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Genocide in Kashmir

Dubious

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

Photo by author

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.



Phoot: Author

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


Separately, from YOUTUBE:

 

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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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TomCat

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We seriously have to fake buying a a squadron J-20 on immediate basis to keep the DOGS in their 'AUKAT'
Just one Squadron of J-20 flying in our airspace, close to LOC / Border, they will start pissing. For the time being, then return back to China. This is getting nastier.
 

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Three Indian Soldiers Killed In Renewed Fighting In Disputed Kashmir
May 06, 2020
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Dozen of Indian soldiers and militants have been killed in fighting over the past month.


Three Indian soldiers were killed in clashes with militants in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, officials said, a day after a gunbattle in which five were killed.

The flare-up comes amid a major offensive by India that has killed 22 militants in the past month.

New Delhi said 20 Indian soldiers have been killed during the same period, the biggest death toll since a militant suicide attack killed 40 paramilitary police in February 2019.

On May 3, five Indian soldiers, including a high-ranking army officer, were killed in India-administered Kashmir.

Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-led India have fought two wars over control of Kashmir, which is claimed in full by both nuclear-armed countries.

India accuses Pakistan of funding militant groups fighting Indian troops, a claim Islamabad denies.

Tensions in Indian-controlled Kashmir have been running particularly high since August 2019, when India stripped the region of limited autonomy and implemented a months-long crackdown on militants and supporters of independence or unification with Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP
 

BATMAN

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Pakistan foreign office is full of Indian touts... they do all they can to not present case of Kashmir and Indian Muslims to the international world.
27th February was the opportunity to take Kashmir issue and Indian crimes to the world, but Imran Khan said he'll solve it by talks and yet not a single dialogue has taken place thus far.
 

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How India Is Using the Coronavirus Pandemic to Inflict Violence in Kashmir
May 11, 2020
by Omer Aijazi
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Kashmiris are vulnerable to both the contagion and the violence of the ongoing conflict.

The United Nations has called for an immediate global ceasefire to “put armed conflict in lockdown” and focus on protecting the most vulnerable from the spread of COVID-19. Yet tragically, there are cases around the world where violations have occurred.

Ongoing developments in Kashmir include a crackdown on Kashmiri journalists, rising policing powers and enhanced curfew measures. These actions suggest that the Indian government may be exploiting the pandemic to accelerate its settler-colonial ambitions in the disputed territory.

For the past six years, I have worked as a researcher along the Line of Control (LoC) — the de-facto border that divides Kashmir into India and Pakistan. I am also on the board of directors for the advocacy organization, Canadians for Peace and Justice in Kashmir.
Thousands of Kashmiris live within a 10-kilometre radius of the LoC, which is so heavily militarized that it is visible from space.
Kashmiris are vulnerable to both the contagion and the violence of the ongoing conflict.

War during a pandemic
In April, the Indian army set up artillery weapons deep in Kashmiri villages, as far as 60 kilometres from bunkered areas, to launch long-distance fire on Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

This encroachment is creating widespread panic and anxiety. Locals are protesting the shifting of heavy artillery guns into their communities, fearing retaliatory fire from the Pakistani army.
It is an intentional strategy to station soldiers and artillery among communities to make it difficult for the Pakistani army to retaliate. The blurring of civilian and military targets amounts to a war crime.

The Indian army has used civilian populations as a human shield before. In 2017, footage emerged of a Kashmiri man tied to a military vehicle patrolling a Kashmiri town.
As Indian and Pakistani forces continue to exchange fire, widespread loss of civilian life and property is being reported on both sides of the LoC.

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An underground community bunker in Neelum valley, Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. (Nusrat Jamal), Author provided

During the exchange of cross-border fire, families are forced to take shelter in community bunkers. These are small enclosed spaces that make social distancing practices impossible to follow.

Furthermore, people trying to escape their villages during bombardment are prevented from leaving by the police as they enforce COVID-19 lockdown measures.

Asia’s Berlin Wall
The LoC, also known as Asia’s Berlin Wall, does not constitute a legally recognized international boundary. It was put in place in 1949 as a temporary measure until the status of Kashmir is resolved.

In her book Body of Victim, Body of Warrior, Cabeiri deBergh Robinson, associate professor of South Asian studies at the University of Washington, explains that in earlier years, the LoC was permeable and fluid. It was only after the Simla Agreement in 1972, that it came to mimic the impermeability of a border.

