While the Prime Minister of India had suggested that the situation in Kashmir will return to normal in four months, Kashmir remains under siege had crossed the four month mark. Schools, colleges, and universities, remain closed even as tens of thousands of students have been forced to appear in annual exams. While education remains suspended, and students are depending on private tuitions to keep up with their studies, Kashmir’s educational institutions are being used for housing the armed forces. Classrooms serve as army shelters who are reported to have trashed the premises of every school and college.
Women of Kashmir continue to bear the heaviest burden under India’s lockdown. A 2015 survey of mental health issues in Kashmir by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences Srinagar (IMHANS) found that mental health problems had reached epidemic proportions. After Aug 5, as per a psychiatrist, there is a significant increase and recurrence of PTSD symptoms in most patients. And, the lockdown has further exacerbated lack of access to mental health care for those who need it most.
There is no official word on the restoration of internet services which is impacting every aspect of life in Kashmir, especially traders in handicrafts, students and journalists. The government of India defended the internet ban in the Supreme Court calling it an exceptional situation. Businesses that wish to have internet access have been asked to sign a bond stating that the internet services will be solely used for “business purposes.” No encrypted files containing any sort of videos or pictures will be uploaded, no social networking, proxies, VPN’s and wi-fi and that all USB ports will be disabled. Since Kashmiris have been unable to access their internet, on Dec. 4, millions of WhatsApp accounts were automatically deleted.
Based on a conservative estimate by the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce, Kashmir economy has suffered a loss of 15,000 crores since August, 5. There have been major job losses due to clampdown on internet services and the general clampdown. The worst hit areas include the handicraft industry, tourism, and e-commerce. The handicraft industry alone has suffered losses of 50,000 jobs as artisans are unable to get fresh orders in absence of communication facilities. Hotel and restaurant industry has lost 30,000 jobs and the e-commerce sector close to 10,000 jobs. The government on the other hand continues to claim economic development as a result of abrogation of Article 370 and denies any reports of economic losses. There is also no estimate of the costs incurred for security forces.
Shops and businesses now open late mornings and close by early afternoon. Some public transportation has also resumed. However, school and university buses are still off the roads. Per official reports of the 5,161 people arrested, 609 continue to remain in detention.
Reports of torture of minors continue to pour in, and have been documented.
During the first foreign and ministerial dialogue between Japan and India, the Japanese spokesperson said that Japan examined the situation in Kashmir “very carefully” and that Japan hoped for a peaceful resolution of the issue. Prior to the recent visit of Swedish Royals to India, the Swedish foreign minister issued sharp criticism of India’s Kashmir policy and emphasized the importance for respect for human rights. It urged the Indian government to avoid escalation of the situation and urged India to resolve the Kashmir conflict as per the wishes of the people of Kashmir.
In its 2019 report, Civicus Monitor, an international alliance of civil society organizations, has downgraded India’s civic space rating from “obstructed” to “repressed”. Civicus expressed deep concern over the clampdown on civic space in Kashmir. The report states that “the people of Jammu and Kashmir have long suffered violations of their fundamental freedoms. Instead of ensuring justice and accountability for these abuses, the government has resorted to increasing its repression with arbitrary detentions and restrictions on access to information.”
Eight advocates in their jointly filed written submissions to the Supreme Court have challenged the constitutionality and legality of Kashmir lockdown. The petitioners say that the state’s case on Kashmir lockdown fails “test of proportionality” and that the case has “internal contradictions.” The petitioners also claim that the State has place incorrect facts before the court. Complete reports of daily hearings in the Kashmir case can be found here. For an update on justice and legal developments on Kashmir case, please see detailed report published by Kashmir Scholars.
The threat of land grab is close to becoming a reality as government is creating a “land bank” as outside companies are lining up with investment proposals. The new registration act also changes the authorities who control registration of land transactions. The government has opened a new department to register land transactions which will now replace the former revenue department in Jammu and Kashmir. This decision touches on one of the major changes resulting from the Aug 5 decision. Under the reorganization act, land sale is no longer restricted to state subjects. There is growing opposition to the transfer if registration powers by lawyers in Jammu.
At a private gathering in New York, India’s Consul General, called for an ‘Israel model’ of settlements for Kashmir, and openly advocated for erasure of the identity of Kashmiri Muslims
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