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Women walk before a curfew in Srinagar on August 4, 2020. - A curfew has been imposed across Indian Kashmir just two days before the first anniversary of New Delhi's abolition of the restive region's semi-autonomy, officials said late August 3, citing intelligence reports of looming protests. (Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP)

One year of India's clampdown in occupied Kashmir — here's everything you need to know

Dawn.com looks back at the major developments since August 5, 2019 when India unilaterally annexed occupied Kashmir.
Updated 13 Aug, 2020 05:44pm

The latest clampdown in occupied Kashmir by the Indian government that started on August 5, 2019 completes one year today, with life far from normal for 12.5 million Kashmiris.

As the year passed and international pressure mounted to restore freedoms, Indian authorities claimed they had 'eased' some restrictions, such as lifting roadblocks and restoring landlines and some mobile phone services.

Life, however, remains hard in occupied Kashmir, with hundreds of checkpoints still in place and internet coverage patchy and slow. The economic effect has been dire while coronavirus lockdown measures have only added to the hardship.

Security operations against Kashmiri fighters have accelerated, putting 2020 on course to be one of the bloodiest years for some time. According to a rights group report in July, Indian-occupied Kashmir had seen at least 229 killings during more than 100 military operations since January. It also saw 55 internet shutdowns and the destruction of 48 structures, the report by the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society said.

India has also granted tens of thousands of people from outside the region the same rights as Kashmiris, meaning they can now buy land for the first time — a move critics and residents say is an attempt to change the demographic makeup of the region.

Here, Dawn.com looks back at the major developments related to occupied Kashmir since India's move in August 2019 to bifurcate the valley.


AUGUST


Aug 3: Tourists flee, troop buildup creates panic

Thousands of tourists and students scrambled to get places on planes and buses leaving Indian-occupied Kashmir after the Indian government warned of the threat of “terror” attacks. Panic gripped occupied Kashmir since late July after India announced deploying at least 10,000 more soldiers to one of the world's highest militarised areas.

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Aug 5: India revokes Article 370 through rushed presidential decree

With an indefinite security lockdown in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) and elected representatives under house arrest, India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stripped Kashmiris of the special autonomy they had for seven decades through a rushed presidential order.

By repealing Article 370 of the constitution, people from the rest of India will now have the right to acquire property in occupied Kashmir and settle there permanently. Kashmiris as well as critics of India’s Hindu nationalist-led government see the move as an attempt to dilute the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir with Hindu settlers.

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Aug 8: 500 arrested, clampdown challenged in Supreme Court

Indian security forces arrested more than 500 people since August 5, it emerged.

Police taking an activist of Jammu and Kashmir Youth Congress into custody during a protest against the Indian government on Aug 10. — AFP
Police taking an activist of Jammu and Kashmir Youth Congress into custody during a protest against the Indian government on Aug 10. — AFP

A petition was filed in India's top court challenging the lockdown by opposition Congress party activist Tehseen Poonawalla, seeking immediate lifting of curfew and other restrictions, including blocking of phone lines, internet and news channels in Kashmir.

He also sought the immediate release of Kashmiri leaders who have been detained, including Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

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Aug 9: Thousands protest over new status despite clampdown

Indian police used tear gas and pellets to fight back at least 10,000 people protesting Delhi's withdrawal of special rights for Jammu and Kashmir in its main city of Srinagar.

The crowd was pushed back by police at Aiwa bridge, where a witness said tear gas and pellets were used against them. “Some women and children even jumped into the water,” a witness said at Srinagars Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, where pellet victims were admitted.

“They (police) attacked us from two sides,” another witness said.

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Aug 14, 15: Pakistan observes 'Kashmir Solidarity Day', 'Black Day'

Pakistan observed Independence Day as 'Kashmir Solidarity Day' to express solidarity with Kashmiris and highlight their plight. Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing a special session of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly on August 14, warned Indian premier Narendra Modi that any action by India in Pakistan would be countered with a stronger response.

