Activists describe life under lockdown in occupied Kashmir as grim

Published August 15, 2019
New Delhi: Kavita Krishnan, a social activist, speaks during a news conference on Wednesday to release a report after returning from India-occupied Kashmir.—Reuters
New Delhi: Kavita Krishnan, a social activist, speaks during a news conference on Wednesday to release a report after returning from India-occupied Kashmir.—Reuters

NEW DELHI: On the eve of India’s independence day, a team of activists and scholars released a report that paints a bleak picture of India-held Kashmir, challenging government accounts that life is returning to normal amid an indefinite curfew and communications blackout imposed just before the restive region’s special status was stripped by parliament on Aug 5.

The report, presented on Wednesday in New Delhi, found that people living under the lockdown expressed “enormous anger and anguish” in response to the surprise move by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to revoke a constitutional provision that gave the predominantly Muslim population some degree of autonomy and prevented outsiders from buying land in the pristine Himalayan region.

It said protests have occurred daily, though the constraints on movement and communication mean that the response has been largely subdued.

The report’s authors, including economist Jean Dreze, described the situation in India-held Kashmir as “grim” and said the clampdown had “crippled economic life” there. The team said it travelled to towns and villages the length of the Kashmir Valley between Aug 9 and Aug 13, including southern areas that have been recent hotbeds of rebel activity.

Maimoona Mollah, an activist on the fact-finding team, likened the situation in the region to Israel’s security protocol in the Palestinian territories. “Kashmir is like an open jail,” said Vimal Bhai, another activist on the team.

Although the four million residents of the Kashmir Valley, where an insurgency has simmered for decades, are used to blockades, residents have told that what they’re experiencing is unprecedented .

Since independence from British rule and partition in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought two wars over their rival claims to Kashmir, with each left controlling part of the region.

The Indian side has seen several uprisings, including a bloody armed rebellion launched in 1989 to demand independence or a merger with Pakistan. About 70,000 people have been killed in that uprising and a subsequent Indian military crackdown that left Kashmiris exhausted, traumatised and broken.

Even before India’s parliament voted on Aug 5 to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its statehood and split it into two federal territories, the central government imposed a curfew, suspended telephone and internet services and deployed tens of thousands of additional soldiers to a region which is already one of the world’s most militarised zones.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2019

Opinion

Editorial

China’s concerns
23 Jun, 2024

China’s concerns

Pakistan has no option but to neutralise militant threat to Chinese projects, as well as address its business and political stability concerns.
War drums
23 Jun, 2024

War drums

If it is foolish enough to launch another war in Lebanon, Tel Aviv will be solely responsible for setting the Middle East on fire.
Balochistan budget
23 Jun, 2024

Balochistan budget

BALOCHISTAN’S Rs955.6bn budget for the fiscal year 2024-25 makes many pledges to the poor citizens of Pakistan’s...
Another lynching
Updated 22 Jun, 2024

Another lynching

The chilling alternative to not doing anything — which appears to be the state’s preferred option — is the advent of mob rule.
Tax & representation
22 Jun, 2024

Tax & representation

THE taxation measures outlined in the budget for the incoming fiscal year have triggered a lot of concern among ...
Life of the party?
22 Jun, 2024

Life of the party?

THE launch of Awaam Pakistan, a party led by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former finance minister...