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Genocide in Kashmir

Dubious

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Protest outside BBC, CNN headquarters for Kashmir on ‘abysmal’ coverage

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LONDON: Human rights activists protested outside the headquarters of BBC and CNN on Thursday to protest the apathy over the coverage of Indian occupied Kashmir as lock-down of more than eight million Kashmiris by Indian government.

The activists, mainly Kashmiri-origin British nationals, gathered outside the BBC office and demanded the publicly funded broadcaster to cover the situation in Kashmir, which has been cut off from the rest of the world for around two months now.


The protesters were carrying banners which read: “crime against humanity”, “wake up BBC”, “wake up CNN”, “stop use of pellet guns”, “India should be held accountable for crimes against humanity”, “impose economic sanctions on India”, “justice for victims of mass rape”, “freedom for Kashmir”, “wake up US, UK, UAE, OIC” and “Narendra Modi is a criminal”.


Photo: Author

The protesters called on the BBC and CNN editorial management to “wake up” and cover Kashmir impartially. Those who took part in the protest said they had gathered to show solidarity with the people of Kashmir who are suffering incalculable human rights abuses under the brutal occupation of India for the past seven decades, which has turned into a humanitarian crisis following India’s illegal actions since 5 August.

The protest organisers said in their speeches that for the past 53 days, over 8 million Kashmiris are under siege by Indian forces and have no access to internet, along with communication services being suspended.

Journalists, especially foreign, are being denied access to the Indian occupied Kashmir, which is in violation of press freedom, and universal declaration on human rights.


The protesters stated that BBC did a few good reports in the initial days after Article 370 was abrogated, but stopped providing any coverage in the days following it and there has been no coverage of any kind on BBC and CNN as the massive humanitarian crisis unfolds.

After protesting outside the BBC for an hour, the large number of protesters marched towards the CNN building a mile away where protest was held for an hour.



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The protesters met the editorial management of both the BBC and CNN, and handed over a memorandum, requesting the broadcasters to consider giving due and impartial coverage to Kashmiris.

They said that while Kashmiris are suffering from a humanitarian crisis of such a huge magnitude, coverage by the international mainstream media is abysmal, selective and almost non-existent and the world media has turned a blind eye to one of the biggest human catastrophes.

The memorandum referred to reports by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on June 14, 2018; Human Rights Watch World Report 2019; All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir (APPKG) inquiry report into the human rights situation in the IOK issued on 30 October 2018.

In addition were the reports by the European Union, United States Department of State’s country report on human rights practices for 2018, Amnesty International Report of 2016-17 and the European Parliament's Ad Hoc Delegation which described Kashmir as 'the world's most beautiful prison' on earth due to unchecked, unwarranted, illegal Indian atrocities in Kashmir.

The memorandum urged the UK mainstream media to highlight the plight of Kashmiris and massive human rights abuses being committed by Indian forces with impunity.

They also urged that India should provide access to independent international media, including the UK media, an unhindered access to the occupied Kashmir.


Protest outside BBC, CNN headquarters for Kashmir on ‘abysmal’ coverage


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Dubious

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The night the soldiers came: Allegations of abuse surface in Kashmir

Niha Masih ,
Joanna Slater and
Shams Irfan
September 30 at 6:00 AM

PARIGAM, India — It was near midnight when the soldiers came for Yassin Bhat.

The 25-year-old pulled on some clothes and stepped into the darkness. Nearby, on the main road, he saw dozens of Indian army soldiers, Bhat said. One asked him what he thought about India’s move the day before to revoke Kashmir’s autonomy. Terrified, Bhat replied that it was a good step.

The officer told him not to lie, Bhat recalled, and ordered him to take off his clothes in the middle of the road.

Then, he said, the abuse began. Several soldiers held him down while others used thick cables to whip his back and legs. The soldiers then placed on his chest and genitals electrical wires connected to a battery. He remembers being immobilized as the current surged through his body.

“I thought it would be my last night,” he said in a recent interview describing the events of Aug. 6.

Bhat was one of 19 people interviewed by The Washington Post across 13 villages in southern Kashmir who alleged abuses by the armed forces in the days after India launched a crackdown in the disputed region. Bhat and two other men alleging abuse remain afraid of retribution but spoke on the record because they wanted their accounts to be chronicled.

The allegations included beatings with rods, sticks and cables, electric shocks and being hung upside down for prolonged periods. In three cases, including Bhat’s, The Post reviewed photos and hospital records detailing the injuries. In six cases, The Post saw either photographs of injuries or hospital records. For many of the cases, The Post also spoke with family members and other witnesses who saw the victims immediately after the alleged abuse.

