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Jammu & Kashmir: NHRC Takes Steps to Fill Human Rights Gap Through Inaugural Open Public Hearing

IndiaJammu & Kashmir: NHRC Takes Steps to Fill Human Rights Gap Through Inaugural Open Public Hearing

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is taking a proactive approach to address the human rights void in Jammu and Kashmir. The NHRC has announced its intention to conduct a maiden, open public hearing on rights violations in the region, particularly after the revocation of its special status in 2019 and the abolition of the local rights watchdog.

According to an NHRC notice, the commission will hold a “Camp Sitting and Open Public Hearing on grievances of the general public regarding alleged human rights violations in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir from February 7 to February 9 in Srinagar.”

This announcement follows a Supreme Court directive less than a year ago, urging the central government to consider establishing a mechanism allowing residents of Jammu and Kashmir to file complaints directly with the NHRC from within the region.

The NHRC notice invites people to register their complaints by January 29, specifically related to “alleged violation of human rights by a public servant or negligence by a public servant in prevention of such violation.” Complaints deemed suitable for inquiry will be addressed during the open public hearing.

Jammu and Kashmir has faced a void in the realm of human rights watchdogs since the closure of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) by the central government in 2019. The SHRC, among other institutions, was dismantled following the abrogation of the special status. Several human rights organizations ceased to operate due to the government’s intolerance for dissent.

Notably, rights activist Khurram Parvez, recognized by the UN’s human rights body as a “tireless advocate for the families of disappeared,” has been in detention since 2021.

The government-appointed SHRC was actively investigating numerous cases of rights violations, primarily involving security forces. In March 2020, the NHRC was granted authority to address all human rights concerns in the Union Territory. However, the absence of local offices has hindered its effectiveness.

The closure of the SHRC prompted criticism from the UN rights body in September 2020, with nine rapporteurs urging the government to explain the shutdown. The UN body also called for an investigation into alleged instances of forced disappearance and mass graves in Jammu and Kashmir. The abrupt closure of the SHRC left families with limited options, and the letter highlighted its role in acknowledging crimes previously denied by the government.

The SHRC had acknowledged the 1991 Kunan Poshpora incident and the Sailan Poonch massacre, where security forces allegedly shot 19 people at point-blank range in August 1998. The NHRC’s upcoming open public hearing aims to address the longstanding human rights concerns in Jammu and Kashmir.

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