Kashmir Dispatch October 2021

Monthly news roundup from Jammu and Kashmir

Welcome back to the news round-up for October. Take a moment to read about the latest events that happened in Kashmir this month.

Eight dead as farmers continue to protest

Eight people are dead in northern India and the son of a government minister is suspected of aiding in the violence. The event is the latest in a series of protests led by farmers over the past year in reaction to the Modi administration’s market-oriented approach to the agricultural sector.

Over two-thirds of India’s population is reliant on farming and until Modi’s reforms, had been given a guaranteed price on all produce. While the Supreme Court of India has temporarily suspended the new rules, it has done nothing to calm the protests that have taken place over the past year.

During the most recent protests, four farmers were killed when a convoy drove into the demonstration while another four were beaten to death after their vehicle had overturned.

On Thursday, authorities summoned the son of one of Mr. Modi’s ministers, Ashish Mishra, on suspicion of murder and conspiracy. A police complaint, based on the accounts of farmers at the protest, accused Mr. Mishra of firing on protesters and leading the vehicles that drove into the demonstration in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

You can read more about this developing story here.

Indian authorities arrest over 700 in a sweeping crackdown

In response to the killing of seven civilians, Indian authorities launched a fast vicious campaign of detentions over six days. Among those targeted were members of the Kashmiri Pandit and Sikh Muslim communities.

Among those detained are around 500 residents with suspected links to banned religious and militant groups, news agency AFP reported, quoting anonymous police officials.

Since October 2nd, seven civilians, including four from the minority communities, have been killed in the valley, of which six of the killings took place in the Srinagar district. Kashmir’s Inspector General of Police (IGP) Vijay Kumar said that a total of 28 civilians have been killed by militants in 2021. Out of 28, five persons belong to local Hindu and Sikh communities and two persons are non-local Hindu laborers, while 21 are Muslims. The officer told AFP that “no stone will be left unturned to find the killers”. To read more click here.

Anger rises as Jamia Masjid remains closed for Friday prayers

Hope was quickly turned to anger and confusion as the grand mosque of Jamia Masjid remained closed after the caretaker board announced that it would be open for Friday prayers.
In a statement, the board said it has decided that because of the occasion of the blessed birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, the grand mosque will be opened for Friday prayers on October 15th, 2021, under strict observance of COVID protocols and guidelines.

To their dismay, the worshippers who were coming to Jamia masjid for Friday prayers had to leave disappointed upon seeing all the gates locked despite other places of worship across India being open.

“They are mocking our religion,” said one of the women in response to the closure and false promises of the board’s statement.

Another woman, Shakeela, was heartbroken after traveling more than thirty kilometers to reach the mosque only to find it closed. She had come to say prayers in memory of her father who had passed away. It had been among his final wishes that his children would continue to pray at the masjid, even after he was gone.

Another woman, who asked to remain unidentified, removed the tin sheet metal that had acted as a makeshift barrier and continued with prayers on the porch of the Masjid.

Read more about the reactions from the community by clicking here.

India’s only Muslim cricketer targeted for abuse after loss to Pakistan

Following Pakistan’s ten-wicket win against India, India’s only Muslim team member, Mohammad Shami, was singled out for online harassment.

Hundreds of messages were posted to his Instagram account calling him a traitor and demanding that he be thrown off the Indian team.
However, not all of the commentary was negative. Former Indian all-rounder Irfan Pathan, also a Muslim, spoke out in support of Shami, saying he had been part of India vs Pakistan matches where India lost but had “never been told to go to Pakistan”.

Ex-Indian opener Virender Sehwag termed the online attack on Shami as “shocking”.
“He is a champion and anyone who wears the India cap has India in their hearts far more than any online mob. With you Shami,” he tweeted.

You can read more about this story here.

Superman destroys all military equipment in Kashmir in the Injustice series

In DC’s latest film, Injustice, the iconic superhero destroyed all military equipment in Indian-Occupied Kashmir and declared the area an “arms-free zone.”

The film itself is a different take on the Superman character – it is set in a universe in which the Joker tricks Superman into killing Lois Lane. In retaliation, Superman has a fall from grace and decides to fight violence with violence – eventually placing him on a path of world domination.
The film has received a cold reception in India with some calling it “anti-Indian.” Depictions of India’s MIG-21 jets are said to be included in the film.

Critics are calling for the film to be banned in India. You can read more about it here.

Final thoughts

While October has not brought any major changes in India’s position on Kashmir – and daily life is still difficult as the human rights abuses continue apace, what is interesting is the proliferation of the conflict in popular culture. While a greater sense of awareness such as in the DC film is always welcome as it introduces the Kashmiri situation to a greater number of people, there is also a darker side to it.

The harassment that Mohammad Shami endured is represented by that. It’s a reminder that the polarization is increasing as well. What starts as anger and harassment often leads to a greater sense of dehumanization, which in turn will lead to greater violence.

With the Indian farmers protesting and blood having been spilled, it’s an indication things continue to trend further and further away from peace.