AS much as New Delhi may wish to keep the lid on its abuses in India-held Kashmir, the work of neutral observers — as well as the part played by activists on social media— means that it is very difficult to hide from the world the violence perpetrated by India’s armed forces in the troubled region. However, this does not stop the Indian state from clamping down on efforts by activists to raise a voice against atrocities in the occupied territory; earlier this week, the Indian authorities prevented Amnesty International from releasing a report in Srinagar on a controversial law, using the fig leaf of the “prevailing law and order situation” to block the event. Yet the report, which details abuses under the Public Safety Act, was released online, pointing to the fact that in today’s world, tired old methods to prop up censorship and the obfuscation of facts just don’t work. As for the report itself, it is quite a damning indictment of India’s behaviour in IHK; Amnesty terms the law “draconian” while the report says a “pattern of abuses” by Indian authorities has been uncovered, including the detention and torture of teenagers. Over 1,000 Kashmiris have been reportedly detained under this black law between March 2016 and August 2017. This is, of course, not the first time abuses have been highlighted in IHK; the UN has aired similar concerns regarding rights abuses in the region.
While information may be hard to obtain and verify from the held region, the efforts of activists and social media users to raise a voice for the oppressed Kashmiri people must be appreciated. However, with India claiming to be a democracy, its high-handed efforts in the region — particularly to block information critical of its security forces under the vague excuse of ‘law and order’ — are patently undemocratic. By violently crushing the Kashmiri political struggle and aiming to do away with the region’s special status, India is fuelling animosity against Delhi amongst Kashmir’s people. But despite decades of such oppressive tactics, the Kashmiri desire for freedom and dignity remains unchanged; in fact, India’s brutality has actually succeeded in making a new generation of educated Kashmiri youths take up the gun and shun the political struggle. Reports such as Amnesty’s should serve as a wake-up call; instead of blocking such documents, India should pay greater heed to them and change its failed policy in occupied Kashmir.
Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2019