Human Rights Abuses Continue in Kashmir

Many people in Kashmir testify of human rights abuses and mass arrests during the ongoing lockdown. (Flickr)

Many people in Kashmir testify of human rights abuses and mass arrests during the ongoing lockdown. (Flickr)

Indian-administered Kashmir has been under strict government lock-down for more than 50 days. The Indian government has blocked communications, including phone service and working access to internet, according to Slate. Places of worship are closed and the streets remain bare, save for the presence of 38,000 deployed Indian troops—in addition to the 500,000 already present, Foreign Policy reports.

The lockdown comes in conjunction with the Indian government’s decision to revoke Article 370, which gave Kashmir special autonomy. Before the revocation, India allowed Kashmir to have significant independence, such as having its own constitution, lawmakers, and flag due to residual tensions after the partition of 1947, according to Slate. Now, BBC reports that the Indian government is working towards forcibly integrating Indian-administered regions of Kashmir into greater India.

The history of the conflict over Kashmir goes back to 1947 when the British partitioned British India into India and Pakistan, leaving the status of Kashmir unresolved. Neither India nor Pakistan fully integrated the province and both rejected Kashmiri independence. This limbo allowed both powers to stake their own claims to the territory, leading to the modern-day dispute. 

Currently, India controls the Kashmir Valley, Ladakh, and Jammu, while Pakistan controls Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Balistan. Both countries granted their respective territories special autonomy, which makes India’s revocation of autonomy a point of contrast—and even a source of major tension—with Pakistan.

The majority party in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is the architect of the current lockdown. According to the Indo-Asian News Service, the party claims that the overarching goal of the move is to work toward the promise of development, opportunity, and enhanced livelihood for the people of Kashmir, while also combating terrorism (for which separatist groups are largely responsible). 

However, Kashmiris currently living under lockdown present a very different account, describing a life of mass paranoia, police raids, military violence, and mass arrests, according to Al Jazeera. Among testimonies of human rights abuses, one man recounted his own experience of a midnight raid, saying, “I was beaten with sticks, rifle butts and they kept asking me why I went for a protest march. I kept telling them that I didn’t, but they didn’t stop. After I fainted, they used electric shocks to revive me.”

Additionally, troops have arrested thousands of protesters, local politicians, and civilians. According to Reuters, this number is approximately 3,800 people—most held without opportunities for trial or bail.

The tactics used in this lockdown point to it as an attempt to limit rebellion as the region is forcibly integrated, according to the Hindu. Writers have theorized that the lockdown is the manifestation of the BJP’s nationalistic ideal for a united, Hindu India. These human rights violations suggest that the BJP views the Kashmiri/Muslim identity as a threat to their nationalistic Hindu politics.

Kashmir has been a historic epicenter of Indo-Pakistani conflict. According to BBC, a war between India and Pakistan broke out in 1947 when the Kashmiri prince signed a treaty of accession with India. Two more wars broke out in 1965 and 1971. Pakistani defeat in the third military conflict led to the Simla Agreement, which established lines of control. China has established de facto control over the Aksai Chin region of Kashmir since the 1960s.