On November 3, the lockdown imposed in occupied Kashmir on August 5 by the Indian government crossed ninety days. The security and communication clampdown has now entered its fourth month.
With international pressure mounting to restore freedoms, Indian authorities claim they have ‘eased’ some restrictions, such as lifting roadblocks and restoring landlines and some mobile phone services. The scenario for 12.5 million Kashmiris, however, is far from normal.
The shutdown disrupted business and schools and demoralised the people. Mass arrests of Kashmiri leaders were made as the government announced revoking the special status of occupied Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian constitution.
Subsequently, on October 31, the region was split into two so-called federal territories.
Here, Dawn.com looks back at the major developments over the last 3 months in relation to occupied Kashmir.
Aug 3: Tourists flee, troop buildup creates panic
Thousands of tourists and students scrambled to get places on planes and buses leaving Indian-occupied Kashmir after the Indian government warned of the threat of “terror” attacks. Panic gripped occupied Kashmir since late July after India announced deploying at least 10,000 more soldiers to one of the world’s highest militarised areas.
Aug 5: India revokes Article 370 through rushed presidential decree
With an indefinite security lockdown in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) and elected representatives under house arrest, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stripped Kashmiris of the special autonomy they had for seven decades through a rushed presidential order.
By repealing Article 370 of the constitution, people from the rest of India will now have the right to acquire property in occupied Kashmir and settle there permanently. Kashmiris as well as critics of India’s Hindu nationalist-led government see the move as an attempt to dilute the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir with Hindu settlers.
Aug 8: 500 arrested, clampdown challenged in Supreme Court
Indian security forces arrested more than 500 people since August 5, it emerged.
A petition was filed in India’s top court challenging the lockdown by opposition Congress party activist Tehseen Poonawalla, seeking immediate lifting of curfew and other restrictions, including blocking of phone lines, internet and news channels in Kashmir.
He also sought the immediate release of Kashmiri leaders who have been detained, including Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.
Aug 9: Thousands protest over new status despite clampdown
Indian police used tear gas and pellets to fight back at least 10,000 people protesting Delhi’s withdrawal of special rights for Jammu and Kashmir in its main city of Srinagar.
The crowd was pushed back by police at Aiwa bridge, where a witness said tear gas and pellets were used against them. “Some women and children even jumped into the water,” a witness said at Srinagars Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, where pellet victims were admitted.
“They (police) attacked us from two sides,” another witness said.
Aug 14, 15: Pakistan observes ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’, ‘Black Day’
Pakistan observed Independence Day as ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ to express solidarity with Kashmiris and highlight their plight. Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing a special session of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly on August 14, warned Indian premier Narendra Modi that any action by India in Pakistan would be countered with a stronger response.
August 15, India’s Independence Day, was observed as Black Day across Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran warned that should ethnic cleansing of Muslims take place in the region, there would be severe repercussions in the Muslim world.
Aug 16: UNSC Kashmir moot gives lie to Indian claim
For the first time since 1965, the UN Security Council (UNSC) held a meeting exclusively on occupied Jammu and Kashmir, nullifying India’s claim that this was an internal matter.
Although the council did not agree on a statement, China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun summed up the discussions, expressing serious concern over the situation.
“The UNSC members are concerned about the human rights situation there and they (want) the parties concerned to refrain from taking any unilateral action that might further aggravate the tension there since the situation is already very tense and very dangerous,” he said.
Aug 18: Thousands detained since India took away autonomy
A magistrate, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said that since August 5, at least 4,000 people were arrested and held under the Public Safety Act (PSA), a controversial law that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial.
“Most of them were flown out of Kashmir because prisons here have run out of capacity,” the magistrate said, adding that he had used a satellite phone allocated to him to collate the figures from colleagues across the Himalayan territory amid a communications blackout imposed by authorities.
Aug 23: Kashmiris defy curbs, clash with Indian forces
Occupation forces used tear gas against stone-throwing residents in Srinagar, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
Police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a centre of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy. Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan, to protest against India’s decision.