August 15, India's Independence Day, was observed as Black Day across Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran warned that should ethnic cleansing of Muslims take place in the region, there would be severe repercussions in the Muslim world.

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Aug 16: UNSC Kashmir moot gives lie to Indian claim

For the first time since 1965, the UN Security Council (UNSC) held a meeting exclusively on occupied Jammu and Kashmir, nullifying India’s claim that this was an internal matter.

Although the council did not agree on a statement, China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun summed up the discussions, expressing serious concern over the situation.

“The UNSC members are concerned about the human rights situation there and they (want) the parties concerned to refrain from taking any unilateral action that might further aggravate the tension there since the situation is already very tense and very dangerous,” he said.

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Aug 18: Thousands detained since India took away autonomy

A magistrate, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said that since August 5, at least 4,000 people were arrested and held under the Public Safety Act (PSA), a controversial law that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial.

“Most of them were flown out of Kashmir because prisons here have run out of capacity,” the magistrate said, adding that he had used a satellite phone allocated to him to collate the figures from colleagues across the Himalayan territory amid a communications blackout imposed by authorities.

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Aug 23: Kashmiris defy curbs, clash with Indian forces

Occupation forces used tear gas against stone-throwing residents in Srinagar, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.

Kashmiri residents throw stones towards Indian security forces during restrictions in Srinagar. — Reuters
Kashmiri residents throw stones towards Indian security forces during restrictions in Srinagar. — Reuters

“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.

Police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a centre of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy. Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan, to protest against India’s decision.

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Aug 26: India stops politicians from visiting occupied Kashmir

Indian authorities defended blocking opposition politicians from visiting occupied Kashmir, saying it was to "avoid controversy", as the crippling security lockdown entered its fourth week.

The administration of occupied Kashmir sent back a delegation of India’s top opposition leaders, including former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, shortly after they landed in Srinagar. Afterwards, Rahul Gandhi said that he had experienced firsthand "the draconian administration and brute force unleashed on the Jammu & Kashmir people".

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Aug 30: Stories of torture emerge, India tries to portray 'normalcy'

People in occupied Kashmir accused Indian security forces of carrying out beatings and torture in the wake of the government's decision to strip the region of its autonomy, BBC News reported, as India tried to portray "calm, normalcy" in the region.

The BBC heard from several villagers who said they were beaten with sticks and cables, and given electric shocks. The author of the article, journalist Sameer Hashmi, wrote that residents in several villages showed him injuries. "Doctors and health officials are unwilling to speak to journalists about any patients regardless of ailments, but the villagers showed me injuries alleged to have been inflicted by security forces," he said.

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SEPTEMBER


Sep 3: Thousands march to Indian High Commission in London as lockdown enters 30th day

Thousands of protesters took out a rally in London to express solidarity with the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir, as a crippling lockdown entered its 30th day.

A boy attending the protest holds a placard that describes Narendra Modi as another Hitler. — Dawn
A boy attending the protest holds a placard that describes Narendra Modi as another Hitler. — Dawn

More than 5,000 protesters assembled at Parliament Square in the British capital and marched to the Indian High Commission to protest Kashmiris' oppression at the hands of Indian security forces. Protesters carrying placards and waving Kashmir flags chanted slogans of "Terrorist terrorist, Modi is a terrorist!" and "Hum chheen kay lain gay — azaadi!" (We will take by force — freedom!).

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Sep 5: Amnesty International launches 'urgent campaign' to end blackout

Amnesty International India launched a global campaign in a bid to highlight the human cost of the month-long lockdown in occupied Kashmir.

"The draconian communication blackout in [occupied] Kashmir is an outrageous protracted assault on the civil liberties of the people of Kashmir," read a press release by the human rights watchdog.

"In response to this indefinite communication blackout, Amnesty International India has launched the campaign #LetKashmirSpeak on 5 September, 2019 – which marks a month of the communications blackout, to ask for immediate lifting of the lockdown," stated Amnesty International India.