‘100 little sleeps’
From 1990-2003, during the peak of the Kashmiri insurgency, the LoC was a site of intense conflict between Indian and Pakistani militaries.

Armies fired long-range artillery and mortar shells at each other, killing and harming civilians, property and livestock in the process.

Even though a shaky ceasefire was reached in 2003, skirmishes flare up unannounced.

During my research in the Neelum valley in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, a villager described living near the LoC: “We are never at ease. The firing can start at any time. It’s like having 100 little sleeps every night.”

The number of civilians killed on each side of the LoC is challenging to document, given a lack of government transparency.

The United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) is responsible for monitoring the ceasefire. India stands accused of blocking UNMOGIP’s access to the LoC.

This year alone, India has committed 882 ceasefire violations.

Pre-existing inequality
Pandemics do not occur in a vacuum but exacerbate pre-existing inequalities.

Kashmir is ill-prepared to handle the pandemic. In Indian-occupied Kashmir, there is one soldier for every nine people but only one ventilator for every 71,000 people, and one doctor for every 3,900 people.

Health facilities along the LoC are severely deficient, reflecting India and Pakistan’s neglect of the sub-region.

Given the current suspension of high-speed 4G internet, Kashmiris are prevented from accessing necessary public health information needed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Internet and telecommunication services are restricted on both sides of the LoC.

Kashmir’s annexation
Amid the pandemic, on Mar. 31, India introduced a new domicile law. This is one of the many legislative changes set by India following the unilateral abrogation of Article 370 in August last year.

The domicile law paves the way for demographic flooding in Kashmir, which will allow non-Kashmiris to obtain property, compete for government jobs and impact the outcomes of a referendum on Kashmir’s future should it be held.

Demographic flooding as a colonial strategy has been used by Israel along the West Bank as well as China in the Xinjiang autonomous region.

A Kashmir yet to come
The pandemic has inspired thinking on the complete restructuring of our world. It has shed light on the centrality of care workers and those at the forefront of our food systems.

It is forcing us to imagine “a world we do not yet know and cannot describe” as scholar Vafa Ghazavi recently wrote.

A just world won’t emerge as if by magic. We will need to fight for it.

The LoC does not signal the closure of Kashmir’s forms and futures. It is a site of potentiality, for a Kashmir yet to come.

This Kashmir would not be held back by the paucity of our imagination or the lack of available language. It would be a Kashmir where Kashmiris can freely choose learning, laughter and living.
 

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Shock and anger as Modi upholds choices on Kashmir, citizenship law

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Reuters/File)
Updated 30 May 2020
SANJAY KUMAR

One-year anniversary speech a brazen attempt to ‘insult sensibilities,’ analysts say

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi justified the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and endorsed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in an address to the nation on Saturday.

“The decision on Article 370 furthered the spirit of national unity and integration. It’s an expression of India’s compassion and spirit of inclusiveness,” Modi said in an open letter to the nation to mark the first anniversary of his second stint as premier of the country.

He was referring in part to the decision taken by New Delhi in August last year that annulled Article 370 of the constitution, which guaranteed a special autonomous status to the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir and divided the state into federally administered units — the Union Territory of Ladakh and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

A curfew followed the decision in the valley and the suspension of all democratic exercise with hundreds of political and civil society activists detained during the unprecedented protests that followed in the months after.

Critics called the PM’s assertion a “brazen attempt to deny the reality and further the majoritarian agenda when the government should be focussing on the great economic and health crisis the nation is staring at.”

“Sadly, Modi lives in deep denial, and we are supposed to get used to this denial of reality,” Siddiq Wahid, a Kashmiri professor at Dadri-based Shiv Nadar University, told Arab News, adding that the speech could trigger “more anger in Kashmir.”

“Kashmir is headed for more conflict — both domestic and international — and anger. It is headed for more alienation,” he said.

Modi also praised the CAA, which grants citizenship to Hindu, minorities from the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan but excludes Muslims.

The CAA is part of the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), an exercise to identify “genuine citizens of India.” Muslims fear that if they are not on the NRC they stand to lose their citizenship while Hindus will be protected under the CAA.

“The amendment to the CAA was an expression of India’s compassion and spirit of inclusiveness,” Modi said.

The CAA, which was passed in December last year, elicited widespread anger across the country with Muslims, secular and liberal sections of society taking to the streets to demand a rollback.

The anger spilled onto university campuses with the government resorting to harsh measures against students, resulting in the deaths of about 30 protesters across the country.

