Kashmir Dispatch August 2021

Monthly news roundup from Jammu and Kashmir

The month of August marks a sad and tragic anniversary, two years since India revoked Article 370 and stripped Kashmir of its autonomy, freedom, and dignity. In doing so, they have turned a beautiful land into a prison, every month bringing new tragedy and heartache with no end to the crisis in sight.

The Distrust Deepens

August 2019 seems so far away that it almost existed in a completely different world. In many ways, it was—local unionist leaders rushed to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expressed confidence that a greater union with India was at hand.

How bitter the taste of their “success” must be.

India revoked Article 370 of its constitution on August 5th, 2019 and immediately placed the valley under lockdown, freezing communications, making arbitrary arrests, and sparking an insurgency that will never be contained. It also abrogated Article 35-A, thus stripping the citizens of the Occupied Jammu and Kashmir the legal safeguards against Indian administration’s future attempts at forcibly changing demography, expropriating land and taking away government jobs from the Kashmiri nationals.

Our worst fears have come to be true. India has worked on all those nefarious actions and has left Kashmiris in all sectors in distress and in an existential crisis.

The economy is in ruins. Over a third of Kashmiris are suffering from mental health disorders as the crisis grinds on.

By every metric, the Modi administration has been a failure. Take a few minutes to read more about the complete impacts the two-year siege has left on politics, the economy, and the society of Jammu and Kashmir by clicking here.

Mourning a National Hero

On September 1st, the world learned of the passing of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Age 92, he passed away after a long illness and under an 11-year house arrest at his home in Srinagar, Kashmir.

Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir has been placed under lockdown, to prevent Kashmiri masses from expressing their public grief and give their national hero his final farewell he deserves. What made Geelani the bulwark of Kashmiri resistance was his vision, faith, courage and constancy — his lifelong sacrifice for the cherished cause of Kashmir. He did not entertain fear of India. Nor did hurdles deter him. Kashmiris around the world are mourning his devastating loss, and his steadfast guidance against the odds.

A heavy hand strikes against religious freedoms

Muslims in the city of Srinagar were assaulted by tear gas by government forces during the traditional procession of Muharram.

Muharram is among the holiest months for Shiite Muslims across the world and includes large processions of people beating their chests while reciting elegies to mourn the death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson. The mourning reaches its peak on Ashura, the 10th day of the month in the Islamic lunar calendar. Tuesday’s procession marked the eighth day on the calendar.

Government forces used batons to beat journalists covering the procession, according to a local reporter. Authorities erected steel barricades and barbed wire to block the crowds.

It is not uncommon for the Indian authorities to ban Muharram processions. The last two years’ ceremonies have been canceled due to the coronavirus. Even when the events are allowed to take place, state-sponsored violence has become a marquee feature of the event as Indian forces fire shotgun pellets, injuring many.

Report on an Indian accident and go directly to jail

On July 14th, a woman was struck and killed by an Indian army truck. The accident was recorded by 35-year-old Bashir Ahmad Bhat. After the accident, a small protest took place after the video had gone viral.

Two days later, Bhat was arrested and charged under a laundry list of trumped-up charges including, FIR 31/2021 Indian Penal Code 124 A (Sedition), 147 (Punishment for rioting), and 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause a riot, if rioting is committed).

“He was charged with the things he did not do,” his brother Shabir Ahmad said.

Others were arrested in the aftermath of the protest but were released two weeks later. However, Bhat remains in prison, and it is unclear if he will be released any time soon. While his bail has been posted, the Indian authorities keep charging him with different offenses to keep him from being released.

You can read more about this case here.

Even after the arrest, the suffering continues

Sixteen-year-old Mohidin was released from prison only four days ago but is unable to sleep and lives in constant fear of what might come next. He spends his nights awake, his hands shaking. He was arrested when his brother was arrested for stone-throwing.

He is not the only one.

In a report that was submitted to the Supreme Court, in the two months after Jammu and Kashmir autonomy was revoked, Indian forces arrested more than 144 youths, holding them without charges and subjecting them to the abuses of prison officials.

Those numbers have only grown in the two years since Kashmir has been occupied.

This June, Zahoor Dar was booked under UAPA, an anti-terror law that could have held him in jail for over seven years. He was ultimately released ten days later, but the scars remain.

This is an egregious violation of human rights. Syed Mujtaba, a human rights lawyer, states that “children can’t be kept in lock-up or jail or be kept with an adult accused. There must be no delay in the transfer of charge to the Child Welfare Police Officer from the nearest police station.”

He added, “The child cannot be handcuffed or chained and must be provided with appropriate medical assistance, along with it he/she must be provided with assistance from the interpreter if he/she finds the language difficult to understand or any other assistance as per child’s requirements.”

You can read more of Mohidin’s and other’s stories here.

India threatens cricketers signed up for Kashmiri tournament

Former international cricket players are being actively threatened and harassed by India if they participate in the inaugural Kashmir Premier League (KPL).

The tournament started on August 6th and was slated to be captained by Pakistan’s current and former professional cricketers – Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, and Imad Wasim.

Those participating in the event were warned that if they participated in the Kashmir Premier League, they would not be allowed in India or allowed to work in Indian cricket at any level or in any capacity.

“It’s all very strange,” Taimoor Khan, the managing director of the KPL, said in an interview with Al Jazeera. Not only were these messages sent to Pakistanis, but they were sent to England’s cricketers too.

You can read more of the Al Jazeera report by clicking on the link here.

On the long road to tragedy

Two years have passed, and the occupation shows no signs of stopping. This month the world witnessed the fruits of endless occupation as the United States chaotically left Afghanistan. While there are many differences between Kashmir and Afghanistan, there are also disturbing parallels. The Modi government invaded and had no plan to get out. It’s trying to engineer a state of its design and, in the process, is pushing the region further away and creating humanitarian disasters.

Atrocities and human rights violations occur daily, and one wonders not only how many years of this we might endure, but how many decades? Our current struggle reaches back to 1989, and it is not unreasonable to envision it lasting another two decades. What will be left of Kashmir in the aftermath? How many lives will be shattered as the messy occupation reaches its logical conclusion?

As we mark the second anniversary of the revoking of Article 370, we hope and pray for a quick conclusion and an end to the occupation but remain committed to bringing the plight of Jammu and Kashmir to the world.