Implication of COVID-19 pandemic in Jammu & Kashmir

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Image: Fabrice Coffrini, Getty

Below is KGC’s letter to the Secretary General of the UN and Director-General of WHO.

22 March 2020

Dear Mr. António Guterres,
Dear Mr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,

Kashmir Global Council (KGC), a US based political advocacy group, would like to urge your offices to intervene and pay close attention to the region of Jammu and Kashmir as the situation of the global COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most militarized zones in the world. On the Indian controlled side, there have been severe restrictions on communications since August 2019. In the wake of COVID-19 epidemic as well as confirmation of cases in Jammu and Kashmir, it is imperative that the government of India adhere to the guidelines issued by WHO on how to effectively deal with the pandemic.

On 17th March, the WHO issued a Situation Report recommending all countries to keep the public informed of the situation so that they can take appropriate measures to protect themselves. On the same day, ignoring the letter and spirit of this report, the government of India extended its extreme policy on internet services in Jammu and Kashmir and restricted the speeds of mobile internet to 2G.

On 19th March, Amnesty International India criticized the government of India for this directive stating that “complete internet shutdowns have also been imposed intermittently in certain areas in the guise of security”. In its press release, Executive Director of Amnesty International India also stated that “there is a growing anxiety around the pandemic and unwarranted restrictions on content and dissemination of information only stands to add to the panic. The Government of India needs to adopt a rights-respecting approach to protect public health and restore access to 4G speed internet”.

Prisons tend to be highly vulnerable during pandemics and India must respond how other countries are responding. To combat the pandemic, the government of Iran released 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, while as several jurisdictions in United States of America have also released prisoners.

During a global pandemic, all governments need to rise to the occasion and protect the vulnerable. It is imperative that the government of India put aside its arbitrary policies in Jammu and Kashmir, swiftly restore full internet services, and release prisoners who are under trial, and make arrangement for the safety of those prisoners who are convicted, in accordance with the WHO regulations. We ask the UN and WHO to urgently raise these issues with the government of India and monitor the situation in Jammu and Kashmir closely.

Farooq Siddiqi, P.Eng
President, Kashmir Global Council