Soon, a section of the ruling BJP began a counter agitation against Muslims, which led to violence in northeast Delhi, killing 53 people, mostly Muslims, and injuring many others.

Media reports from that time said that the minority community “suffered immensely in terms of lives and properties.”

However, all anti-CAA agitations were put on hold after the government announced a nationwide lockdown on March 24 to limit the coronavirus outbreak.

Modi’s speech nearly two months after the lockdown is seen by political analysts as a “brazen attempt to insult the sensibilities of the people.”
“Never before has democracy in India looked so weak and so besieged as it is looking now. The action in Kashmir and the citizenship legislation weaken the democratic credentials of this nation. It’s unfortunate the prime minister openly peddles such divisive agenda,” Urmilesh (who takes only one name), a Delhi-based political analyst and columnist, told Arab News.

In addition to the provocative statements made during the speech, Modi also pledged to focus on “economic revival.”

The address to the nation comes a day after India’s economic growth was shown to have fallen steeply to 4.2 percent in 2019-20 from 6.1 percent in 2018-19.

This is the lowest growth rate in the past 11 years, and the projection is that it will fall further in the next quarter.

“The economy has been doing badly since 2016. It was growing negatively in the last two years due to a lack of growth in the unorganized sector,” Prof. Arun Kumar of the New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University told Arab News.

“If the government continues with its political agenda, then the economy will be derailed further. Given the socio-political situation we are in, polarization will not work, it would be diversionary. If the government is serious, it should focus entirely on reviving the economy and saving lives (from the coronavirus),” Kumar said.

India has witnessing an alarming rise in coronavirus infections and questions have been asked about the government’s readiness to deal with the crisis.

On Saturday, the total number of coronavirus cases crossed the 175,000 mark with more than 5,000 deaths reported from around the country.
India is into the fourth phase of the lockdown, which ends on Sunday, with media reports suggesting that the lockdown could be extended for two more weeks.
 

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New York's Times Square lights up for Kashmir
Billboards display messages of Kashmir liberation movement as world marks a year to siege in Himalayan valley

As the Indian siege of Kashmir is set to enter a second year, billboards at New York city's iconic Times Square lit up in solidarity with the eight million residents being held captive in the Himalayan valley.

Asad Khan, Pakistan's ambassador in the US, shared footage of the scenes in the heart of the big apple on his Twitter handle.

"Scenes at Times Square as Kashmiris mark a full year of their imprisonment on August 5. That is one full year of forced disappearances, torture, and a siege that has been intensified on the pretext of Covid-19. #LetKashmirSpeak #OneYearSiege", the caption of the post read.


On July 31, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said that Youm-e-Istehsal would be observed on August 5 in solidarity with the Kashmiri people.

On August 5, last year, the Modi government launched demographic apartheid in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir and divided the region into three parts.

"The Indian government tried to divide the Kashmiri people through this illegal act," he said, addressing a press conference in Islamabad.

Qureshi pointed out that the people of Kashmir are facing immense difficulties, pain and persecution under the continued military siege for the past one year.

The illegal actions of August 5 were aimed at ending the Muslim identity of the Kashmiri people in IIOJ&K. India is also divided on the steps taken on August 5, he said, reminding that the people of Kashmir rejected the move by India.

 

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Kashmir's Nelson Mandela
CJ Werleman | 10 August 2020


A rally, held in Srinagar city following the decision taken by the Indian Government to scrap Article 370 which grants special status to Jammu & Kashmir. Photo: Saqib Majeed / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

CJ Werleman speaks to the son of a political dissident, still in jail after 27 years for protesting the Indian occupation of Kashmir

“I have never seen my father under the open sky,” said Ahmed Bin Qasim, a 21 year-old Kashmiri activist and son of Dr. Ashiq Hussain Faktoo, who remains one of Indian administered Kashmir’s longest jailed political prisoners.

Having completed his PhD and published more than 20 books in prison, most of which speak to the repressive criminality of the Indian occupation, which began in 1947, Dr. Faktoo is widely and adoringly referred to as “the Nelson Mandela of Kashmir”.

I’m told the story of Dr. Faktoo by his youngest son Qasim, who was born in 1999, six years after Indian security forces arrested and detained his father, mother and elder brother at Srinagar airport in 1993.

His father, a longtime critic of Indian colonialism, was the target, but both his mother and brother, who was only a few months old at the time – making him the youngest political prisoner in Kashmir – spent the next six months in prison.

Immediately upon their arrest they “were shifted to a torture centre,” Qasim told me. “My father was subjected to third degree torture in front of my mother and infant brother”.

