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December 8, 2019

Kashmiri bravery


December 8, 2019

Even more than 120 days after the military lockdown began in Indian-occupied Kashmir after the government in New Delhi snatched away the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and divided it into two separate union territories, the Kashmiri people are fighting back as best they can. Amidst the fear and intimidation in the Muslim majority Kashmir valley and areas of Jammu people, continue to observe civil disobedience by opening shops for only a few hours, staying away from schools and offices while public transport is virtually absent from the roads. Restrictions under Section 144 remain in place with cellular networks shut and messaging suspended. There is also a heavy military presence across the territory. Pakistan, to its credit, has reaffirmed in its weekly Foreign Office briefing that it stands firm on the issue of Kashmir and the rights of its people.

As the standoff continues, 38 Kashmiris including two women and three young boys have been killed during the last 121 days. The Kashmir Media Service says seven were killed in fake encounters or while in custody. At least 39 women have been subjected to rape or molestation, 853 critically injured during the firing of shells and over 11,400 Hurriyat leaders including those who have led Kashmir still placed under house arrest. The troops occupying the valley have also refused to allow people to offer Friday prayers at the historical Jamia Masjid in Srinagar since August 5. The onset of winter and the increasing fall in temperatures adds to the miseries of people unable to obtain basic supplies. Kashmiri youth leaders have also been shifted to Srinagar Central Jail, far away from their homes. There are reports more detainees may be put under house arrest in Srinagar.

This is a situation that has already continued for far too long. Kashmiris have suffered the separation of families, conflict and periods of high tension since Partition in 1947. They have also seen their valley explode under violence since the 1990s when the youth began an organized uprising against Indian forces. It is unfortunate that in democratic India, a nation that has prided itself on its record of rule by the people and protection of rights, there have been almost no protests in the rest of India against what is taking place in Kashmir. Pakistan has done what it can to raise the issue through diplomatic channels. This has had some impact with the US Congress and other bodies taking up the matter. But these efforts are not enough. Kashmir is one of the longest standing territorial disputes in the world. The people who live in the dispute area are the worst sufferers of this. It is time the UN and the world acted on their behalf so that peace and most crucially the democratic right of the Kashmiris can be restored.

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