Ever since the Indian government revoked Articles 370 and 35A, violence has plagued the region
iolence has plagued the Occupied Kashmir ever since the Indian government revoked Articles 370 and 35A. More than 12.5 million Kashmiris are living a far from a normal life. In 2022, the Bharatiya Janata Party government made Kashmir a living hell for its residents. A report by Human Rights Watch stated that as of October 2022, there had been 229 reported killings in the region, including 28 civilians, 29 security forces and 172 suspected militants. The Indian government has been using its power to suppress journalists, activists and human rights advocates. Restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly have been intensified. Many pro-freedom Kashmiri leaders, including Yasin Malik, remain incarcerated.
For a long time, India has been suppressing human rights defenders in an effort to punish and silence them. In January, Sajjad Gul, a journalist at the Kashmir-based news outlet The Kashmir Walla, was arrested by police on charges of criminal conspiracy over his reporting of a protest demonstration. Fahad Shah, the editor of The Kashmir Walla, was arrested on February 4, 2022, after reporting on a deadly police raid in Kashmir that resulted in the deaths of four individuals. Since August 2019, at least 35 journalists have faced police interrogation, raids, threats, physical abuse, restrictions on freedom of movement or false criminal charges because of their work.
After the Indian government announced a new media policy in June 2020, the persecution of journalists has intensified. The policy gives the establishment increased authority to monitor media outlets for any news that deviates from the government’s agenda.
Earlier on January 15, 2022, an independent media body, the Kashmir Press Club, was forcibly taken over by government-affiliated media workers and police who broke into its offices. According to a report published by the Legal Forum for Kashmir, access to information remains severely restricted, with more than 164 incidents of internet blockage reported in 2022. Indian-administered Kashmir has developed an information vacuum. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, under pressure from the Indian government, have suppressed Kashmiri voices by deactivating the accounts of journalists and activists, eroding their right to freedom of speech.
Access to information remains severely restricted, with more than 164 incidents of internet blockage reported from January to December 2022.
The region has experienced many curfews, lockdowns, restrictions on movement and a severe disruption of internet and mobile phone services. Human rights violations are being committed under the guise of curfew and lockdown. After the unrest in Kashmir over the killing of Burhan Wani, the region experienced a 51-day curfew, the longest in its history. The arbitrary imposition of curfews continues to disrupt the normalcy of life and commerce in the region, causing Kashmir’s economy to show signs of decline. Kashmir, a major apple-growing region, was severely impacted in September when the lockdown cut off transportation links to consumers in India and abroad, causing turmoil in the agricultural sector.
The Indian troops stationed in the region have been given a carte blanche to interfere with the lives and properties of Kashmiris. Draconian laws, such as the Public Safety Act of 1978 and the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act of 1990, are frequently used. The arrest and summoning of Kashmir’s religious leaders is a frequent occurrence. Numerous religious leaders and imams have faced routine harassment. Many have been arrested under laws like the Unlawful Activities [Prevention] Act. This has been followed by a ban on prayers in several mosques.
The actions of the Indian government have also resulted in the denial of opportunities for employment and education. The lockdowns in Kashmir have been strongly condemned by international observers, including the US Congress, the European Parliament and the United Nations Human Rights Council. Over the past year, experts from the United Nations have raised concerns about India on various fronts, including reports of extrajudicial killings and the disruption of communication networks in Kashmir.
The region has endured decades of violent repression, particularly since August 5, 2019. Despite widespread criticism from the international community, India continues to violate the basic human rights of the people of Kashmir. Hundreds of checkpoints and unreliable internet services exacerbate the difficulty of daily life in the area. There is little hope for improvement in the near future.
The writer is a freelance contributor based in AJ&K. She tweets @hunain_mahmood