Pakistan has strongly condemned the “arbitrary arrests and illegal detention” of prominent Islamic scholars and five members of the disputed territory’s Jamaat-i-Islami party in Indian-occupied Kashmir, according to a press release issued by the Foreign Office (FO) on Sunday.
State-run APP reported that since Thursday, India has arrested several prominent Islamic scholars, including Maulana Sarjan Barkati, Maulana Abdul Rasheed Dawoodi, Maulana Mushtaq Ahmed Veeri and Abdul Majeed Dar Almadni, and booked them under the Public Safety Act (PSA) in Kot Bhalwal Jail in Jammu.
The draconian PSA allows detention without charges for up to two years.
“This all is aimed to force Kashmiris to forsake their demand for freedom,” APP quoted Mahmood Ahmad Sagar, convener of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference Azad Kashmir chapter, as saying.
The FO said that such “deplorable actions” only days ahead of the United Nations General Assembly sessions were a manifestation of “India’s growing intransigence and utter disregard of human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
“These arrests have marked a new low in the Indian occupation forces’ blatant and continued onslaught on the human rights of the innocent Kashmiris. The illegal detention of the Kashmiri Islamic scholars … is yet another Indian attempt to rob the Kashmiri people of their distinct religious and cultural identity,” the FO said in its statement.
It said that arrests under the draconian PSA were a “deplorable preemptive step” by Indian authorities planning to “illegally occupy” religiously significant waqf board properties.
“Apprehensive of widespread protests and unrest in the face of such a malicious move, these scholars have not only been unjustifiably arrested but shifted from [Indian-occupied] Kashmir to a prison in the Hindu-majority Jammu.
“These politically motivated arrests are clearly meant to stifle the voice of the Muslims of IoK and further marginalise them,” the FO said.
It added that Pakistan called for the immediate release of the scholars and other illegally detained Kashmiri prisoners.
“We also urge the international community to take note of the dangerously growing trajectory of Islamophobia in India, instigated at the behest of the BJP-RSS (Bharatiya Janata Party-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) nexus, that is aimed at suppressing the Muslims of India, denying them space to freely practice their faith and attacking their places of worship,” the FO further said.
Earlier this month, Amnesty International had expressed grave concern over the intensified repression of rights in IoK in the last three years.
In a report titled, “‘We are being punished by the law’: Three years since of abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir”, the human rights watchdog observed that in recent years, civil society members, journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders in the region had faced relentless interrogations, arbitrary travel bans, revolving door detentions, and repressive media policies.