Kashmir Dispatch January 2023

WKA News Round-Up – January 2023

There is nothing new under the sun, and 2023 is starting to live up to that expectation. The Indian settler-colonial project of Jammu and Kashmir is progressing to its fourth year. The region continues to look increasingly like a large open prison for its Muslim population.

Here are the most important stories for January 2023.

Starving the population into submission

Local women protest against the recent price cut in the rice quota. They chant, “Bateh Dadi Marekh Kaeshir Musalman, Hai Toofan Hai Toofan!” (Kashmiri Muslims are made to starve for rice grain—- How terrible! How awful!

Rice allotments have dropped from 15 kilograms per family to a paltry five kilograms. The Indian government has used a combination of three different programs to provide the monthly allotment. It granted five kilograms under the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Food Entitlement scheme and another five kilograms under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, which was launched at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, there was an additional five kilograms under the NFSA.

The amount of rice distributed through the various programs has declined from approximately 600,000 quintals in June 2020 to 283,000 in January 2023.

Rice is not only a major crop within the J&K region but also remains an essential part of the staple diet for most Kashmiris.

The strategic disinvestment by the Indian government leaves Kashmiris with few options for obtaining food. The occupation destroyed the economy, shuttered businesses, and left many Kashmiri residents to thrive on government services and subsidies.

Now that is being taken away.

Worse, agricultural production of rice has continued to decline over the past decade from a combination of land reappropriation from the land from farm use to industry, and climate change as well as decreasing economic returns.

Unless anything changes, the rising specter of food insecurity and starvation will take hold in the valley soon. You can read more about this story here.

Government issues new digital ID

Compounding the food shortage is the rollout of the Aadhar digital IDs for all Kashmiris. The digital ID is another layer of red tape to prevent access to government services.

Regional authorities have said the JK Family ID, an eight-digit code assigned to each household, would improve access to social welfare benefits such as subsidized food grains.
In theory, it would mean families will not have to apply for benefits under various schemes, as eligibility decisions will be automated based on the data.

However, in practice, there are huge caveats with the optimism the government is projecting. If the digital ID makes it easier to apply for benefits, the opposite is true. Essentially, it enables the mischievous government to quickly and easily ban or block people from those same benefits. Judging by the government’s track record, this is more likely their true intent.

It further enables increased mass surveillance throughout the country.

Millions of Indians do not have access to this ID, especially those who are marginalized and lack access to digital and state resources, which makes them more liable to fall further through the cracks.
The ID is also not secure. Numerous security breaches have occurred, and identity data has been stolen and compromised.

Lastly, there is a large trust gap between Kashmiri Muslims and the central government. It cannot be overstated how every change, from the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 A to the aggressive settler-colonization, the lockdown, and almost every policy decision that has been made, has been designed to disadvantage the Muslim population.

Why would this be any different?

The answer is simple: It isn’t.

You can read more here.

Indian troops dramatically increase stop-and-frisk searches ahead of Republic Day

Indian troops and police personnel have been deployed in strength to keep a watch on the movement of people. Military personnel has set up checkpoints on every road and chowk where commuters and pedestrians are frisked, and vehicles are checked thoroughly.

A close vigil is being maintained on all vehicles and pedestrians entering the city. Police personnel can be seen carrying out surprise vehicle checks at the entry and exit points in Srinagar. The cops are also frisking motorcyclists and passengers of vehicles in the city.
Similarly, checkpoints have also been set up in other towns and on the main roads and highways where Indian soldiers are harassing and intimidating the people.

You can read more about the article here.

Khurram Parvez to receive Martin Ennals Award

Indefinitely detained political prisoner Khurram Parvez received the prestigious Martin Ennals award for his contribution to human rights. The award will be formally given on Feb 23 at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ten different human rights organizations including, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, and Front Line Defenders, deliberated and selected three activists around the world – Parvez among them.
Parvez has been jailed without trial since 2021 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. He founded the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, an organization that traveled throughout Kashmir collecting stories and reporting the forced disappearances of Kashmiris by the ruling Indian Authorities.

Parvez has committed his life to non-violence and human rights. He saw his grandfather killed in a protest, he lost his leg to a landmine, and through everything, never lost his dedication to the cause of human rights.

You can read more about this story here.

Final thoughts: How much longer can this go on?

Since Kashmir was invaded and Article 370 was abrogated, Kashmir has become a prison state, with its people subjected to regular systemic abuse at the hands of the ruling Indian authorities. The digital IDs are the latest injustice that will further divorce Kashmiris from any remaining access to civil services. However, the denial of food may prove to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Food is a human right. It has been said that any society is three meals away from revolution. Without access to food, the last shred of credibility falls away from the rotten state that India has propped up. It is possible that this coming food crisis is just a result of good old-fashioned human incompetence, or is it being engineered in a way that will allow the state to unleash new levels of brutality? Of course, based on our experience once again, it is a combination of both.

Either way, the situation is untenable. We will keep you informed as to the latest developments and actions of the ruling authorities.