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Modi continues brutal clampdown on millions of Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir as world remains indifferent

25th Oct 2019
Modi continues brutal clampdown on millions of Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir as world remains indifferent

A man walks in front of an Indian soldier patrolling the street during a curfew in Srinagar, Kashmir, India on August 6 (Photo: Faisal Khan/Anadolu Agency)

Sajeda Haider

It is more than 70 days since the Indian Government clamped a complete lockdown on the country’s only Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, stripping it of its autonomous constitutional position as a state and suppressing the democratic rights of seven million people – and there is still no let-up in sight.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on his recent trip to the US, announced that “everything is fine” in India, but both his Hindu Nationalist Government and the world know that things are far from fine, particularly in Kashmir.

On August 5 the Modi Government flooded the region with thousands of additional troops making it one of the most militarised zones in the world and imposed curfew-like restrictions on the movement of both people and information. The troops are still there despite the Government’s protestations that “all is well”, as are most of the restrictions.

In the last few days, the Government has lifted some curbs on movement of people in the hope to bring back normality, however as a mark of protest, Kashmiris have refused to reopen their schools or businesses. There are street protests daily by ordinary citizens who are aggrieved by the suppression of their voice and rights, but due to the information blockade, the real picture is still not reaching the outside world.

Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been trying to convince the rest of India that Kashmiris are “happy” with their new demoted status, but the civil disobedience tells a different story. During an election rally in the western state of Maharashtra, Modi said his Government had only taken the stringent measures to maintain security in Jammu and Kashmir, but if Kashmiris are happy with their new status, why are these security measures necessary?

In order to show that normality has returned to Jammu and Kashmir, New Delhi has announced Block Development Council elections in the state. With most of the Opposition leaders in jails, these elections are a farce. The National Conference, Jammu and Kashmir’s main opposition party has declared it will not contest the local council elections, particularly as their top leaders – father and son duo, Farooq and Omar Abdullah, both former chief ministers, continue to be under house arrest or in jail.

Shehla Rashid Shora, a young firebrand politician and founding member of the Jammu and Kashmir Political Movement, announced her “dissociation with the electoral mainstream in Kashmir.”

“The Modi Government wants to showcase a sham electoral exercise in order to convince the world that it is still a democracy,” said Shela.  Other Opposition parties have accused the Government of holding elections to enable the BJP to grab these local bodies unopposed.

Apart from political leaders anyone, who shows any sign of opposition to the Central Government – be they lawyers, social activists or simply protestors – is still being picked up under the Public Safety Act and put under police detention. According to several advocates of the Srinagar High Court, there are between 8,000 and 24,000 people currently under detention, with the majority being minor boys, some as young as nine-years.

Despite the blockade reports of abduction and torture of minors trickle through. The Government has had to admit that at least 144 minors have been detained during the two-month-old clampdown. The Juvenile Justice Committee of Jammu and Kashmir High Court was forced to prepare an official list and submit it to the Indian Supreme Court in response to a petition by child rights activists. The unofficial figure is much higher.

Mobile telephones, the internet and broadband remain cut off in the Kashmir Valley as the communication blackout progresses into its third month. This is causing immense suffering to people as they are unable to contact their families even in emergencies. It is impossible to call hospitals in medical emergencies and the non-availability of local transport means those seriously ill are unable to get the vital help they need quickly.

While the Modi Government claims that the communication lockdown is to stop arch enemies Pakistan from taking advantage of the situation and stoking insurgency in the Himalayan state, the real reason is to prevent the world from finding out how New Delhi is oppressing its own people.

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