journalist Gauri Lankesh, an outspoken critic of Hindu nationalism and the caste system, was shot dead outside her home in Bengaluru by unidentified gunmen. The same month, journalist Shantanu Bhowmick was beaten to death near Agartala while covering violent political clashes.

The report said that in the same month, photojournalist, Kamran Yousuf was arrested in occupied Kashmir for allegedly instigating people to throw stones at the Indian forces under a law which does not meet international human rights standards. In November, it said, journalist Sudip Datta Bhowmik was shot dead, allegedly by a paramilitary force member, at a paramilitary camp near Agartala. In December, a French film-maker conducting research for a documentary on the Kashmir conflict was detained for three days in occupied Kashmir, it added.

The Amnesty report said that repressive laws were used to stifle freedom of expression. In June, it pointed out, 20 people were arrested for sedition in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, following complaints that they had cheered the Pakistan cricket team’s victory over India.

The report said that religious minority groups, particularly Muslims, faced increasing demonization by hardline Hindu groups, pro-government media and some state officials in India. “Authorities were openly critical of human rights defenders and organizations, contributing to a climate of hostility against them. Mob violence intensified, including by vigilante cow protection groups. Press freedom and free speech in universities came under attack. India failed to respect its human rights commitments made before the UN Human Rights Council.,” it added.

Referring to communal and ethnic violence in India, the report said, “Dozens of hate crimes against Muslims took place across the country. At least 10 Muslim men were lynched and many injured by vigilante cow protection groups, many of which seemed to operate with the support of members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Some arrests were made, but no convictions were reported. In September, Rajasthan police cleared six men suspected of killing Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer who had named the suspects before he died. Some BJP officials made statements which appeared to justify the attacks. In September, the Supreme Court said that state governments were obligated to compensate victims of cow vigilante violence. A special investigation team set up in 2015 to reinvestigate closed cases related to the 1984 Sikh massacre closed 241 cases and filed charges in 12 others. In August, the Supreme Court set up a panel comprising two former judges to examine the decisions to close the cases. In March, mobs carried out with impunity a string of racist attacks against black African students in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh. In June, three people were killed in Darjeeling, West Bengal, in violent clashes between police and protesters demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland.”

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