The number of militants is small compared to earlier phases of the insurgency, Indian officials say, with only several hundred active. Southern Kashmir — where the alleged abuses reported by The Post took place — is considered the epicenter of the militancy.

The allegations of torture are part of a troubling picture in Kashmir. Nearly two months after India stripped the region of its autonomy and statehood, life remains far from normal in the Kashmir Valley, home to 7 million people.

Mobile phone and Internet services are still suspended. Nearly all of Kashmir’s political leadership is under arrest. More than 3,000 people have been detained, including businessmen, lawyers and activists. The Post’s reporting found that police had placed children as young as 13 in detention.


Electric shocks and iron rods: Kashmiri man describes alleged abuse at hands of Indian army


Muzaffar Nabi is one of 19 people who told The Post they had been abused by armed forces in the days after India launched a crackdown in Kashmir. (Imran Ali, Niha Masih, Joyce Lee/The Washington Post)
Indian authorities say the measures are necessary to prevent the outbreak of violent and potentially deadly protests. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who visited the United States last week, has promised that the change in Kashmir’s status will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity in the region, which has been wracked by an anti-India insurgency for three decades. Indians must “create a paradise” in Kashmir and “hug every Kashmiri,” Modi said at a rally on Sept. 19.

The recent allegations of physical abuse run counter to the promises of a fresh start for Kashmir. Indeed, such accusations are not new: An extensive report by Kashmiri human rights groups released in May profiled more than 400 victims who alleged torture between 1990 and 2018. Their stories included beatings, electrocutions and burn injuries. In its statement, the Indian army said the report “lacks objectivity” and is “bereft of substance.”

In a separate report last year that was rejected by India, the United Nations detailed instances of alleged torture, arbitrary detentions and use of excessive force by security forces between 2016 and 2018.

Indian security forces often surveil and detain relatives of militants, but several of the young men who alleged abuse, like Bhat, said that they have no such links in their families. Bhat said there were at least 10 other men with him on the night of Aug. 6 in Parigam, a small village in the district of Pulwama. Earlier this year, a suicide bomber from a different part of the district killed nearly 40 Indian soldiers in the worst such attack in three decades.

In interviews, three other men in Parigam said they too were beaten and subjected to electric shocks in the same incident.

Bhat said that the beatings went on for nearly two hours. At the end, he said he and four other men who were naked were asked to lie on top of one another. Afterward, he fainted, he said. The next morning, he woke up in debilitating pain at a neighbor’s house, where he was carried by residents after the soldiers left, the neighbor confirmed. Pink and purple bruises stripe his back and thighs in photos taken that day. Hospital documents report a broken finger, multiple bruises on his body and swelling in his lower spine.

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A photo on Muzaffar Nabi’s phone taken on Aug. 7. Nabi said he was bedridden for a week. (Niha Masih/The Washington Post)
Lying next to him at his neighbor’s house was his friend Muzaffar Nabi, 24. A carpenter by profession, Nabi told The Post that soldiers beat him with sticks, rods and cables but did not take off his clothes. He said he received electric shocks in three places — on his thigh, chest and palms. He asked the soldiers what he had done but received no answer. Instead, they demanded the names of people who throw stones at security forces during protests, Nabi recalled, but he told them he did not know.

Bhat and Nabi said they were not charged with a crime.

Nabi shared a photo taken the day after the incident, which showed his lower legs covered with black bruises. Hospital records from Aug. 7 indicate he had abrasions on both legs and episodes of vomiting and loss of consciousness.

Nabi said he was bedridden for a week. Afterward, he required help to walk and use a toilet. “If suicide was allowed in Islam, I would have done it,” said Nabi.

Human rights activists say the communications crackdown and unpredictable restrictions on movement have complicated their ability to document accusations of abuse.

“What we hear is very disturbing and alarming,” said Parvez Imroz, a lawyer and president of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, an advocacy group that published the report on instances of torture. But “there is no way to visit [victims] and confirm.”

The armed forces enjoy immunity from prosecution for their actions under a special act applicable in the state. The Indian army initiates internal investigations when it receives complaints of human rights violations. Since 1994, 70 army personnel have been punished, either by dismissal or imprisonment, the army said in its statement.

Reyaz Ahmed Mir, a laborer from Gagren village in the Shopian district, said he was summoned to an army camp late last month. Mir said his brother was killed by security forces in 2018 after they accused him of shielding a militant in his home. On Aug. 26, soldiers interrogated Mir, asking him who had attended his brother’s funeral.

