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Modi Govt Under Fire: UN High Commissioner For Human Rights Flags `Misuse’ Of UAPA

Ishfaq-ul-Hassan

NEW DELHI—Modi government has come under fire from United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet for allegedly misusing the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the country especially Jammu and Kashmir.

However, India has rejected her remarks on Kashmir, saying it was “unwarranted”.

Speaking at the 48th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, Ms Bachelet described the use of UAPA as “worrying”.

She said hundreds of people remain in detention in India for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

“Indian authorities’ restrictions on public assembly and frequent temporary communication blackouts continue in Jammu and Kashmir, while hundreds of people remain in detention for exercising their right to the freedom of expression, and journalists face ever-growing pressure,” she said.

She said ongoing use of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act throughout India is worrying, with Jammu and Kashmir having among the highest number of cases in the country.

“While I acknowledge the government’s efforts to counter terrorism and promote development in the region, such restrictive measures can result in human rights violations and foster further tensions and discontent,” she said.

While rejecting Ms. Bachelet’s charge, Reenat Sandhu, Secretary (West) Ministry of External Affairs, said, “Any shortcomings in upholding human rights must be addressed in a transparent and impartial manner, anchored in respect for national sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs of States.”

Media reports have revealed that Jammu and Kashmir government has booked over 2,300 people in more than 1,200 cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and 954 people under the Public Safety Act (PSA). 

Of these, 46 percent of those booked under UAPA and about 30 per cent of those detained under PSA are still in jail, both inside and outside J&K.

Of the 2,364 people arrested under UAPA, 918 were held in 437 cases in 2019, 953 people in 557 cases in 2020, and 493 in 275 cases till July-end this year (249 cases in Kashmir, 26 in Jammu). Of these, 1,100 continue to remain in custody.

Figures presented in Parliament reveal that more than 5,161 people including politicians were taken under custody since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019.

In February, the then Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy informed the Upper House that as per the 2019 Crime in India Report compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the total number of persons arrested under UAPA in 2019 is 1,948.

Total number of the persons arrested and convicted from 2016 to 2019 under the UAPA in the country is 5,922 and 132 respectively. The NCRB does not maintain this data on the basis of religion, race, caste, or gender, the Minister stated.

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) data presented in the Lok Sabha in March this year revealed that there has been an over 72% increase in the number of persons arrested under the anti-terror law UAPA (Unlawful Activities [Prevention] Act) in 2019 compared to 2015.

As many as 1,948 persons were arrested under the UAPA in 1226 cases registered across the country in 2019. Such cases registered in 2015-2018 stood at 897, 922, 901, and 1182 and the number of those arrested was 1128, 999, 1554, and 1421 respectively.

In 2019, the highest number of such cases were registered in Manipur-306, followed by Tamil Nadu-270, Jammu and Kashmir-255, Jharkhand-105 and Assam-87 cases.

The highest number of arrests under the UAPA in the same year was made in Uttar Pradesh- 498, Manipur- 386, Tamil Nadu-308, Jammu and Kashmir- 227 and Jharkhand- 202.

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