TW: Mentions of Violence, Torture, Abuse
Today marks one year since Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, was abrogated by the Indian government. The decision was preceded by the movement of thousands of troops in the region, a terror threat warning and the cancellation of the Amarnath Yatra, a communications blockade and subsequent detentions – but what was missing, and remains missing, was the much needed dialogue and involvement of the people directly affected by the decision.
With its people under a strict clampdown, prominent leaders under detention, and the suspension of important means of communications, the sense of fear, panic, loss, and uncertainty that Kashmir faced was new yet familiar. The internet shutdown in Kashmir was the world’s longest internet shutdown until internet was restored in January this year. The shutdown not only had made it difficult for Kashmiri people to keep in touch with loved ones, but also posed a significant challenge for them in terms of getting jobs, education, and maintaining their livelihood. It further silenced Kashmiri people and kept Kashmir in the dark, enabling more injustices.
Even during a global pandemic, Kashmir’s access to the internet remains restricted to low speed 2G internet. Meanwhile, the Indian government has maintained its position on the supposed ‘normalcy’ in the Jammu and Kashmir. It continues to push this narrative amid report after report of human rights violations in the region. A year later, as Kashmir deals with restricted internet access and a global pandemic, we look beyond the supposed normal in the Valley.
Abrogation Of Article 370
On August 5 2019, the Indian government scrapped Article 370, which granted a special status to Jammu and Kashmir. It was decided that the J&K region would be divided into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Ahead of the abrogation of Article 370, the State moved many troops in the region and enforced a strict clampdown.
Communication Services Suspended
Following the abrogation of Article 370, internet and mobile services were cut off in the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) region. This communications blockade amid a strict clampdown in the region proved to be a significant challenge for people trying to contact family and friends.
Politicians Under House Arrest
Politicians and leaders in Kashmir were put under house arrest soon after Article 370 was abrogated by the Indian government. Politicians like Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah were put under house arrest, while Usman Majid from Congress and CPI(M) leader M.Y. Tarigami were detained.
People of the Valley Protest
Even under a strict lockdown, Kashmiri people took to the streets to protest the Indian government’s decision on Bakrid in 2019. In October 2019, 13 Kashmiri women came out to protest the abrogation of Article 370. They were arrested, and later asked to sign bonds assuring not to repeat any at that resulted in “breach of peace”.
Human Rights Violations In Kashmir
There were multiple reports of human rights violations following the strict clampdown in the valley post the abrogation of Article 370. A probe confirmed that numerous children were detained by security forces post August 05. A Washington Post report stated that people were beaten up and tortured by armed forces in the crackdown that followed the revocation of Article 370.
Communications Services Restored, 4G Remains Banned
Mobile services in Kashmir were restored 72 days after the abrogation of Article 370. The initial restoration of internet in the Valley in January this year limited access to social media, which was later restored in March 2020. But even amid the Covid-19 crisis, access to high speed 4G internet remains restricted.
UAPA Against Kashmiri Journalists
In April, the J&K police booked journalists Masrat Zahra and Gowhar Geelani under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Earlier, Qazi Shibli, editor of ‘The Kashmiriyat’, was booked under the Public Safety Act days before Article 370 was revoked. Shibli was released in April this year to decongest the prisons to deal with the pandemic, only to be arrested again by J&K police cybercrime division in July.
Violence Breaks Out In Srinagar
In May, two militants were killed in a 12-hour long operation by J&K police and CRPF in Nawakadal in Srinagar. The clash led to several homes being devastated in the Nawakadal area. Residents also alleged that they were beaten up and used as human shields by security forces, and that their houses were burned and looted.
Curfew Imposed Ahead of August 05
The J&K authorities, fearing protests, imposed a curfew in Kashmir ahead of the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370. According to officials, the curfew was imposed to ‘prevent violence’ by people planning to observe the first year anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 as ‘black day’.