‘Due to the communications blockade in Kashmir, news of protests went largely underreported’

On 5 August 2019, the government of India revoked Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution, which guaranteed the autonomous status and rights of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The government also imposed a severe communications blockade that impacted on the daily lives of Kashmiri people, including by affecting access to medical care, basic necessities and emergency services. Hundreds of detentions of political activists, human rights defenders and community leaders have been reported. CIVICUS speaks about this situation with Natasha Rather, Regional Campaign Officer for the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, linked to the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), an organisation that focuses on enforced disappearances in the region, monitors the human rights situation and documents abuses.

Natasha Rather interview

What was the situation of civic freedoms in Jammu and Kashmir prior to the revocation of its special status under Indian administration?

During the first half of 2019, Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir (JK) witnessed continued and increased violence and heightened tensions between India and Pakistan, following a militant attack on the Central Reserve Police Force convoy on the Jammu–Srinagar highway that resulted in the killing of 48 Indian soldiers in February 2019. Following this attack, Kashmiri people living in various cities and towns of India became targets of hate crimes. Thousands of Kashmiri students were forced to flee from their colleges and universities and return back to Kashmir. People living in JK feared the attack would have dreadful consequences – which turned out to be true.

The frequency of cordon and search operations (CASOs) and crackdowns increased in the aftermath of the attack. CASOs are a form of harassment that breach people’s right to privacy. According to a report by the APDP and Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, at least 177 CASOs were conducted by the Indian armed forced in JK, which resulted in the killing of at least 118 militants and four civilians and the destruction of at least 20 civilian properties.
In February 2019, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and the Kashmir Chapter of Jamaat-i-Islami were banned and hundreds of their leaders and workers were arrested.
Ahead of the elections to the Indian Parliament, held in JK in April and May 2019, 100 additional companies of soldiers were deployed in Kashmir and mass arrests of political and religious leaders were carried out. During polling days there were complete shutdowns, violence and killings.

The use of administrative detention under the provisions of repressive Public Safety Act (PSA) led to many arrests and detentions. Between January and June this year, at least 25 people were booked under the PSA.

Internet shutdowns have also been a common practice in JK. Internet services were curtailed 51 times in the first half of the year.

How did people in Jammu and Kashmir respond to the revocation of the state’s special status?

Before revocation was formally announced by the Indian government, many rumours made the rounds and people guessed that something sinister was underway. Official orders by the state administration added to the apprehension. People prepared themselves for a complete lockdown, drawing from their previous experience when the Indian government imposed curfews and shut down phones and the internet.
When revocation of the special status was announced amidst a complete blockade of communication and full restrictions on movement, people were not greatly shocked. The autonomy guaranteed to JK under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution allowed the state a certain amount of autonomy – its own constitution, a separate flag and freedom to make laws – but it had been greatly eroded before revocation of the special status, which downgraded JK from a state to a union territory, and there was nothing much left in it for the benefit of the people.

There have been concerns attached to the revocation of Article 35a, which permits the local legislature in Indian-administered Kashmir to define who are permanent residents of the region. People have speculated that demographic changes might be underway, designed and strategised along the same lines as the occupation of Palestine, including the demographic changes introduced by Israel in Palestine. While there are fears of demographic changes, the majority’s response has been not to fight against revocation of the state’s special status, as this would have meant legitimising the occupation of the region. The larger struggle is for the right to self-determination.

We have read reports of civic space restrictions, including a ban on meetings, restrictions on freedom of movement and arrests of leaders. Can you provide more information about this?

The announcement of the revocation of JK’s special status was accompanied by widespread restrictions. There was an increased deployment of Indian armed forces at all roads and intersections across the valley, and the unyielding troops have strictly restricted the movement of people. For the first few weeks, people were not even able to reach hospitals and doctors. Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code, which bans public gatherings of more than four people, was imposed despite a curfew being in place since the night of 4-5 August. This prevented people from organising protest gatherings and meetings.