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Sep 15: Number of protests held since Aug 5 more than 700

A senior government source said since August 5, an average of 20 protests per day took place in occupied Kashmir against Indian rule. Despite a curfew, restrictions on movement and the severe curtailment of internet and mobile phone services, public demonstrations against India — mostly in the largest city Srinagar — have been constant, the official said.

Altogether 722 protests were recorded since August 5, with Baramulla district in the northwest and Pulwama in the south the biggest hotspots after Srinagar, the source said.

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Sep 21: Lockdown puts economy in tailspin

In one of the world’s largest apple growing regions, the lockdown cut transport links with buyers in India and abroad, plunging the industry into turmoil. Despite being harvest time, the market in the northern Kashmiri town of Sopore — usually packed with people, trucks and produce at this time of year — remained empty, while in orchards across occupied Jammu and Kashmir unpicked apples rot on the branch.

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Sep 28: Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia speak up for Kashmiris at UNGA

Prime Minister Imran arrived in the United States for a week of global diplomacy, with his trip dubbed 'Mission Kashmir'. The highlight of his more than 45-minute-long speech at the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York was intense criticism of India for its annexation of occupied Kashmir and the continued restrictions imposed in the region.

Mohammad Siddiq, 70, said he was wounded when an Indian police man fired a pellet gun at him while returning home from a mosque, badly damaging his left eye. — AP
Mohammad Siddiq, 70, said he was wounded when an Indian police man fired a pellet gun at him while returning home from a mosque, badly damaging his left eye. — AP

"(Nearly) 100,000 Kashmiris have died in the past 30 years because they were denied their right of self-determination. Eleven thousand women were raped. The world hasn't done anything," he said. "What is going to happen will be a blood bath. The people will come out."

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at the forum said said despite UN resolutions, the territory had been invaded and occupied. In his address, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised the international community for failing to pay attention to the Kashmir conflict, which, he said, awaits solution for 72 years.

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OCTOBER


Oct 1: 9-year-old among 144 minors detained

A police list seen by AFP showed that Indian authorities in occupied Kashmir had detained 144 minors, including a nine-year-old, since the government removed the region's special status in August.

Sixty of the minors were under 15, according to the document submitted to a committee appointed by India's Supreme Court to look into allegations of illegal detentions. Reasons given by the police for detaining the minors included stone pelting, rioting and causing damage to public and private property, the committee said in its report.

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Oct 3: Lockdown and communications clampdown in effect for 2 months

The lockdown and communications blackout in occupied Kashmir entered its 60th day on Oct 3 as millions remained isolated from the world and concerns were raised about lack of medical supplies in the area.

Scores of British Kashmiris in London gathered at Parliament Square. — AP
Scores of British Kashmiris in London gathered at Parliament Square. — AP

Scores of British Kashmiris in London gathered at Parliament Square for a candlelight vigil to mark two months from the date that the Indian government revoked Article 370.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran cautioned people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) against crossing the Line of Control to support the struggle of the residents of occupied Kashmir.

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Oct 6: Kashmiri party delegation meets detained leadership after 2 months

The Indian administration granted permission to a delegation from the National Conference party to meet their top two leaders. The meeting with party President Farooq Abdullah and Vice President Omar Abdullah took place in Srinagar.

National Conference spokesperson Madan Mantoo told Press Trust of India that the Indian government granted permission after provincial head Devender Singh Rana made a request to Satya Pal Malik, occupied Jammu and Kashmir’s governor.

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Oct 10: India decides to lift travel advisory while residents continue to live under lockdown

India will lift a travel advisory on occupied Kashmir, said authorities. "The governor [Satya Pal Malik] directed that the Home Department's advisory asking tourists to leave the Valley be lifted immediately. This will be done with effect from October 10," an official spokesman was quoted as saying by India Today.

Authorities also released three low-level politicians, Yawar Mir, Noor Mohammed and Shoaib Lone, in occupied Kashmir amid international pressure to ease clampdown.

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Oct 15: Farooq Abdullah's sister, daughter detained for holding 'anti-India protest'

Police detained at least 12 women, including the sister and daughter of former occupied Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah, for holding an anti-India protest.

