Kashmir Dispatch July 2021

Monthly news roundup from Jammu and Kashmir

While we in the west celebrated the summer and Independence Day, freedom in Kashmir continues to remain elusive and, in many cases, continues to deteriorate. Here are the four most important stories you might have missed for July.

After 11 years in prison, an innocent man is finally released

Bashir Ahmad Baba was arrested in 2010 under India’s draconian anti-terror law. He was also imprisoned over 1,700 miles away from home. During this time, he was unlawfully detained and was still awaiting his hearing.

On June 23, 2021, he finally received the news he had been hoping for when a judge stated ”Aap ba’izzat bari ho gaye (you are honorably acquitted).”

Baba is just one of many Kashmiri men who have lost significant parts of their lives in prison on charges for crimes they didn’t commit. Over the last decade, India has weaponized the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and used it to arbitrarily round up thousands of Kashmiris and hold them indefinitely in inhumane conditions.

“I tried to stay sane,” Baba states about his time in prison.

He was held in a prison where temperatures could reach over 40 degrees Centigrade and held in an 8 x 10 prison that held no window.

“Only Allah can live alone. Not a human.”

You can read more about Baba’s imprisonment and release by clicking here.

Indian troops kill 3 militants

In a show of disproportionate force, Indian military sharply retaliated against militants killing 3. The Indian troops surrounded the town of Pulwama placing the town under lockdown and suspending internet and mobile phone services.

The troops surrounded the house and laid siege to it, blasting one with explosives and setting fire to another. Three of the militants were killed and the troops recovered two rifles and a pistol.
Disproportionate uses of force are a common feature of the Indian occupation. The Indian military claimed it was reacting to provocations of the militants who shot at them. Indian troops extensively use pellets to blind and injure protestors.

Despite the communications blackout, protests occurred and clashes between troops and residents were common. Read more about the protests here.

Pakistan condemns India’s banning of Eid ritual prayers

India sharply curtailed the rights and free expression of religious ceremonies during one of the most important days of the Islamic calendar. Kashmiri residents cannot offer Eid prayers during the ongoing conflict in Kashmir. Pakistan’s foreign ministry had this to say, “Imposition of restrictions on prayers and religious festivities on one of the most important days of Islamic calendar represents complete disrespect and deep-rooted prejudice by the Indian government for the sentiments of the Muslims of [occupied Kashmir].” The statement urged the international community, United Nations, and other human rights organizations to take notice of the “brutal suppression of the religious rights and freedoms of the Kashmiri people in violation of international laws and conventions.

Throughout Kashmir, local authorities blocked access to shrines and mosques including the largest Jamia Masjid Srinagar. Only a handful of small mosques escaped the authorities’ notice.

A full account of India’s curtailing of Muslims’ right to exercise their faith can be found here.

Pegasus leak reveals India spied on Kashmiris

Prominent journalists and activists in Kashmir were illegally spied on by the Indian government using Pegasus – a spyware program created by Israeli company, the NGO group. For those unfamiliar with Pegasus, it is an app that can install itself on both iOS and Android devices without any input from the user of the device.

The amount of information that Pegasus can collect is vast. It possesses the ability to run arbitrary code, extract contacts, messages, call logs, photos, and weblogs as well as alter settings within the device. The program can also gather information from popular social media apps including iMessage, Gmail, Facebook, WhatsApp, and others.

It gave the Indian government complete free access to know the lives and deeds of the people targeted and those they communicated with.

Among those targeted were prominent separatist leader Bilal Lone and the late S.A.R. Geelani, who worked as a lecturer at Delhi University and died in 2018. Others on the leaked database include at least two members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief, former chief minister of J&K Mehbooba Mufti’s family, and J&K Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari’s brother Tariq Bukhari.

To discover the extent of India’s spying operation read here.

Final thoughts

July is an important month in the development of democracy. July 4 celebrates the Independence of the United States and July 14 is Bastille Day in France. Both days are celebrated as the creation of modern free republics that lead to the U.S. Bill of Rights and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, respectively.

Both documents highlight a social contract between the people and its government and that certain inalienable rights cannot be violated by the government.

Looking over these stories, the violation of basic human rights of the Kashmiri people is clear. The freedom of a speedy trial and to have access to counsel are non-existent. The government of India can spy on whoever it wants, whenever it wants with impunity. It can gather all information on anyone it deems a threat on just the faintest of suspicions.

The people of Kashmir are forbidden to protest, and India shows no hesitation to destroy the life, liberty, and property of others in the use of disproportion of force to kill suspected militants.
People cannot pray and freely worship. The right to freedom of religion disappears more and more every day.

Kashmir is a nation that knows no peace, no freedom, and is among the most repressed populations on the planet.

When will our nation be free?