Aug 26: India stops politicians from visiting occupied Kashmir
Indian authorities defended blocking opposition politicians from visiting occupied Kashmir, saying it was to “avoid controversy”, as the crippling security lockdown entered its fourth week.
The administration of occupied Kashmir sent back a delegation of India’s top opposition leaders, including former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, shortly after they landed in Srinagar. Afterwards, Rahul Gandhi said that he had experienced firsthand “the draconian administration and brute force unleashed on the Jammu & Kashmir people”.
Aug 30: Stories of torture emerge, India tries to portray ‘normalcy’
People in occupied Kashmir accused Indian security forces of carrying out beatings and torture in the wake of the government’s decision to strip the region of its autonomy, [BBC News reported], as India tried to portray “calm, normalcy” in the region.
The BBC heard from several villagers who said they were beaten with sticks and cables, and given electric shocks. The author of the article, journalist Sameer Hashmi, wrote that residents in several villages showed him injuries. “Doctors and health officials are unwilling to speak to journalists about any patients regardless of ailments, but the villagers showed me injuries alleged to have been inflicted by security forces,” he said.
Sep 3: Thousands march to Indian High Commission in London as lockdown enters 30th day
Thousands of protesters took out a rally in London to express solidarity with the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir, as a crippling lockdown entered its 30th day.
More than 5,000 protesters assembled at Parliament Square in the British capital and marched to the Indian High Commission to protest Kashmiris’ oppression at the hands of Indian security forces. Protesters carrying placards and waving Kashmir flags chanted slogans of “Terrorist terrorist, Modi is a terrorist!” and “Hum chheen kay lain gay — azaadi!” (We will take by force — freedom!).
Sep 5: Amnesty International launches ‘urgent campaign’ to end blackout
Amnesty International India launched a global campaign in a bid to highlight the human cost of the month-long lockdown in occupied Kashmir.
“The draconian communication blackout in [occupied] Kashmir is an outrageous protracted assault on the civil liberties of the people of Kashmir,” read a press release by the human rights watchdog.
“In response to this indefinite communication blackout, Amnesty International India has launched the campaign #LetKashmirSpeak on 5 September, 2019 – which marks a month of the communications blackout, to ask for immediate lifting of the lockdown,” stated Amnesty International India.
Sep 15: Number of protests held since Aug 5 more than 700
A senior government source said since August 5, an average of 20 protests per day took place in occupied Kashmir against Indian rule. Despite a curfew, restrictions on movement and the severe curtailment of internet and mobile phone services, public demonstrations against India — mostly in the largest city Srinagar — have been constant, the official said.
Altogether 722 protests were recorded since August 5, with Baramulla district in the northwest and Pulwama in the south the biggest hotspots after Srinagar, the source said.
Sep 21: Lockdown puts economy in tailspin
In one of the world’s largest apple growing regions, the lockdown cut transport links with buyers in India and abroad, plunging the industry into turmoil. Despite being harvest time, the market in the northern Kashmiri town of Sopore — usually packed with people, trucks and produce at this time of year — remained empty, while in orchards across occupied Jammu and Kashmir unpicked apples rot on the branch.
Sep 28: Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia speak up for Kashmiris at UNGA
Prime Minister Imran arrived in the United States for a week of global diplomacy, with his trip dubbed ‘Mission Kashmir’. The highlight of his more than 45-minute-long speech at the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York was intense criticism of India for its annexation of occupied Kashmir and the continued restrictions imposed in the region.
“(Nearly) 100,000 Kashmiris have died in the past 30 years because they were denied their right of self-determination. Eleven thousand women were raped. The world hasn’t done anything,” he said. “What is going to happen will be a blood bath. The people will come out.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at the forum said said despite UN resolutions, the territory had been invaded and occupied. In his address, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised the international community for failing to pay attention to the Kashmir conflict, which, he said, awaits solution for 72 years.
Oct 1: 9-year-old among 144 minors detained
A police list seen by AFP showed that Indian authorities in occupied Kashmir had detained 144 minors, including a nine-year-old, since the government removed the region’s special status in August.