Kashmiri women argue with an Indian police officer after they were stopped from staging a protest in Srinagar. ─ AP
Kashmiri women argue with an Indian police officer after they were stopped from staging a protest in Srinagar. ─ AP

The women, carrying placards reading “Respect Fundamental Rights” and “Why downgrade Jammu and Kashmir,” assembled in a park in Srinagar. Police whisked them away to a nearby police station as they tried to march through the main business area of Lal Chowk.

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Oct 24: India holds village council polls despite lockdown, boycott by parties

Village council elections were held across occupied Kashmir, with the detention of many mainstream local politicians and a boycott by most parties prompting expectations that the polls would install supporters of BJP.

Indian officials hoped the election of leaders of more than 300 local councils would lend credibility amid a political vacuum and contended they would represent local interests better than corrupt state-level political officials.

Heavy contingents of police and paramilitary soldiers guarded polling stations across the region. At some places, soldiers patrolled streets around polling stations. Police said no violence was reported.

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Oct 29: Far-right Euro MPs visit occupied Kashmir as UN body demands full restoration of human rights

Nearly 30 Euro MPs, drawn mainly from extreme right-wing parties, were the first international delegation to visit occupied Kashmir since authorities imposed a security clampdown in August to back the ending of the region's autonomy. While the Indian government backed the visit, the European parliament and European Union hierarchy were not involved, raising some diplomatic doubts.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), meanwhile, expressed "extreme concern" over human rights abuses in occupied Kashmir and asked the Indian authorities to "fully restore" human rights in the occupied territory.

The human rights body also criticised the Indian judiciary over the way it is dealing with the situation in occupied Kashmir. "The Supreme Court of India has been slow to deal with petitions concerning habeas corpus, freedom of movement and media restrictions," it said.

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Oct 31: Occupied Kashmir officially loses special status and is divided

Shops and offices were shut in occupied Kashmir and the streets largely deserted as federal authorities formally revoked the restive area’s constitutional autonomy and split it into two federal territories.

An Indian soldier stands guard as the Indian flag flies atop the government secretariat in Srinagar on Oct 31.—AP
An Indian soldier stands guard as the Indian flag flies atop the government secretariat in Srinagar on Oct 31.—AP

Just after midnight on Oct 30, the federal government’s orders went into effect, dividing up occupied Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories; one Jammu and Kashmir, and the other the Buddhist-dominated high altitude region of Ladakh. “Everything changes on Thursday,” said a retired Kashmiri judge, Hasnain Masoodi, a member of India’s Parliament. “The entire exercise is unconstitutional. The mode and methodology have been undemocratic. People were humiliated and never consulted.”

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NOVEMBER


Nov 3: Pakistan rejects new maps by India

On November 2, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs issued a notification detailing the boundaries of the so called union territories of occupied Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and also issued a new political map of India.

The new map showed areas under AJK inside Ladakh, and not in Jammu and Kashmir as depicted earlier.

A day later, as the lockdown hit the 90-day mark, Pakistan rejected the political maps of India, saying the maps issued by India were "incorrect, legally untenable, void and in complete violation of the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions".

A day later, at least one person was killed and 17 wounded in a grenade blast at a crowded market in Srinagar. 18 people were also injured.

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Nov 12: Occupied Kashmir marks 100 days of annexation

Dozens of journalists held a silent demonstration against the internet blackout, holding their laptops with blank screens or placards with the words “100 days no internet” and “stop humiliating Kashmir journalists”.

Kashmiri journalists protest against internet blockade put by India's government in Srinagar. — AFP
Kashmiri journalists protest against internet blockade put by India's government in Srinagar. — AFP

Authorities justified the ban as necessary to ‘‘stop fighters from neighbouring Pakistan from using internet to fan radicalisation’’ in occupied Kashmir. They instead set up an office with 10 internet-enabled stations for around 200 working journalists, who queue up to use the computers for 15 minutes each.

The very next day, the Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a hearing to “examine the human rights situation in the former state of Jammu and Kashmir in India in historical and national context”.

