Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Thursday (local time) slammed Pakistan for raking up the issue of Kashmir on the world stage again. Mehta said, “The entire Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh was and will always be an integral and inseparable part of India,” while addressing the 41st session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) working group at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
In a befitting reply to Pakistan, he also highlighted J-K’s transformation after the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 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,” said Mehta.
He said that after the constitutional changes and reorganization of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, the people of the region are now able to realize their full potential like other parts of the country. Tushar Mehta’s reaction comes after the representative of Pakistan raised the issue of J-K during his remarks in the review process.
The Pakistani representative made six recommendations including reversing the steps taken since August 2019 and access to independent observers in the region. Mehta, who is heading the Indian delegation for the 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 revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two union territories. He said that the Government of India has taken several steps for the all-round development of Jammu and Kashmir, including restoration of democracy at the grassroots level, good governance, and unprecedented development of infrastructure, tourism and trade.
He said more than 16 million tourists have come to Jammu and Kashmir this year, which is 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 UNHRC session in Geneva, Greece urged India to ensure full implementation of freedom of religion and Germany expressed concern about the status of human rights. Mehta further stated that India appreciates the role of human rights defenders, journalists and activists in the democratic system but the activities of these groups and individuals should be in conformity with the law.
He said that India had enacted laws to address gaps in the legal framework to meet its human rights obligations and has undertaken a comprehensive review of existing laws, including repealing obsolete colonial-era legislation. He also highlighted that India had declared the instant divorce granted by the pronouncement of Talaq three times as void and illegal and amended its criminal law to expand the definitions of rape, sexual violence and trafficking with stricter punishments.
Emphasizing India’s COVID-19 response, he said, “India had responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by giving direct and free food support to 800 million persons, financial support to more than 445 million citizens over 270 million vaccine doses to around 100 countries.” Meanwhile, 41st UPR recommended that India should combat violence against women; ratify the Convention against Torture; abolish the death penalty; ensure freedom of expression, association and assembly and protect civil society and human rights defenders and ethnic and religious minorities.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta is leading the delegation that comprises Sanjay Verma, Secretary (West), Indra Mani Pandey, Permanent Representative of India, KM Nataraj, Ld. Additional Solicitor General of India and senior officials from the Ministry of External Affairs. The UPR41 Working Group is set to adopt the report of India at 15:30 on November 16, 2022.