IT is a grim milestone. Tuesday marked the 100th day of the siege of India-held Kashmir, after New Delhi clamped down on the region and did away with its special status guaranteed by the Indian constitution.
Since then, life has become a nightmare for the Kashmiris, as they have been living under constant lockdown, their routines disrupted by the heavy hand of the Indian establishment.
The matter was raised during a Senate session in Islamabad on Tuesday, with lawmakers questioning the UN’s relative silence where the suffering of Kashmiris is concerned. Former Senate chairman Farooq Naek urged the government to approach the International Court of Justice over the matter, while the leader of the opposition in the upper house, Raja Zafarul Haq, condemned the inaction of the international community over Kashmir.
In the occupied region itself, journalists held a small silent demonstration in Srinagar to protest the blockade of the internet in IHK, and the crippling effect it has had on unfettered reporting from the region.
“The authorities have treated journalists [...] as potential troublemakers and choked journalism in the process,” one media person said at the protest. Indeed, Kashmiri journalists must be commended for their brave protest in the face of Indian brutality.
India’s lockdown has affected people from all walks of life in IHK.
Mothers lament that their sons have been picked up in midnight raids by New Delhi’s enforcers; schools and colleges have been shut, paralysing educational activities; trade and business have taken a similar hit; even religious occasions, such as Muharram and Eid, have not been spared as Kashmiris have been denied the opportunity to freely observe rituals.
Is this how a democracy — which India claims to be — behaves?
However, despite 100 days of suffocation, the Kashmiri spirit for azadi remains undeterred. However much India brackets the Kashmiri desire for autonomy and freedom with militancy, it is clear that the held region’s people will not give up their democratic demand for self-determination, as New Delhi’s brutal tactics for decades have failed to snuff out their courage and spirit of resistance.
Pakistan has made a major effort to raise a voice for the Kashmir cause across the globe, and many conscientious people have spoken up for the rights of the besieged region. In fact, activists within India have also questioned their government’s appalling tactics in IHK.
India can continue its brutal approach in the region for another 100 days but the result is unlikely to be different, as Kashmiris will not start treating their oppressors as their benefactors. Instead of this failed approach, India must immediately lift the siege of Kashmir and listen to what its people have to say. The BJP-led government must understand this is not a conquered territory, but a region with its own unique history and culture that cannot be subjugated.
Let Kashmir breathe.
Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2019