“We have concerns about Kashmir, and we are watching the situation very closely,” said Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as another congressional panel reviewed the consequences of India’s decision to revoke the valley’s special status.

Pakistan lauded the US commission for becoming the voice of Kashmiris "brutally silenced by India".

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Nov 17: Ex Indian army official faces backlash for remarks advocating rape, death in Kashmir

President Arif Alvi termed the remarks of a former Indian army official advocating the rape of Kashmiri women as "disgraceful". "Imagine the fate of women in Indian occupied Kashmir where such men wield power with total impunity," he added.

In a tweet, the president condemned the comments made by retired Major General SP Sinha on a TV show on Hindi news channel TV9 Bharatvarsh, in India, in which he can be heard saying: "Death in return for death, rape in return for rape."

Pakistan also rejected the “unfounded remarks” made by the Indian external affairs minister in an interview with a French newspaper and during his interaction with certain other media outlets that the “situation is back to normal” in Kashmir.

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Nov 25: Indian team barred from going outside Srinagar

In a stark indication that the situation in occupied Kashmir is far from normal, a delegation of civil society activists from India was stopped by police from going outside Srinagar.

The Times of India reported that for the second consecutive day, the five-member delegation led by former Union minister Yashwant Sinha was not allowed to go out of the main city of occupied Kashmir.

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DECEMBER


Dec 7: Resolution in US Congress seeks end to repression

A bipartisan resolution moved in the US Congress urged India to end the restrictions on communications and mass detentions in occupied Kashmir as swiftly as possible and preserve religious freedom for all residents.

Resolution 745 was jointly moved by Congre­sswoman Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat, and Congressman Steve Watkins, a Republican. Born in Madras (Chennai), Jayapal is the first Indian-American woman to serve in the US House of Representatives.

The movers rej­ected arbitrary detention, use of excessive force against civilians, and suppression of peaceful expression of dissent as proportional respon­ses to security challenges.

A lock is seen on the entrance gate of grand Jamia Masjid, the main mosque in Srinagar. — AP
A lock is seen on the entrance gate of grand Jamia Masjid, the main mosque in Srinagar. — AP

A day later, a four-member delegation of human rights activists from Canada after meeting Mushaal Hussein Mullick, the wife of imprisoned Kashmiri leader Mohammad Yasin Malik, vowed to raise their voice against excesses being committed by India in occupied Kashmir.

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Dec 10: Imran urges global community to act

In his message on global Human Rights Day, Prime Minister Imran Khan appealed to the international community to act against the "illegal annexation" of occupied Kashmir by the Indian government.

"On Human Rights Day, we must appeal to the world's conscience, to upholders of international law [and] to the UNSC to act against the illegal annexation of IOJK by the Indian occupation government," he said in a tweet.

That day, India was set to allow some incoming text messages into Kashmir, officials said, four months after they were first blocked when New Delhi moved to strip the region's autonomy.

They will still be unable to send messages, the officials said.

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Dec 20: Indian FM cancels meeting with US lawmakers over Kashmir criticism

Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar cancelled a meeting with senior members of the United State's Congress this week over Kashmir criticisms, the Washington Post reported.

According to the report, US lawmakers had refused demands to exclude from the meeting a congresswoman, Pramila Jayapal, who had criticised the Indian government's actions and policies in the occupied valley.

“It’s wrong for any foreign government to tell Congress what members are allowed in meetings on Capitol Hill,” said Senator Kamala Harris when India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar refused to attend a meeting with American lawmakers because Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal was also on the guestlist.

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Dec 31: India to restore text messaging services in occupied Kashmir

Autho­rities in occupied Kashmir announced they will restore text messaging services in the disputed region, almost five months after the security and communications lockdown. Local government spokesman Rohit Kansal said the decision was made after a review of the situation. He said broadband internet services in government-run hospitals will also be restored.

