Kashmir Crisis, Day 50, September 22, 2019
Lockdown and collective punishment of the Kashmiri people continues. There has been no change on the ground. Freedom of expression, movement, and gathering, remains suspended. Shortages of medicine and other essential supplies remains. Hospitals continue to be inaccessible for those dependent on public transportation, and other essential services such as ambulances and fire services are out of reach because of the communications blockade. All schools, colleges and universities remain shut. Thousands of detainees remain in prisons, most far away from Kashmir. And new reports of torture have emerged. A teenager has reportedly committed suicide after he was allegedly beaten by the Indian army.
The communication blockade, directly in violation of Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, continues. The blackout has caused enormous suffering for all sections of the Kashmir society, especially for those Kashmiris who live away from Kashmir, and are unable to be in touch with their loved ones. The United Nations has described the communications black out as “a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence.”
Over five hundred Indian scientists and academics issued a statement expressing concern over the communication black out, as well as the human rights situation on the ground.
Over fifty US lawmakers have raised concerns over human rights violations in Kashmir. Bernie Sanders, Beto O’ Rourke, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Andy Levin, Rep. Ted Lieu, Rep. Rashid Tlaib. Sherrod Brown and Rep Don Beyer, Rep. Jans Chakowsky all issued statements expressing concern about the situation in Kashmir. Member of European Parliament, Theresa Griffin, The French Green Party, head of Turkish parliament’s Human Rights Commission, among others, also expressed concern over the human rights and humanitarian crisis in Kashmir.
Nobel Laureate Malala Yusufzai urged the UN to help Kashmiri children return to schools. Other Nobel Laureates, Mairead Maguire, Tawakol Karman, and Shirin Ebadi in their letter to the Gates Foundation with regard to conferring an award to Prime Minister Modi, expressed grave concern over the siege in Kashmir. They highlighted the communication blackout and other human rights abuses which especially deprive children and youth from education.
Lawyers around India are filing litigation in various courts, including the Supreme Court of India, challenging the suspension of Article 370, as well as the communication blockade. The response of the court has not been encouraging. No orders/remarks have been passed by the courts against the actions of the Government of India. The Supreme Court has essentially accepted the submission of the attorney General of India that the communication ban is required for security reasons, citing “national interest.” Senior counsels have been asking the court for the law/orders under which the communication ban has been issued. Instead of directing the Government’s counsel to provide information, the Supreme Court has been hesitant in pushing the Government on providing explanations.
In Kashmir the legal system has come to halt. At a time when lawyers are needed most, they have been in short supply. Since the detention of prominent lawyers of Kashmir, most of the 1050 member Kashmir Bar Association members have been on strike. The president of the Bar Association of Kashmir, Mian Abdul Qayoom, has been jailed since August 5th as is the former president of the High Court Bar, Nazir Ahmad Ronga. Since then, Fayad Sodagar, President of Anantnag District Bar Association and Abdul Salam Rather of the Baramulla District Bar Association have been detained under the Public Safety Act. In Shopian District Court Advocate Zubair Ahmed Bhat, and his father Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, a senior advocate have also been detained. The detention of lawyers is seen as a means of intimidating the members of the Bar Association. Many lawyers are reluctant to file habeas corpus petitions for fear of reprisal. Since August 5, 250 habeas corpus petitions have been filed in the Kashmir Valley by individuals challenging their detention by the government under the draconian Public Safety Act.
All media activity, including the publication of newspapers remains curtailed. New restrictions were placed on journalists preventing them from accessing communication facilities and reporting freely and independently. In spite of proper documentation and curfew passes, movement of journalists is restricted by security forces. Many local journalists are routinely harassed at security check points and their vehicles seized by security forces. Anuradha Bhasin, editor of the Kashmir times, who had earlier filed a law suit in the Supreme Court of India against curbs on press freedom in Jammu and Kashmir, has filed an additional affidavit regarding the continued blockade of communication.
Reports of Human rights violations against children are reportedly continuing. A petition was filed in the Supreme Court against the illegal detention of children in Jammu and Kashmir.
Kashmir Scholars network issued an open letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council member states seeking urgent debate on the human rights crisis in Kashmir and to work towards the resolution of the Kashmir issue.
Prime Minister Modi faces a federal lawsuit in Houston Texas for alleged human rights abuses in Kashmir.