Kashmir News Weekly Roundup: 3/19-3/26
Civilian loses memory after brutal torture by the Indian army
A boy from South Kashmir’s Shopian area is receiving treatment outside Indian-occupied Kashmir, but he hasn’t made much progress in the last three weeks. The kid was detained by the Indian army on a night in the first week of this month on suspicion of having ties with the resistance movement. According to the family, the boy was electrocuted for the whole night by the Indian army and is facing partial memory loss.
The boy was taken into custody under the fictitious designation of being a “hybrid militant,” the family claims. The army contacted the family to pick him up the next morning. “He was laying unconscious, and his body had bruises and torture marks all over,” said a family member, adding that the Indian army also threatened the family for being booked under UAPA.
“The Indian army major threatened to seize our property and book the family under UAPA”, said a family member, to whose shock the released youth couldn’t recall a thing and was in a state of dementia after the brutal army interrogation.
NIA arrests Kashmiri journalist Irfan Mehraj in Srinagar
Irfan Mehraj, a journalist from Kashmir, was taken into custody by the Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday in Srinagar. Irfan Mehraj, a native of Mehjoor Nagar in Srinagar, currently works as a senior editor for TwoCircles.net.
Mehraj-ud-Din Bhat, Irfan’s father, said that the NIA had asked the journalist to come in person to its Church Lane office in Srinagar on March 20. When he got the call, he was on a professional job. He was instructed to visit their workplace for five minutes. Eventually, he claimed, they learned that Irfan had been detained and would be sent to Delhi.
“My son is innocent. His work speaks for him loudly. I have full faith that truth will prevail, and he will get justice,” Bhat said.
Together with Irfan, three other Kashmiri journalists—Fahad Shah, Asif Sultan, and Sajad Gul—are now being held in custody due to various federal statutes. Earlier in 2021, the New York-based international press freedom watchdog called upon the Indian government to drop investigations into the work of Kashmiri journalists and allow them to report without “harassment, intimidation, and criminal investigations.”
Imposed JK Admin threatens employees against criticizing its policies on social media
The puppet government in Jammu and Kashmir has imposed rules for using social media by government personnel. According to the rules, “No Govt employee shall, through any post, tweet or otherwise, discuss or criticize any policy pursued or action taken by the Govt, nor shall he/she, in any manner, participate in any such discussion or criticism on social media pages, communities, microblogs,” the administration ordered on March 24th, 2023.
UN demands an immediate end to the crackdown on Kashmiri HR defenders
India must immediately end its crackdown against Kashmiri human rights defenders, a UN expert said on Friday, after renowned Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez was arrested in a second case on militancy charges.
“Indian authorities appear to be intensifying the long-standing repression of Kashmiri civil society,” said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, in a statement. “The state must respect its human rights obligations and be held accountable where it violates them.”
On March 22nd, 2023, Khurram Parvez, who was already detained since November 2021 on accusations of militancy, was arrested in a second case after two days of interrogation by the National Investigation Agency, India’s main counter-terrorism body.
Before Parvez’s arrest, a former associate of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKCCS), human rights defender, and journalist Irfan Mehraj was arrested in the same case on March 20th, 2023 from Srinagar and immediately transferred to New Delhi. The UN said that former associates and volunteers of the JKCCS are facing coercion and intimidation from the authorities.
The statement added that the expert calls for releasing and closing the investigations against Kashmiri human rights defenders.
UN Special Rapporteur seeks immediate release of Irfan Mehraj
Reacting to the arrest of Kashmiri journalist Irfan Mehraj by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India, various organizations have condemned the arrest and sought the journalist’s immediate release.
“We vehemently oppose the imposing of UAPA on media persons. The misuse of this draconian law by NIA in randomly arresting Irfan Mehraj, a journalist from Kashmir, ominously points towards a violation of freedom of speech and expression. We demand his immediate release,” the Press Club of India tweeted.
Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, tweeted the following regarding the matter: “I’m deeply concerned about the Kashmiri HRD and journalist @IrfanMeraj. He was called to the @NIA_India office in Srinagar and arrested in a 2020 case, accused of serious offenses. I call for his immediate release.”
Jammu scholars call fasting of Kashmiri Muslims ‘against sharia’
Kashmir has had a long standing precedent of following Pakistan for Ramadan and other religious holidays. Thus, after the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee of Pakistan’s declaration of the crescent sighting on Thursday, the people of Kashmir began fasting as usual. However, a group of local Muslim clerics called for action against those who create “anarchy and uncertainty” by labeling the people’s fast as being “against shariah” and ordering that they need to follow India’s crescent sighting and fast on Friday.
This incident has created a great deal of controversy within Kashmir as this order seemed very out of place and abrupt given that Kashmiris have always followed Pakistan’s crescent sighting. This has led to some speculation that the clerics were given these orders by the Indian government as a way to cause division within the community and diminish support and influence from Pakistan. Many people persisted and continued their fast on Thursday in defiance.
Civilian arrested in Sopore, North Kashmir
In the Baramulla region of northern Kashmir’s Sopore, the Indian army and police detained a civilian on Thursday under the false pretext of being a “militant associate.”
Hundreds of Kashmiris are imprisoned inhumanely in jails around India on fabricated charges. Most have been imprisoned in these facilities for more than five years without being tried.