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SG Tushar Mehta at UNHRC slams Pakistan for raking Kashmir issue on the world stage

On Thursday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta lambasted Pakistan for resurrecting the issue of Kashmir on the international platform. Tushar Mehta while addressing the 41st session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) working group at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) said, “the entire Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh was and will always be an integral and inseparable part of India”.

According to reports, Mehta responded to the neighbouring country of Pakistan and highlighted the Union Territory’s transformation after the abrogation of Article 370, as compared to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). “After the constitutional changes in 2019, the people of the region are now able to realize their full potential like other parts of the country,” Mehta said.

Tushar Mehta’s reply came after Pakistan’s envoy broached the topic of Kashmir during his comments in the review process. The Pakistani delegate submitted six suggestions, including undoing actions done since August 2019 and allowing impartial observers access to the region. Mehta who headed the Indian delegation at UPR said, “Despite the constant threat of cross-border terrorism, the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir has improved significantly since August 2019.”

In 2019, India withdrew the special status of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir and separated it into two union territories. He stated that the Indian government has taken various efforts toward the overall development of Jammu and Kashmir, including the restoration of democracy at the grassroots level, strong administration, and unparalleled infrastructural, tourist, and commercial growth. He also stated that around 16 million people had visited Jammu and Kashmir this year, the “highest ever.”

“Expanding more than 800 people-friendly and progressive central laws in the region has ensured better opportunities for all the people of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. These central laws include affirmative action for weaker sections, the right to free and compulsory education, non-discriminatory laws, protection against domestic violence and empowerment of women, criminalization of same-sex relationships and rights to transgender people,” he added.

Meanwhile, at the UN Human Rights Council conference in Geneva, Greece encouraged India to fully implement religious freedom, while Germany raised concerns about the state of human rights. Mehta went on to say that while India values the role of human rights defenders, journalists, and activists in the democratic system, their actions should be in accordance with the law.

He stated that India has passed laws to fill gaps in the legal system to satisfy its human rights duties and that it has conducted a thorough assessment of existing laws, including the repeal of obsolete colonial-era legislation. Meanwhile, the 41st UPR suggested that India should combat violence against women, ratify the Convention against Torture, abolish the death penalty, and safeguard civil society and human rights activists, as well as ethnic and religious minorities.

Mehta then emphasized that India had ruled the instant divorce issued by the Talaq three times as unlawful and illegal and that it has revised its criminal legislation to broaden the categories of rape, sexual abuse, and trafficking, with harsher consequences.

The delegation is led by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and includes Sanjay Verma, Secretary (West), Indra Mani Pandey, Permanent Representative of India, KM Nataraj, Ld. Additional Solicitor General of India, and top officials from the Ministry of External Affairs. The UPR41 Working Group is scheduled to adopt India’s report at 15:30 on November 16, 2022.

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