Sixty of the minors were under 15, according to the document submitted to a committee appointed by India’s Supreme Court to look into allegations of illegal detentions. Reasons given by the police for detaining the minors included stone pelting, rioting and causing damage to public and private property, the committee said in its report.
Oct 3: Lockdown and communications clampdown in effect for 2 months
The lockdown and communications blackout in occupied Kashmir entered its 60th day on Oct 3 as millions remained isolated from the world and concerns were raised about lack of medical supplies in the area. Scores of British Kashmiris in London gathered at Parliament Square for a candlelight vigil to mark two months from the date that the Indian government revoked Article 370.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran cautioned people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) against crossing the Line of Control to support the struggle of the residents of occupied Kashmir.
Oct 6: Kashmiri party delegation meets detained leadership after 2 months
The Indian administration granted permission to a delegation from the National Conference party to meet their top two leaders. The meeting with party President Farooq Abdullah and Vice President Omar Abdullah took place in Srinagar.
National Conference spokesperson Madan Mantoo told Press Trust of India that the Indian government granted permission after provincial head Devender Singh Rana made a request to Satya Pal Malik, occupied Jammu and Kashmir’s governor.
Oct 10: India decides to lift travel advisory while residents continue to live under lockdown
India will lift a travel advisory on occupied Kashmir, said authorities. “The governor [Satya Pal Malik] directed that the Home Department’s advisory asking tourists to leave the Valley be lifted immediately. This will be done with effect from October 10,” an official spokesman was quoted as saying by India Today.
Authorities also released three low-level politicians, Yawar Mir, Noor Mohammed and Shoaib Lone, in occupied Kashmir amid international pressure to ease clampdown.
Oct 15: Farooq Abdullah’s sister, daughter detained for holding ‘anti-India protest’
Police detained at least 12 women, including the sister and daughter of former occupied Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah, for holding an anti-India protest.
The women, carrying placards reading “Respect Fundamental Rights” and “Why downgrade Jammu and Kashmir,” assembled in a park in Srinagar. Police whisked them away to a nearby police station as they tried to march through the main business area of Lal Chowk.
Oct 24: India holds village council polls despite lockdown, boycott by parties
Village council elections were held across occupied Kashmir, with the detention of many mainstream local politicians and a boycott by most parties prompting expectations that the polls would install supporters of BJP.
Indian officials hoped the election of leaders of more than 300 local councils would lend credibility amid a political vacuum and contended they would represent local interests better than corrupt state-level political officials.
Heavy contingents of police and paramilitary soldiers guarded polling stations across the region. At some places, soldiers patrolled streets around polling stations. Police said no violence was reported.
Oct 29: Far-right Euro MPs visit occupied Kashmir as UN body demands full restoration of human rights
Nearly 30 Euro MPs, drawn mainly from extreme right-wing parties, were the first international delegation to visit occupied Kashmir since authorities imposed a security clampdown in August to back the ending of the region’s autonomy. While the Indian government backed the visit, the European parliament and European Union hierarchy were not involved, raising some diplomatic doubts.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), meanwhile, expressed “extreme concern” over human rights abuses in occupied Kashmir and asked the Indian authorities to “fully restore” human rights in the occupied territory.
The human rights body also criticised the Indian judiciary over the way it is dealing with the situation in occupied Kashmir. “The Supreme Court of India has been slow to deal with petitions concerning habeas corpus, freedom of movement and media restrictions,” it said.
Oct 31: Occupied Kashmir officially loses special status and is divided
Shops and offices were shut in occupied Kashmir and the streets largely deserted as federal authorities formally revoked the restive area’s constitutional autonomy and split it into two federal territories.
Just after midnight on Oct 30, the federal government’s orders went into effect, dividing up occupied Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories; one Jammu and Kashmir, and the other the Buddhist-dominated high altitude region of Ladakh. “Everything changes on Thursday,” said a retired Kashmiri judge, Hasnain Masoodi, a member of India’s Parliament. “The entire exercise is unconstitutional. The mode and methodology have been undemocratic. People were humiliated and never consulted.”
Originally published on www.dawn.com