Kashmir Dispatch July 2022

WKA News Round-Up – July 2022

Welcome to the World Kashmir Awareness Forum’s News Round-Up for July. Here are several of the most important stories that have impacted Jammu and Kashmir this month.

Yasin Malik begins hunger strike

Chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Yasin Malik launched a hunger strike in response to his life sentence. In May, a New Delhi court sentenced Malik for funding militancy despite having renounced violence since 1994.

Special Judge Praveen Singh awarded varying jail terms to Malik for offenses under the stringent anti-terror law–the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the IPC, but rejected the NIA’s plea for capital punishment.

Malik began his hunger strike on July 22. He ended his hunger strike temporarily after July 29 – after fluctuations in his blood pressure caused him to be admitted to the hospital.

In his letter to his family, he decried being scapegoated for the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits stating that he has openly criticized the killing of the members of the minority community. “I visited the migrant camp of Kashmiri Pandits in Udhampur where the Pandits received me warmly. I also held hunger strikes against the killing of Kashmiri Pandits in Doda,” he wrote.

You can read more about his letter here and the latest developments of this story here.

A festival of flowers and tears

Authorities in the Uttar Pradesh region pulled out all of the stops during the festival of Kanwar Yatra. During the festival, Kanwariyas (devotees of Lord Shiva) from different parts of the country collect water from the Ganga river at Haridwar to offer at Shiva temples back home in the month of Shrawan.

This year’s festival marks the first since 2019 as previous years have been suspended during the ongoing COVID emergency.

On the ground, the attitude of the ruling authorities toward the different religions can be seen in very stark terms. Kanwariyas are showered with flowers from helicopters, the government also ordered the closure of shops selling meat, and even the name of a Muslim police officer was blacked out to not offend the Kanwariyas. While Muslims in the region are still having their homes bulldozed.

Muslims who live in UP are still very much treated as prisoners as they are forced to endure arbitrary arrests, police bullets, weaponization of UAPA, and lynching and hate speech by Hindu nationalists.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi was among those who called out the hypocrisy. ”The BJP-led UP government is showering petals on Kanwariyas using public money. We want them to treat everyone equally. They don’t shower flowers on us (Muslims). Instead, they bulldoze our houses,” he said.
You can read more about this story here.

No Martyr’s Day Commemoration in Kashmir

Further highlighting the disparity between the government’s treatment and attitudes toward the Muslim and Hindu faiths, for the third consecutive year there will be No Martyr’s Day Commemoration. No celebrations have been allowed since the abrogation of Article 370.

Before the occupation of Kashmir in 2019, local officials and political leaders would participate in the commemoration.

The National Conference said it had applied to the Srinagar district magistrate for permission to visit the graveyard for paying tributes to the martyrs but was not allowed.

Marty’s Day commemorates the 22 Kashmiris who died at the hands of the Dogra army while protesting the autocratic rule of Maharaja Hari Singh in 1931.

You can read more about this story here.

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist barred from traveling abroad

Sanna Irshad Mattoo told Al Jazeera that she was not allowed to leave India to travel to Paris. Mattoo was expected in the French Capital for a photography exhibition as one of the ten winners of the Serendipity Arles Grant from 2020.

“My flight was scheduled on Saturday afternoon. At the immigration, I was put aside and told to wait for three hours. I kept on asking the officials about the reasons until I missed the flight,” the 28-year-old journalist said.

Mattoo said she was told that she cannot fly abroad. “But they provided no explanation,” she said.

“This is insane, there is nothing against me. One of the officials told me I should check the reason from Kashmir from where directions had come. I don’t understand why I was stopped,” Sana told Al Jazeera by telephone from the New Delhi airport.

India has long targeted journalists who work in Kashmir or may be critical of the ruling nationalist government.

Only a few days earlier a prominent Indian journalist, Rana Ayyub, was also barred from boarding her flight to London where she was scheduled to address an event on the targeting of journalists in India. She was later allowed to fly after she approached a court of law.

You can read more about this story by clicking here.

Final thoughts – a house divided

Political polarization, and division among ethnic and religious lines are not problems unique to India, but they offer some of the starkest contrasts in the world. The unequal application of the law and attitudes of government officials are clear for everyone to see.

That the discrimination is so apparent and brazen is typically a feature in nationalistic governments. Autocrats need enemies because they cannot tolerate criticism or rational discussion of their failures.

India remains a house divided – what remains to be seen is how this plays out. Are Muslims doomed to be perpetual second-class citizens? Or can it get worse? The future holds no easy answers. Earlier this year, we warned that Kashmir may be in the  early stages of a genocide. Earlier this month we examined the mass graves from the 1990s.

Whatever the future portends, there are no easy answers to walk back from the brink of tragedy. We can only offer vigilance, commitment to truth, and dedication toward human rights, and we will continue to strive and advocate for it until freedom is restored to Kashmir.