When he said he did not know, Mir said the soldiers began to beat him with batons and force water down his throat. He said they applied an electrical current to his genitals and right toe. Next, they hung him upside down from a T-shaped pole. As one soldier poured water on his face, he vomited his lunch. “The agony was unbearable,” said Mir, 45. “I was shouting and crying.”

When he was released, his family rushed him to the local district hospital, whose records noted multiple bruises on his body and episodes of vomiting. They referred him to a hospital in the Kashmiri capital of Srinagar the same day.

Bhat, who completed a degree in mechanical engineering last year, has been living in fear since the alleged assault. His injuries have healed and the deep scars from bruising across his back, buttocks and legs have faded. But he has not slept a single night at home because he is afraid the soldiers might come for him again.

Slater reported from New Delhi.


 

Shazam

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New York Times

Racing Against Death, With Both Feet Tied.


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Saja Begum spent hours navigating roadblocks as she went door to door at hospitals and pharmacies in a desperate search for antivenin after her son was bitten by a snake.CreditCreditAtul Loke for The New York Times


In Kashmir, a Race Against Death, With No Way to Call a Doctor
By Sameer Yasir and Jeffrey Gettleman

  • Oct. 7, 2019
HEEVAN, Kashmir — Saja Begum was cooking dinner when her son walked into the kitchen with a stricken look on his face. “Mom,” he said. “I have been bitten by a snake. I am going to die.”

Ms. Begum could not call an ambulance: The Indian government had shut down Kashmir’s cellular network. She then began a panicked, 16-hour odyssey to find an antidote that could save her 22-year-old son.

While his leg began to swell and he grew faint, she trekked across a landscape of cutoff streets, security checkpoints, disconnected phones and hobbled doctors.

Two months after the Indian government revoked Kashmir’s autonomy and imposed harsh security measures across the Kashmir Valley, doctors and patients here say the crackdown has taken many lives, in large part because of a government-imposed communication blackout, including shutting down the internet.

Cancer patients who buy medicine online have been unable to place orders. Without cell service, doctors can’t talk to each other, find specialists or get critical information to help them in life-or-death situations. And because most Kashmiris don’t have landlines in their homes, they can’t call for help.

“At least a dozen patients have died because they could not call an ambulance or could not reach the hospital on time, the majority of them with heart-related disease,’’ said Sadaat, a doctor in a Kashmir hospital who did not want to be identified by his full name out of fear or reprisals.



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A protest in Soura, Srinagar, on Sept. 13.CreditAtul Loke for The New York Times
Many doctors interviewed for this article said they could be fired for even speaking with reporters.

Kashmiri doctors have also accused Indian security forces of directly harassing and intimidating medical personnel.

Indian officials reject those accusations, saying that hospitals have been functioning normally, even under the restrictions, and that health care workers and emergency patients have been given passes to allow them to travel through checkpoints.

“There was no loss of life caused by restrictions,” said Rohit Kansal, a government official. “We have saved more lives than we have lost.”

But several health officials, based on hospital records, estimated that hundreds of people have been left in an emergency situation without ambulances, and that many may have died as a result of that and other communication problems, though there are no centrally compiled figures.

“People have died because they had no access to a phone or could not call an ambulance,” said Ramani Atkuri, one of more than a dozen Indian doctors who signed a recent letter urging the Indian government to lift the restrictions.



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Srinagar, in September.CreditAtul Loke for The New York Times

A new WhatsApp group called Save Heart Initiative that had helped in more than 13,000 cardiac emergencies and been celebrated in the Indian media as a Kashmiri success story has been rendered virtually defunct. Hundreds of Kashmiri doctors, and even some in the United States, were part of the group, uploading electrocardiograms and other vital information and then getting life-saving advice from one another.

With no internet in the Kashmir Valley, doctors there can’t use it.


Doctors at Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital in Srinagar, Kashmir’s biggest city, said there had been a 50 percent dip in the number of surgeries in the past two months because of the restrictions, as well as because of drug shortages.

Several young doctors said their work had been particularly hampered by the loss of mobile phone service. When they needed help from senior doctors, they lost precious time racing around the hospital searching for them.

For Ms. Begum’s family, time had become the enemy.

On Aug. 13, her son, Amir Farooq Dar, a student whose college has been closed since early August, was tending his family’s sheep in an orchard near the town of Baramulla when he was bitten by a krait, a poisonous snake.

Most bites are fatal unless Polyvalent, an antivenin medication, is injected in the first six hours. Ms. Begum cinched a rope around his leg, hoping it would slow the poison. She then ran, with her son leaning against her, to the village public health center, which usually stocks the antidote. The center was closed.