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JANUARY, 2020


Jan 2: Text messaging services partially restored, clampdown crosses 150 days

Contrary to earlier claims, authorities in occupied Kashmir only partially restored text messaging services for the residents of the valley almost five months after India revoked the region's special autonomy, First Post reported.

The region's top administrative official, Baseer Khan, confirmed that text messaging services were only restored for the users of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited. Meanwhile, an Airtel official stated that the order to restore services was "under implementation", the report added.

The partial restoration of text messaging services angered citizens who mourned the fact that they were unable it get in touch with their loved ones as the new year rolled in, added the publication.

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Jan 9: EU diplomats reject Indian invitation of 'guided tour' to occupied Kashmir

Ambassadors from European countries rejected India's invitation for a two-day visit to occupied Kashmir, seeking instead the "freedom to meet the people unescorted", several Indian media outlets reported.

According to Associated Press, envoys from 15 countries including the United States visited occupied Kashmir for two days.

Quoting diplomatic sources, The Hindu reported that diplomats from EU had decided not to accept the invitation and asked for "more freedom to travel and meet people unescorted". Consequently, the Indian government decided to organise a separate visit for the European envoys at a later date, the report added.

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Jan 10: India's Supreme Court terms internet shutdown in occupied Kashmir 'unconstitutional'

India's Supreme Court, while hearing petitions challenging the restrictions on movement and communication imposed in occupied Kashmir, said that freedom of internet is a fundamental right and ordered the administration to review all restrictive orders.

In a rebuke for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, the court termed shutting down the internet "unconstitutional". “Freedom of speech and expression includes right to internet within Article 19 of the constitution. So the restrictions on internet has to follow the principles of proportionality under Article 19(2),” said the Supreme Court bench, according to Hindustan Times.

The court observed that internet suspension without “any particular duration and indefinitely” is a violation of telecom rules, reported The Wire.

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Jan 16: UN Security Council reviews situation in occupied Kashmir

The United Nations Security Council held a meeting on Jammu and Kashmir and reviewed the situation in the occupied valley.

Although the meeting took place behind closed doors, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun spoke to journalists outside the chamber, confirming that the council had reviewed the situation in the occupied valley.

“We had a meeting on Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. “The Security Council heard a briefing from the secretariat on the situation.”

Asked what China’s position on the situation in Kashmir was, he said: “Our position is very clear.”

China recognises Kashmir as a territory disputed between India and Pakistan and openly supports Islamabad’s demand for a plebiscite to enable the Kashmiri people to decide their own future.

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Jan 27: Protest outside Indian mission in London on republic day

Kashmiri and Sikh protesters line the pavement to protest outside the Indian mission on Sunday. — Dawn
Kashmiri and Sikh protesters line the pavement to protest outside the Indian mission on Sunday. — Dawn

Hundreds of Sikh and Kashmiri protesters observed a black day by gathering outside the Indian High Commission as India marked its Republic Day.

Demonstrators from across London as well as Birmingham and other cities traveled to Aldwych on coaches and buses, carrying placards and banners calling out the Narendra Modi-led Indian government’s atrocities in held Kashmir.

The groups said the Indian government’s celebration of Republic Day is hypocritical as it continues to impose a curfew and communications blackout in the occupied territory to suppress dissent.

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February


Feb 5: India's clampdown in occupied Kashmir crosses 6 months

As India's clampdown crossed six months, Pakistanis came out in droves on streets and avenues across the country to observe Kashmir Solidarity Day.

Prime Minister Imran addressed a special session of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative Assembly on the day, and said Modi’s annexation of occupied Kashmir would eventually lead to its independence.

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Feb 6: India extends detention of ex-chief ministers of occupied Kashmir under 'draconian' law

India extended the detention of four political leaders in occupied Kashmir, including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

The detention order was issued under the draconian Public Safety Act, which allows detention without charges for up to two years, officials in Srinagar told Reuters. The officials said the detained include Abdullah, Mufti and regional party leaders Ali Mohmmad Sagar and Sartaj Madni.

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Feb 14: US senators call for assessment of rights situation in occupied Kashmir

Four key US senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting an assessment of human rights situation in India-occupied Kashmir and of the rights of religious minorities in India, it emerged.