According to a government report dated 6 September, more than 3,800 people had been detained since 5 August and only about 2,600 of them were subsequently released. Those detained include political leaders from both pro-India and pro-independence parties, civil society members, lawyers and protesters. Three former Chief Ministers of JK – Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – have been detained since 5 August. On 16 September, Farooq Abdullah was detained under the PSA. Leaders and politicians like Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, Farooq Abdullah, Taj Mohiuddin and M Y Tarigami have been under house arrest. Hotels and government guesthouses have been turned into detention centres. Many leaders and civil society members have been lodged in jails in India.
There has been an extensive use of the PSA to detain people, especially young people. Many young people were detained without being formally charged and were released only after the signing of community bonds. Many young people and most political leaders continue to be detained.

Have people protested? How have the security forces responded to protests?

Despite the severe restrictions imposed on the movement and assembly of the people, there have been many protests across the valley of Kashmir, with people taking to the streets and shouting slogans demanding freedom from the Indian state. The Indian media has claimed that there were negligible protests against the abrogation of Article 370, making it seem like there is normality and acceptance of the Indian state’s decisions. Since the local media has not been able to report on these protests, stories from them have not come to the fore. There were many protests in Kashmir valley, but due to the communication blockade and restrictions on the movement of journalists and media, news of protests from other districts went largely underreported.

Protesters have been met with excessive force by the Indian armed forces. For instance, on 9 August, several people were injured during protests in the Soura area of Srinagar. A doctor confirmed that at least 53 young people were treated for injuries at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences in Soura. Reports also emerged that five people have been killed in separate incidents as a result of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials in the policing of protests since the start of the clampdown.

How has the internet shutdown affected the work of activists and journalists?

The communication clampdown has greatly affected the work of journalists and activists. Owing to the shutdown of internet services and curbs on the movement of journalists, it has been a huge challenge for journalists to collect and file stories. The administration set up a Media Facilitation Centre in Srinagar where journalists are allowed to access the internet and email their stories. No such facilities are available in other districts of Kashmir. Newspapers in Kashmir have been publishing with a reduced number of pages. Journalists have been forced to rely just on state-issued press briefs once or twice a week, without any means to verify the stories. There has been news of journalists facing reprisals for filing stories on Kashmir’s ongoing situation.

Also, since 5 August, civil society in JK has been under threat and dealing with a very precarious situation, as many civil society members have been detained and jailed under the PSA. In this way the Indian state has put pressure on Kashmiri civil society to remain silent about the current situation, and therefore their space is completely choked. There is a lot of resistance and criticism of the communications clampdown that is preventing civil society from carrying out its work.

In this context, the support required from the international community is that they should increase their understanding of the Kashmir conflict and talking about it so as to prevent this human rights crisis from worsening.


Civic space in India is rated as ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.
Follow @natasha_rather on Twitter.

 

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    samir sardana · 2 days ago
    The Evil of the Hinooo vermin is not manifest to the white man.The white man sees only his innnate goodness in others - like a fool.

    Much has been said and excoriated about the Jehadi suicide bombers and the 72 houris in heaven.It is an isolated verse in the Quran - in a time and a context to remove the attachment to worldly passions. Just an isolated verse !

    The Thesis and Exegesis of mass murder and genocide and the fairies in heaven lies in THE HINDOO FAITH - IN THE VEDAS AND PURANAS ! It is not Islam ! This will used the Hindoos for mass rapes and genocide in Kashmir ! Except that the Hindoo will rape in Kashmir and then look to the fairies in his heaven as the icing on the cake !

    The White man has to awaken !

    SIS has a natural bond with Hindoos ! The conceot of 72 houris in heaven is all inspired from the Hindoo Scriptures

    https://dindooohindoo.page.tl/ISIS-%26-Dindoo-Houris.htm

    Parashara Smriti 3.28-29 Celestial damsels seize for themselves, and “take delight with the hero”,whose “body is wounded or cut by arrows, clubs, or maces”.
    Thousands of celestial damsels, rush forward in a hurry “towards a hero killed in battle”, each proclaiming, ‘He is my lord, he is mine’.·

    Parashara Smriti 3.31 If victorious, wealth is won; if “death results, beautiful women fall to his share”; since this corporeal frame is liable to perish in an instant’s time, why should we be shy of meeting death on a field of battle?·

    Mahabharata 12.98 ”Foremost of Apsaras, numbering by thousands, go out with great speed (“for receiving the spirit of the slain hero”) coveting him for their lord.”