He was tortured because the authorities “wanted him to join the mainstream Indian politics,” said Qasim. “The politics of what India does in Kashmir; the masquerade of democracy India puts up in Kashmir. They wanted him to be a part of that”.

“Prison guards used to take my parents to torture cells leaving behind Muhammad, the infant. The only time to date I saw my father crying was when he told me how they saw Muhammad playing with his faeces on his diaper after they returned from the torture cell,” says Qasim.


‘We Are Moving To a Human Rights Apocalypse in Kashmir’

But because his father refused to comply, Indian authorities “implicated him on a false crime and then sentenced to a life in prison,” he says.

“This life sentence was initially set for 14 years, but because they had no evidence and because they had nothing against him, other than his political beliefs and involvement in the resistance movement against Indian colonial regime in Kashmir, the High Court in Kashmir cleared him of all charges after seven years of his imprisonment, saying the prosecution against him had miserably failed to prove anything”.

Qasim’s father was released from prison on bail and reunited with his family but, alas, only momentarily.

“After having been initially acquitted, my father then wrote a book about how the whole system in Kashmir, which includes the judiciary and legislature and how all these systems and institutions play the role of decriminalising or legitimising the Indian occupation in Kashmir, and how the judiciary, especially, is an institution that has only helped the Indian state buy time, and has validated the otherwise illegal detention of political prisoners and many of the other illegal acts the Indian state is committing in Kashmir,” says Qasim.

Feeling threatened by his writings, the Indian authorities again arrested his Dr. Faktoo, who has now languished in prison for 27 years.

“Now that the people have got attached to him, the prospect of releasing my father is very terrifying for the Indian state,” says Qasim. “But it’s not just him, there are other lifers who have been in prison for 20 years and 25 years. We have so many lifers who have been in prison for more than 15 years now, all because of the lawlessness of the Indian state”.

A Plagued Region
Qasim’s story and that of his father is hardly unique to the people of Kashmir. It’s commonplace. The story of Kashmir – a territory disputed by India, Pakistan and China – is one of dispossession, dislocation, separation and loss. It’s also one of prisons, detention centres and unmarked graves. It’s where critics and opponents of Indian occupation and colonialism disappear without a trace.

Today, thousands of Kashmiris remain detained and imprisoned as political prisoners, many of whom are held without charge or trial under a draconian law titled ‘The Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act’ (PSA), designed by the Indian Government to circumvent the criminal justice system – eliminating transparency and accountability.

“The text of the PSA itself violates international human rights law and standards, but even the limited safeguards provided within the law are routinely ignored, and the law misused, by executive detaining authorities and the J&K Police,” observes Amnesty International.

Essentially, the PSA grants Indian security forces extraordinary powers, allowing them to arrest Kashmiri residents without a warrant or charge, and then detain without trial, thus placing their activities and measures outside the realm of the ordinary criminal justice process.


An Apartheid Era Begins in India

The PSA has been used to detain journalists, academics, human rights activists, businesspeople, lawyers, poets, children and even elected Government officials, as was the case when Indian security forces arrested thousands of opponents and critics, including chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, in the days before and after New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status on 5 August 2019.

Late last year, the Indian Government announced its security forces in Kashmir had made more than 5,000 “preventative” PSA arrests in the three-month period spanning August to November.

Hope Amid Crisis

The arrival of the COVID-19, which has infected 25,000 people in Kashmir, has given extra urgency to the need for India to release all unjustly detained political prisoners, given social distancing measures are impossible to follow in the territory’s already overcrowded prisons.

“We remind Indian authorities that all measures designed to halt the spread of the virus must respect the fundamental human rights of every individual and we call on the Government to immediately release all arbitrarily detained prisoners, including journalists, human rights defenders, political leaders and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views,” says Amnesty International.

With COVID-19 cases surging ever upwards in Kashmir, Qasim holds grave fears for the health of not only his father, but also his mother, who now also languishes in prison. But he, like millions of other Kashmiris, wonders what more will it take for the international community to hold India accountable for its violations of international and human rights law.

Despite this, Qasim maintains a sense of optimism in what has become a prolonged period of darkness for Kashmir, writing, “I remember on one of my birthdays, eight years back, my father gifted me perfume from prison. Every time I thought of using it, I feared it might finish, so I closed it and put it back. To this date, I have not put it on, out of this fear but on this birthday, I did. I want to hope. I want to believe he will be out before the perfume finishes.”

 
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