Kashmir crisis update: Day 106
Passing the hundred day mark of loss of autonomy of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the lockdown of Kashmir Valley enters its 106th day. Kashmir is still without all internet services, SMS text and prepaid phone service. Heads of various government offices have received notice to submit an undertaking to the police for use of internet services. Schools, colleges and universities remain nonfunctional. Students are required to appear in Board examinations in spite of no instruction for three and a half months. Public transport still remains largely suspended and businesses remain mostly closed. Life came to stand still in Kashmir due to an early heavy snowfall leaving the populace without electricity for several days in severe cold temperatures.
In this time religious freedom has been severely curtailed with no prayers at the main grand mosque of Srinagar, Jamia Masjid, no prayers and gatherings at key religious festivals at Naqshband sahib, Hazratbal, and Chrar Sharief.
As per government’s admission, 6500 individuals were arrested after August 5, of whom 1200 remain in detention.
Hospital conditions are deteriorating and patient care has suffered a huge set back because of lack of access to the internet. Reports of increase in various forms of mental illness has been reported. communication blackout and being disconnected from family and friends has worsened the alienation of ordinary citizens, especially women and children.
Through the Jammu and Kashmir reorganization Act, the government of India has repealed 153 State Acts, including some that were far stronger than the Central Acts. Among the 153 are Acts through which the Human Rights Commission, Commission for Persons with Disability, Information Commission, Consumer Commission, Women and Child Rights Commission, Accountability Commission and Electricity Regulatory Commission were constituted. It is reported that close to 4000 cases were pending in these statutory bodies when the J&K Reorganizations Act was passed, putting the appellants’ quest for justice on hold. During the reorganization, there has been complete disregard for the issues of common people whose cases are pending under these various Commissions.
The Supreme Court of India has deferred all hearings on the challenge to the Abrogation of Article 370 until December, 10.
Reports of illegal detentions under the Public Safety Act, a lawless law under which a person can be detained for up to two years without bail, continue. Families of minors who have been detained allege that authorities pick up their children and even ask them to pay for the food to be served to their kids while in detention. Torture of minors in detention has also been reported. The government continues denying that there have been any arrests or detention of minors and has raised objections in a case filed before the Supreme Court. The government claimed that the cases were “based upon a falsehood”. Yet, the analysis of police’s own report submitted via the juvenile justice committee of the J&K high court last month provides evidence of arrest and detention of minors, verifying the claims of petitioners as well as media reports. With the justice system in a limbo, justice for victims remains elusive. Several senior advocates continue to remain under detention under the Public Safety Act. In most cases there is no available paperwork making it hard to fight for the release of detainees. Threats and extortion are used to silence the families of detainees. Given the breakdown in postal services and public transportation, petitioners have no way of knowing when the cases will be heard and when to be present at the court.
While the government of India claims all of Ladakh region is happy with the recent changes, people of Ladakh reject changes in property ownership. They are concerned about ecological and demographic changes and are demanding safeguards to protect the local population.
Journalists in Kashmir continue to work in impossible conditions and reports of abuse of journalists continue to pour in. Reporters without Boarders (RSF) released a series of videos documenting the conditions imposed on reporters. Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk said that the stories of journalists were shocking. “Technological obstruction, surveillance, intimidation and arrests – everything is designed to ensure that only the New Delhi-promoted version of events is being heard. The Kashmir Valley’s population has been buried in a news and information black hole for the past 100 days. This situation is a disgrace to Indian democracy.”
On November 14th. , a US Congressional Hearing was held on human rights violations in Kashmir calling for an end to the lockdown and allowing the people of Kashmir to determine their political future. The Commission also stressed that India should allow foreign journalists and human rights workers to investigate the situation on the ground in Kashmir. In response, India’s external affairs minister continues to refuse foreign journalists access suggesting “their presence could incentivize some Kashmiris to show there is agitation in the Valley.”
Academics are beginning to speak out on behalf of their Kashmiri colleagues impacted by the lockdown. On Nov. 12, the ten thousand member strong American Anthropology Association called on the Indian government to remove the communication ban and to “restore free exchange of scholarship and ideas vital to a functioning democracy.”
On October 30th, an eleven member team comprising advocates, trade union and human rights activists, and a psychiatrist, published a report based on their fact finding visit to Kashmir. The key conclusions and recommendations of the report include the following:
- Recognise that a dispute exists between peoples of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian government.
- Repeal the Jammu &
Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978 and the Armed Forces (Jammu &
Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990.
- Withdraw all army and para-military forces from civilian areas of Jammu and Kashmir.
- Open a transparent unconditional dialogue with the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir and their representatives so as to address peoples’ aspirations to determine and define their own destinies through democratic means and to find a political solution that respects the democratic will of the people in accordance with human rights and international law.
In the media