Kashmir News Weekly Roundup: 10/9-10/15

Kashmiri Resistance Activist Altaf Shah dead under Indian Custody 

The jailed Hurriyat activist Altaf Ahmad Shah, the son-in-law of Kashmiri resistance figure late Syed Ali Shah Geelani, died under Indian custody on Tuesday morning.

People in Kashmir see the death of Shah under Indian custody as a model of ‘imposing slow death’ applied by India to kill jailed Kashmiri resistance leaders and activists. Many also believe that Kashmiri leaders are being slowly poisoned in Indian jails, resulting in health complications, and denial of healthcare is the final nail in the coffin.

In May 2021, the senior resistance leader and chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai died under Indian custody. The aged Hurriyat patron’s health had deteriorated three weeks before he died. Sehrai was denied medical attention and was rushed to the hospital only a few hours before he breathed his last.

Shah passed away at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi after being shifted from the Tihar jail, where hundreds of Kashmiris are jailed, facing inhumane treatment from the Indian jail authorities.

Shah was not keeping well for a long time, and his family had requested the Indian jail authorities in Tihar for medical attention. They also sent pleas to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Home Minister Amit Shah. The deceased activist’s daughter wrote a letter to them seeking immediate medical attention but to no avail, despite his worsening health issues.

“They are quietly killing our jailed leaders one after another and calling them natural deaths. These are extrajudicial killings that India is carrying out by poisoning our jailed people and denying them any and every kind of medical care until they’re close to death,” a local told us. 

Shah’s death was confirmed by his journalist daughter, Ruwa Shah, in her tweet, “Abu (father) breathed his last at AIIMS, New Delhi. as a prisoner”.

Shah, a resident of Srinagar, was diagnosed with kidney cancer that spread to other parts of his body. He was taken to Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital, a hospital with an oncology department just before he succumbed to his terminal cancer.

On October 1, the Delhi High Court ordered Shah to be transferred to AIIMS in Delhi and directed that his son or daughter be allowed to meet him for an hour every day.

The Indian administration ruling over Kashmir did not allow the people of Kashmir to participate in Shah’s final rites. On the contrary occupation forces cordoned off and sealed the Soura area to the public, disallowing public access towards Shah’s residence. Only a few people close to Shah’s family were allowed to attend his funeral. 

Five Kashmiri Muslim Employees dismissed for ‘Anti-national Activities’ 

The imposed Indian administration in Kashmir has ordered the dismissal of five employees under Article 311 of the Indian Constitution, accusing them of ‘involvement in anti-national activities’.

The Government of India has been carrying out such draconian measures since the abrogation of Article-370, targeting the local population for their support for and association with the resistance movement.

Since imposing the economic hardship on the people of Kashmir is seen by locals as part of the larger offensive launched by India, dismissing the government employees seems like yet another card after Indian authorities have cornered Kashmirs economically  from multiple angles.

Moreover, the move targets the Muslim population in the workforce by either dismissing them or prematurely retiring them to make way for Hindu settlers from India to take over these vacant positions. 

As a critical component of the settler-colonialism project, almost all the top officials in the local bureaucracy and police are now Hindus imported  from India at a breakneck speed.

The names and designation of the dismissed employees are as follows: 

  1. Mr. Tanveer Saleem Dar, son of Ghualm Rasool Dar, a constable in the Auxiliary Wing of J&K Police
  2. Mr.Syed Iftikhar Andrabi, son of Syed Atiqulla Andrabi,  VLW Rural Development Department (Panchayat Secretary)
  3. Irshad Ahmad Khan, son of Ghulam Ahmad Khan, Orderly-cum-Chowkidar in Jal Shakti Department, Baramulla
  4. Mr. Afaq Ahmad Wani, son of Ghulam  Rasool Wani, Manager Baramulla, Central Cooperative Bank Ltd. 
  5. Mr. Abdul Momin Peer, Assistant lineman, son of Mohd Ashraf Peer, PHE Sub Division Handcar

The dismissal order mentioned that these employees had come to the adverse notice of law enforcement and intelligence agencies  and “have been found involved in activities prejudicial to the interests of the security of the State.”

Kashmiris, with Past Armed Resistance Associations, Face an Onslaught.  

The Indian armed forces have announced ‘keeping the former militants under watch’ for their undercover involvement in the armed resistance. The measure to harass the people with any past association with armed resistance has intensified in Kashmir. 

The people with past associations with the armed resistance of Kashmir have been facing harassment from the Indian State for decades. The harassment includes denying them passports, banning their recruitment in government departments, etc. Besides physical torture, harassment from the Indian armed forces includes issuing  random summons, interrogations, and even forcing them into collaboration activities.

Mohd Ayoub, a resident of Srinagar, has been facing summons from the Police and Armed forces for over ten years. He was  kept in police custody for five days when the Home Minister of India visited Occupied Kashmir. Ayoub was associated with the armed resistance in Kashmir during the early 90s and gave up arms after losing his eyes during a confrontation with the Indian army. 

“I’ve spent ten years in prison, and yet the interrogation of the Indian army continues whenever an Indian politician is on a visit to Kashmir,” said Ayoub.

Indian Voters are Permitted to vote in Kashmir Under India’s Settler-Colonial Project.

In another attempt to further India’s colonial-settler agenda and alter the electoral politics in the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir, an order was issued, authorizing all revenue officials to issue a certificate of residence to people residing in the district for more than one year in the Jammu region.

“Whereas, Special Summary Revision, 2022 has been started in Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir with effect from September 15, 2022, for registration of new voters, deletion, correction, transposition of voters who have migrated, died since last Summary Revision,” reads the order of the Deputy Commissioner, Jammu.

Other than changing the demography of the Muslim majority region, such steps, according to the legal residents of  J&K, are intended by the ruling BJP of India to bring the Hindu vote that would ensure their mandate in the respective constituencies.

The move received little backlash from former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti and former minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

“ECI’s latest order for registration of new voters makes it clear that the Indian  settler-colonial project is active in Jammu. They will bear the first blow to the Dogra culture, identity, employment, and business,” Mehbooba tweeted.

Notably, in August, the Election Commission announced the schedule of the Special Summary Revision in Jammu and Kashmir. It announced that the people who were not voters in the Assembly after the abrogation of Article-370 from the region could now vote. 

Indian Police Extorting Money from Kashmiris, Arresting them on Trumped Up Charges.

The police in the Hyderpora region of Srinagar have arrested a 22-year-old under bogus charges of stone pelting. The 22-year-old, whose family spoke with us, said he had been arrested in 2018 and booked under fake stone pelting charges. 

“They recently came to our house at 1:30 in the night and took him away. They are demanding 10 lakh rupees from us. They say if we don’t pay them this money, they will book him under PSA and take him to prison in Jammu. We are trying to arrange the money from relatives now,” the mother of the 22-year-old said. 

This is not an isolated incident. As per the government of India’s figures, more than 4,131 prisoners — 4,005 men and 126 women — are held in jails in JK alone.

Of all the prisoners in JK, 3,735 are currently under trial, and 747 were convicted in militancy-related cases, meaning only 1.8 percent of these individuals have been convicted. A staggering 90.4 percent of the total prisoners are still undergoing trials. Many thousands more have been kept locked up in jails in India. As per the Indian government (Ministry of Home Affairs), 3,689 prisoners from Kashmir are languishing in different jails across India.