Amnesty launches campaign #LetKashmirSpeak

Kashmiri children study at a private home tuition centre during a lockdown on the outskirts of Srinagar. [AFP Photo]

Global rights watchdog Amnesty International on Thursday launched a campaign with the hashtag #LetKashmirSpeak decrying the human cost of the communications blackout in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

In a statement, the Indian chapter of blasted the communications blackout in Kashmir as "outrageous" and a "protracted assault on civil liberties".

"The blackout has now been a month old and cannot be prolonged any further by the Indian government as it has grossly impacted the daily lives of Kashmiri people, their emotional and mental well-being, medical care, as well as their access to basic necessities and emergency services. It is tearing families apart," said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty International .

The rights watchdog said it has launched a campaign "#LetKashmirSpeak" to mark one month since the communications blackout.

"The country is yet to hear from Kashmir after a month of being repeatedly been told by the Indian government that all is normal. This is not normal. Let Kashmir speak," said Patel.

has been under a near-complete lockdown since Aug. 5, after India scrapped its special status. Since then India has also blocked communication access and has imposed restrictions to thwart any protests.

Indian authorities, however, claim that daytime restrictions have been lifted in 90% of the region.

The human rights group said that sketchy reports coming out of the region have highlighted untreated medical emergencies, mass arrests, children and young people being picked up in the middle of the night, the torture of civilians, and the indiscriminate use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and pellet guns at protestors.

Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has also urged a dialogue in Kashmir.

"Everyone has the right to have an opinion and to express it in a peaceful way. Blunt measures such as blanket internet shutdowns, sometimes for prolonged periods, contravene international law," she said in a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday.

From 1954 until this Aug. 5, Jammu and Kashmir had special provisions under which it enacted its own laws. The provisions also protected the region's citizenship law, which barred outsiders from settling in and owning land in the territory.

India and both hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.

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