Also participating in the Briefing via video link, Dr. Angana Chatterji, a scholar with UC Berkeley, slammed the crackdown in Kashmir since Mr. Modi’s Government revoked the Constitutionally mandated special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5.
Reports have documented the “inhumane treatment and torture of children, the elderly, and women; illegal detentions, including mass detentions; the denial of the basic needs of life, the curtailment of freedom of speech and movement, the falsification of social facts and their amplification by the state, and the closure of sacred places,” she said. “Cries of pain” of a torture victim were broadcast via a mosque’s speaker system. “State forces have raided homes, destroyed property and mixed food with kerosene.”
She criticized India’s home minister, Amit Shah, for reportedly saying that “Western” human rights standards cannot be “blindly” applied to India. “Today, 129 days into the siege, the continuance of preventive detention and illegal, warrantless detention; custodial torture; the reported violation of the right to information, health, education, food and shelter, restrictions on freedom of speech and civil and political rights; and the near-complete denial of political space remain urgent, critical issues.”
Dr. Chatterji said “Kashmiris that I have spoken with ask that civil society in Kashmir be given the opportunity to publicly articulate their experiences and express their anguish, rage, fear, helplessness and dissent. The international community’s outrage has not been impactful thus far. When a state fails to uphold its mandate to govern within the parameters of international law, the international community must act.”
Raqib Hameed Naik, a journalist from Jammu and Kashmir said the ongoing lockdown in Kashmir was “one of the worst sieges in the last decade… Officially there are no restrictions, but unofficially the government has imposed an undeclared emergency.” Mr. Naik also disputed the Indian Government’s claim that Indian troops had not killed any Kashmiris since August 5 when the state’s special status was withdrawn.
“Let me put it on record that, so far, we have been able to document five killings by security forces. The number could be higher, but due to communication blockade and severe restrictions on the movement of the press, we have not been able to get exact figures from the different parts of the valley.” Mr. Naik said he had met with “many minors” who were imprisoned “without charges”. One of them, Muzamil Feroz Rah, 17, of Srinagar was arrested by the police in a “midnight raid from his home.
“[Rah] told us that he was kicked and punched by the cops and when his mother tried to stop the cops from taking him away, the cops told her to remain silent or they will kill him. He was kept inside a small, dark cell with 15 other minors. He was traded like a commodity between different police stations. Even his father was detained for two days when he went to meet Muzamil in the police station.”
Mr. Naik said the courts in Kashmir were not functional as most lawyers were on strike against the incarceration of Bar Association’s president at a jail outside Kashmir. In any case, “many family members are reluctant to seek judicial remedy as they fear that state might charge their kin if they approach the courts for bails.”
The communication blockade was also affecting “every sector”, including healthcare, IT, hospitality, banking, and education affected the most, Mr. Naik said. “The e-commerce sector dependent on the internet has seen 10,000 people lost their jobs. Thousands of children couldn’t submit forms for engineering and medical entrance examinations due to the Internet shutdown.
“Patients needing dialysis, chemotherapy, and emergency surgeries, and pregnant women are unable to reach tertiary health care centers due to the transport shutdown.” Communication had broken down between pharmacies and drug suppliers. “Dr. Farida Ghoghawala, who runs infertility clinics in Kashmir, hasn’t been able to follow up on even a single patient in last five months due to the Internet shutdown,” Mr. Naik said.
He added that he had spoken with Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) president Sheikh Ashiq, “who told me that the handicraft sector alone has witnessed over 50,000 job losses while the hotel and restaurant industry had seen more than 30,000 people losing their jobs.