The letter was released to the media days before Donald Trump’s Feb 23-26 visit to India, his first as the US president.

“India has now imposed the longest-ever internet shut down by a democracy, disrupting access to medical care, business, and education for seven million people. Hundreds of Kashmiris remain in ‘preventive detention’, including key political figures,” wrote the senators.

Meanwhile, India announced plans to offer around 6,000 acres of land in occupied Kashmir as part of a business summit planned for April or May “to help” the disputed region after withdrawing its special rights and making sweeping administrative changes.

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Feb 19: India cracks down on use of VPNs in occupied Kashmir to get around social media ban

At hospitals and universities, only administrative staff can use broadband, leaving doctors unable to access research. — AFP
At hospitals and universities, only administrative staff can use broadband, leaving doctors unable to access research. — AFP

Authorities in occupied Kashmir started cracking down on virtual private network (VPN) applications used to circumvent a months-long ban on social media, police said. With social networks such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram still blocked, residents used VPNs or proxy servers to bypass the restrictions.

Police said many VPN users were trying to stir trouble and were liable to face action.

“We have identified 100 social media users and are in the process of identifying more users for misuse of social media, for disseminating fake and false secessionist, anti-India propaganda,” said the cyber police chief Tahir Ashraf.

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Feb 25: Trump during New Delhi visit reiterates offer to mediate on Kashmir

US President Donald Trump, while addressing a press conference in the Indian capital on the last day of his two-day visit, reiterated his earlier offer to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir.

"They [Pakistan] are working on Kashmir. Kashmir has been a thorn in lots of people's sides for a long time. There are two sides to every story. We discussed terrorism at length today," he said, following his meeting with Modi.

"Kashmir obviously is a big problem between India and Pakistan, they are going to work out their problem. They have been doing it for a long time."

Trump, however, made no statement regarding the lockdown in India-occupied Kashmir during his visit.

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March


March 4: Ban on access to social media lifted but other internet restrictions remain

Authorities in occupied Kashmir lifted the ban on access to social media websites, India Today reported, saying that people in the region would be allowed unrestricted 2G internet access. Internet services would also be available on landline connections but the permission would be granted after verification, the report added.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the speed restrictions on mobile internet access would remain in place.

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March 19: Pakistan asks India to lift blockade to curb spread of coronavirus

The first case of Covid-19 was detected in occupied Jammu and Kashmir on March 18. Pakistan called on India to lift the communication blockade and ensure supplies of essential commodities in the valley to contain the spread of Covid-19 and mitigate the suffering of Kashmiris.

The Foreign Office spokesperson said that because of the continuing lockdown, Kashmiris were being deprived of their fundamental freedoms; their right to liberty, health, education and food.

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April


April 1: India issues new domicile law for occupied Kashmir

The government issued new domicile rules about eight months after the abrogation of Article 370, which meant that a person who has resided in Jammu and Kashmir for 15 years will now be able to call the occupied territory his or her place of domicile.

Prior to this, 35A of the Constitution of J&K empowered it to define a resident. A person will also be deemed domiciled if he/she is registered as migrant by the relief and rehabilitation commissioner in the union territory.

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April 9: Pakistan 'deeply concerned' over lack of medical supplies in occupied Kashmir

Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said Pakistan was "deeply concerned" at the lack of medical supplies and assistance in occupied Kashmir where 170 cases of Covid-19 and five fatalities from the disease had been reported by April 9.

A day earlier, six international human rights organisations issued a joint statement demanding India release political detainees and restore high-speed internet in occupied Kashmir.

Although the statement was issued in the backdrop of aggravating coronavirus pandemic in India, it was emphasised by the issuing groups that the concerns raised by them relating to torture, ill-treatment, or arbitrarily depriving people of their liberty were not limited to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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May


May 3: Security men, Kashmiri fighters killed in occupied valley

Five Indian security personnel and four suspected Kashmiri fighters were killed in two gunfights in occupied Kashmir, officials said on May 3.