She shouted for help and begged for a ride to Baramulla’s district hospital. But doctors there were unable to help, the family said, because they could not locate any antidote. They then arranged for an ambulance to take the young man to a hospital in Srinagar.




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Security checkpoints and street blockages in Srinagar have made travel difficult.CreditAtul Loke for The New York Times

Soldiers stopped the ambulance many times on the way, the family said. Mr. Dar was slowly closing his eyes. He told his mother, in a drowsy voice, that he could not feel his right leg.

At least two hours had passed.


On Aug. 5, the Indian government unilaterally revoked the special autonomy that the Kashmir region, which is also claimed by Pakistan, had held for more than 70 years. It is ending Kashmir’s status as a full state in India and turning it into a federally administered enclave instead.

Hours before announcing the revocation, Indian officials imposed a blanket of tough security measures, cutting off the internet and phone services and jailing thousands of Kashmiri political leaders, academics and activists. It also imposed a strict curfew, limiting movement in the Kashmir Valley, home to approximately eight million people.

Some of the movement restrictions have been eased and some landlines are working again, but many Kashmiris say their lives remain paralyzed.

Kashmir has been racked by a separatist conflict for years, and Indian officials, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have said the new arrangement will bring peace.

But several Kashmiri doctors said dozens of preventable deaths might have happened because of the blockade.



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Dr. Omar Salim, a urologist at Government Medical Collage in Srinagar, was arrested after staging a one-man demonstration urging the authorities to restore phone service to Kashmir.CreditAtul Loke for The New York Times


In late August, a Kashmiri doctor, Omar Salim, a urologist, rode a bicycle on a deserted street to Srinagar’s hub of media offices, in a doctor’s apron, a poster hung to his chest. His plea: restore phone and internet service.

He was promptly arrested. Police officers let him go after a few hours with a warning not to do it again.

“We may not be in a formal prison, but this is nothing less than incarceration,” Dr. Salim said in a recent interview.

A cardiologist who works at a Srinagar hospital said he had recently received a patient who had suffered a heart attack. The patient needed a procedure that required the help of a specialized technician, but the technician was not at the hospital.

Fearing that the patient could die, and with no way to call the technician, the cardiologist drove five miles in pitch darkness to the technician’s neighborhood and searched for him. The doctor didn’t know exactly where he lived and had to keep asking people to lead him to the technician’s house.

The doctor said that he and the technician managed to save the patient’s life, but that Kashmir has been “thrown into the Stone Age.”



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A photo of Amir Farooq Dar, 22, shared by his family.CreditAtul Loke for The New York Times

Several Kashmiri doctors said pediatric care and maternity services were among the hardest hit.

Last month, Raziya Khan was pregnant when she developed complications. But she and her husband, Bilal Mandoo, who are poor apple farmers, live in a small village seven miles from the nearest hospital and couldn’t call an ambulance because of the phone blockages.

The couple walked the seven miles, taking hours because of her worsening condition. They made it to the hospital, but were then sent to a bigger hospital in Srinagar. It was too late, and they lost their baby.

“Had there been a phone working, I would have called an ambulance right to my house,” Mr. Mandoo said.

After hours of desperate searching for antivenin that could help Mr. Dar, the young man bitten by the krait, and a terrifying ambulance ride through security checkpoints, he and his family finally made it to Soura Hospital in Srinagar.

The bad news came yet again: Soura Hospital had none of the antivenin, either.

What the family did not know then was that the first hospital they had visited, in Baramulla, actually had the antidote in a locked storeroom. But the clerk who controlled the storeroom had not been around and was not able to be reached by phone.

In Srinagar, the family traveled frantically from pharmacy to pharmacy pleading for the antidote. Nothing. They arrived at the gate of an army camp, which normally stocks the antivenin, but were told to come back the next day.

After every failed trip, Ms. Begum shouted at her husband, Farooq Ahmad Dar, “Sell everything, but save him!”


Mr. Dar, 46, said he had never felt so helpless. “I felt like pushing a knife into my chest,” he said.

At 10:30 a.m. the next day, 16 hours after he was bitten, the younger Mr. Dar died. His parents then traveled 55 miles back home, in an ambulance, with his body.

The antivenin arrived two days later at the hospital, from a city more than 150 miles away. It came in 30 vials in a van along with other medicines.


Sameer Yasir reported from Heevan, Kashmir, and Jeffrey Gettleman from New Delhi. Suhasini Raj contributed reporting from New Delhi, and Iqbal Kirmani from Srinagar, Kashmir.

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 7, 2019, Section A, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Racing Against Death, With Both Feet Tied.
 
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