In a diplomatic setback to India, a UN body on human rights has expressed concern over violent protests in Jammu and Kashmir and asked for a "thorough and independent investigations" into the killings that had taken place recently in the state.
In a statement, the Geneva-based United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it was concerned about "recent violent protests in Indian-administered Kashmir that have reportedly led to civilian casualties as well as restrictions to the right to freedom of assembly and expression".
"The Acting High Commissioner calls for thorough and independent investigations into all killings that have occurred so far," Michele Montas, spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, told reporters in New York on Wednesday.
Over 40 people have died in clashes between security forces and protesters since a row erupted in Jammu and Kashmir two months ago over 40 hectares of land allotted to a Hindu shrine for temporary shelters for pilgrims.
"That the secretary-general himself does not issue a statement should not be read as a sign that he is not aware of, or concerned about, the situation," Montas added when asked why the UN secretary-general himself has not issued a statement on the situation in Kashmir.
The UN body's statement is seen in New Delhi as a diplomatic setback for India as the protests have drawn international attention to alleged human rights violations in Kashmir and India's dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir.
However, the external affairs ministry did not react to the OHCHR statement.
In a bid to internationalise the Kashmir issue, Pakistan has accused India of using "disproportionate use of force" and "human rights violations". India has repudiated Pakistan's contention saying Islamabad has no right to interfere in its internal affairs.
The OHCHR also called on the Indian authorities, in particular security forces, to respect the right to freedom of assembly and expression, and comply with international human rights principles in controlling the demonstrators.
"The use of force should be proportionate to the threat posed, and firearms must only be used in dispersing a violent assembly to protect individuals against an imminent threat of death or serious injury," it said.
The OHCHR also asked demonstrators to use peaceful means of protest only and urged political actors to take "all necessary protection measures to avoid exposing people under 18, including young children, to violence and to manipulation for political ends".