Shortly after, hundreds of Indian soldiers launched an operation late after receiving intelligence that Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo was hiding in a village in south Kashmir's Pulwama district. They killed four Kashmiri fighters in gun battles, including Naikoo, the commander of the biggest separatist group fighting New Delhi in the disputed Himalayan region.

Authorities also disabled mobile internet across the Kashmir region to forestall large crowds from gathering in the streets to mourn his killing.

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May 13: Clashes erupt in occupied Kashmir after young man killed

Indian soldiers fatally shot a young man at a checkpoint in occupied Kashmir, residents and officials said, triggering anti-India protests and clashes in the disputed Himalayan region.

As news of his death spread in his village, hundreds of men and women began chanting “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom” and demanded that the victim’s body be returned to the family for burial. Authorities did not immediately hand over the body.

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Pakistan's Foreign Office urged the world to intervene over killings and human rights abuses in occupied Kashmir by Indian forces.

“The international community must take immediate steps to stop India from committing serious crimes against the Kashmiri people and hold it accountable under international law and relevant human rights conventions,” the FO said in a reaction to the killing of 13 Kashmiris.

“Pakistan is deeply concerned over unabated extra-judicial killings of Kashmiri youth in fake encounters and so-called ‘anti-infiltration’ operations,” the FO statement said, adding that killing of 13 Kashmiris in a single day spoke about Indian cruelties in the valley.

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July


July 2: Protests after Indian troops kill elderly man travelling with 3-year-old grandson

Relatives of civilian Bashir Ahmed Khan shout slogans as they grieve inside his residence on the outskirts of Srinagar on July 1. — AP
Relatives of civilian Bashir Ahmed Khan shout slogans as they grieve inside his residence on the outskirts of Srinagar on July 1. — AP

Hundreds of people in occupied Kashmir staged protests, accusing government forces of killing an elderly man in front of his minor grandson during a gun battle with Kashmiri fighters, which also left a trooper dead.

The Kashmiri fighters opened fire from a mosque attic in the northern town of Sopore, setting off a battle with security forces, paramilitary police spokesperson Junaid Khan told AFP.

The family of Bashir Ahmed Khan said that he was dragged out of his car after the showdown and shot dead by paramilitary troopers.

His three-year-old grandson, who was travelling with him, was later pictured sitting on his chest.

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July 9: UN officials seek probe into torture, custodial deaths of Muslims in occupied Kashmir

Four UN special rapporteurs have asked the Indian government to investigate the alleged torture and custodial killings of several Muslim men since January 2019, it emerged in July.

A report was sent to the Indian government over “the continued deterioration of human rights conditions” in occupied Kashmir, documenting several cases of “arbitrary detentions, violations to the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment and rights of persons belonging to minorities".

“We remain deeply concerned about the ongoing human rights violations,” said the report shared on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHCR) website.

They called on New Delhi “to conduct an impartial investigation into all the allegations of arbitrary killings, torture and ill-treatment and to prosecute suspected perpetrators.”

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August


August 2: One year on, India's lockdowns ruin occupied Kashmir's economy

A Kashmiri houseboat owner Ghulam Qadir shows his guest entry book which was last filled in July 2019, in Srinagar, July 28. — AP
A Kashmiri houseboat owner Ghulam Qadir shows his guest entry book which was last filled in July 2019, in Srinagar, July 28. — AP

“We’ve not earned a single penny for a year now,” said Ghulam Qadir Ota, a houseboat owner. “All we have are these boats. We don’t have any other means to earn.”

When India suddenly scrapped disputed Kashmir's semi-autonomous status in August 2019, followed by an unprecedented security clampdown, economic ruin ensued.

“It was not just a political change. It destroyed our livelihood,” said Abdul Rashid, 60, who has now turned to growing vegetables to feed his family.

The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries has pegged the economic loses in the region at $5.3 billion and about half a million jobs lost since August last year.

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August 5: India's lockdown in occupied Kashmir in place for 365 days