Kashmir Dispatch

Monthly news roundup from Jammu and Kashmir

Over the course of its decades-long occupation of Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian government has actively sought to restrict the free reporting of events in the region. Even when news is brought forth, it is seldom reported on by the mainstream media. To ensure these developments do not go unrecognized, the World Kashmir Awareness Forum curates the Kashmir Dispatch, a monthly recap of the most important news from the region, with analysis from members of our leadership.

Jammu and Kashmir Administration unlawfully fires and imprisons professor

The administration that oversees Jammu and Kashmir dismissed Naib Tehsildar Pulwama, Nazir Ahmed Wani, Naib Tehsildar, an Executive Magistrate 1st Class, as well as a teacher from North Kashmir’s Kupwara Idrees Jan, a teacher in Government Middle School, Kralpora, district Kupwara . In addition, an Assistant Professor of Geography, Abdul Bari Naik of Women’s College in Government Degree College in Udhampur, Jammu has also been dismissed from his service for his alleged involvement under Unlawful Activities Act (UAPA) by the same Lt. Governor, Manuj Sinha who has fired Idrees Jan and Nazir Ahmed Wani—all on trumped up charges.

Click here to learn more.

Ashraf Sehrai, a jailed Hurriyet leader, dies in Jammu Hospital

Mohammad Ashraf Khan, also known as Ashraf Sehrai, chairman of Tehreek-e-hurriyet passed away on Wednesday, May 5th in a hospital. He had been unlawfully detained under the Public Safety Act(* PSA). He was 77.
It is likely that Sehrai passed away from complications related to COVID-19, as he was taken to the hospital for serious breathing issues, however, several COVID tests yielded conflicting results. India has a serious credibility problem in admitting Covid-19 as the cause of death of many cases. The Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association has termed his death as a “custodial death”.

COVID-19 can spread uncontrolled in overcrowded prison conditions and represents a significant risk to the lives of those who -continue to be unlawfully detained. Please take a few minutes to read about Sehrai’s life and accomplishments.

Srinagar lacking COVID-19 vaccines

While India continues to grapple with the fallout of a major COVID-19 outbreak, Jammu and Kashmir remains an oversight, with Srinagar receiving no COVID-19 vaccines for 5 straight days.

Srinagar is the worst hit of the region with over 8,425 cases.

The city has over 700 confirmed dead and the second highest fatalities in the region.

Between May 9 and 19, a total of 130,0000 vaccine doses were used in J&K state of which 116,000 doses were administered in Jammu alone. Most people in the Kashmir valley were turned away for lack of vaccines in the same time frame.

See a complete breakdown of the numbers.

Kashmir police make arrests over Palestine mural

The world was shocked and sickened as a short but brutal conflict erupted between Israelis and Palestinians last month, leaving hundreds dead, including women and children.

In Srinagar, the Indian Administration arrested at least 20 people who protested against the Israeli atrocities. Among those Kashmiris who were arrested were 32-year-old Mudasir Gull, an artist who was arrested for creating a mural that simply stated, ‘We are Palestine.’

Among the others who were detained included Sarjan Barkati – a known religious leader.

“When the whole world is waking up against Israel’s atrocities, we can’t speak, we can’t practice art; what kind of democracy do we live in? Can’t we express our grief for Palestine?” Gull’s sister Muzamil Firdous told Al Jazeera.

Read more about the government’s heavy-handed response to these peaceful protests.

Advocacy group calls for immediate release of Kashmiri journalist

Kashmiri journalist Asif Sultan has been unlawfully imprisoned for more than 1,000 days. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based non-profit group, called for his release.

Sultan was arrested in 2018 after publishing a detailed profile of Burhan Wani – a top militant leader who was killed by Indian Forces in 2016 and has since become a symbol of protest against the Indian government.

The Indian government accuses Sultan of “harboring known militants,”- a claim his family has denied – and has been denied bail. Discover more about the ongoing efforts to free Sultan.

What does this all mean?

When reading these stories, one can’t help but repeat the words of Muzamil Firdous “What kind of Democracy are we living in?” A democracy is more than just the ability to vote for one’s leaders, a right that Jammu and Kashmir does not have. A democracy needs respect for the rule of law, the right to the freedom of speech, the right for journalists to hold those in power accountable for their actions. A democracy does not arrest its citizens arbitrarily and hold them indefinitely under vague charges. And a democracy is responsible for the well-being of its citizens or those the state is occupying or colonizing. It does everything it can to protect them from a pandemic.

The Washington Post adopted its motto “Democracy Dies in Darkness” on February 22,2017 to emphasize the need for bringing attention to the doings of the government and its processes in order to have more well-informed citizens and a functioning democracy. But in Indian-occupied Kashmir, democracy was never given a chance to live. If there is to be any hope for the future, we must shine a light on atrocities everywhere they take place to improve human conditions everywhere in the world, including Kashmir.

Please, take a moment to read and share these stories, so they do not die in darkness.