    DeviBhagavatam 3.15.10-13 ”Some warriors on being slain in the battle instantly arose in a celestial car to the heavens and was seen “addressing the celestial nymph,
    who came already within his embrace”, thus “O one of beautiful thighs. Behold! how my beautiful body is lying on the earth below!”

    http://www.southasiaathudson.org/blog/2019/5/13/low-isis-footprint-in-india-may-be-misleading
    https://www.incrediblegoa.org/focus/why-is-goa-on-terror-alert-following-the-christchurch-terror-attack/
    https://www.incrediblegoa.org/focus/goan-ministers-mlas-and-their-families-spend-whooping-ten-crores-on-medical-expenditures-alone/?unapproved=2898&moderation-hash=95864d26f50f210f84645714d901694f#comment-2898

    REPLY
    samir sardana8/24/2019 12:09:52 pm
    The Kashmir Genocide

    The Hindoo Military and Para Military regularly rape and kill Kashmiri women.In fact the Hindoos are known to cut off teh breasts and tear out the ovaries of the Kashmiri women so that they cannot feed their kids !

    Even the Nazis did not do this ! They just gassed the hapless Jews !

    People talk of ISIS and the Yazidis ! But that is nothing !

    In the Hindoo Religion - THIS TREATMENT OF WOMEN AND SLAVES OF WAR IS SPECIFICALLY AUTHORISED IN THE SCRIPTURE.PER SE. THE SCRIPTURE !

    What will the Hindoos do the Kashmiri women ?

    https://dindooohindoo.page.tl/ISIS_-Dindoo-Yazidi.htm

    The Rapes of Krishna

    · Linga Purana section 1.69.82 “The excessively strong one, of unequalled exploit, Krsna took up sixteen thousand one hundred girls for his own pleasure.”

    · Srimad Bhagavatam 10.58.58 Lord Krishna “also acquired thousands of other wives”, equal to these when He killed Bhaumasura and freed the beautiful maidens the demon was holding captive.”

    · Srimad Bhagavatam 10.58.31 My dear King, Lord Krishna”forcibly took away” Princess Mitravin da, the daughter of His aunt Rajadhidevi, before the eyes of the rival kings.

    Forcing women of enemy soldiers to become prostitutes

    · Matsya Purana 71.26-30 ”Once upon a time thousands and thousands of the demons (Danavas, Asuras, Daityas and Raksasas) were killed in the war between the Devas and the demons.

    o Indra told their “numberless widows and those women” who were “forcibly seized and enjoyed”, to “lead the life of prostitutes” and remain devoted to the kings and the Devas.

    o Indra continued, You should look upon, with equal eye, the kings your masters and on Sudra. All of you will attain prosperity, according to your fate. “You should satisfy those who would come to you with adequate sum of money”, to enjoy your company, even if they be poor.

    Sex Slaves

    · Matsya Purana 71.44-45 ”That Brahmana should be well fed and be devoutly looked upon as cupid,for the sake of sexual enjoyment. Each and every desire of that Brahmana should be satisfied by the woman devotee. She should, with all heart and soul and with a smile on her face, yield herself up to him.”

    · Mahabharata 1.102 ”Bhishma cut off, with his arrows, on the field of battle, bows, and flagstaffs, and coats of mail, and human heads by hundreds and thousands…Then that foremost of all wielders of weapons having vanquished in battle all those monarchs, pursued his way towards the capital of the Bharatas, taking those maidens with him.”

    · Mahabharata 13.44 says that bridegroom may forcibly take away the girl he likes to “marry even after killing or beheading the girl’s kinsmen” and Manu Smriti 3.33 says that sometimes the girl forcibly taken away may cry and weep and this is permitted in Mahabharata 1.73.

    · Narada Smriti 12.78 Intercourse is permitted with a wanton woman, who belongs to another than the Brahman caste, or a prostitute, or a female slave, or a female not restrained by her master (nishakasini), if these women belong to a lower caste than oneself; “but with a woman of superior caste, intercourse is prohibited”

    · Agni Purana 211.37-43 ”…By making the “gift of a female slave” to one of the foremost of the Brahmanas, a man becomes an inmate of the region of the Apasaras (nymphs)…”

    · Agni Purana 223.23-29 ”…Duties payable on “importing female slaves” into the country should be determined with a due regard to the country imported from and the time of the import.

    · Mahabharata 4.72 …And Krishna gave unto each of the illustrious sons of Pandu “numerous female slaves”, and gems and robes…