Protests in Kashmir entered a ninth consecutive day Sunday amid a bloody crackdown by Indian security forces.
Kashmir is the most densely militarized region of the world, and the recent protests erupted July 9 after Indian troops killed Burhan Wani, the commander of Hizbul Mujahedeen, a Kashmiri rebel group resisting Indian rule in the region. Thousands attended the popular young rebel leader's funeral and in the ensuing clashes with police, 36 people were killed, mostly civilians.
Nearly 2,000 people have been injured in clashes between demonstrators and police since July 9, according to figures released Friday by the Jammu-Kashmir government.
Overall, nearly 68,000 people have died in the decades-long conflict. Human rights agencies report that 100,000 Kashmiris have been tortured over that period, and another 10,000 disappeared.
Pakistan and India each administer part of Kashmir but both claim the region entirely. In the portion controlled by India, opposition to India is strong, with many expressing support for the rebels fighting for independence, or a merger with neighboring Pakistan.
“Can you imagine living in a place where there are so many soldiers, you can't—you go out of your door, you come out, come to a barrier. Every aspect of life, whether it’s joyous or otherwise, is sort of diverted through the military,” Indian author and activist, Arundhati Roy, who has previously been arrested in India for her comments on Kashmir, said on Democracy Now!.
Censorship and Control
Sanjay Kak, author of “Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir,” has deemed civilian resistance against military occupation and rule as an “intifada,” the Arabic term meaning uprising, which is often used to describe Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation.
“It’s only from around 2008 that there was a kind of paradigm shift in terms of what was going on there ... We began to sense something happening in 2008, which is when, after decades, hundreds and thousands of people began coming out on the streets,” Kak told Democracy Now!, explaining his use of the term intifada to describe the situation in Kashmir. “And it was obvious to all of us that the sort of the stone throwing on the street, the intifada of the street, was accompanied by an intifada of the mind, you know, a sort of a churning, a release.”
Amid the current arrest, authorities have shut down printing presses and mobile networks, and have temporarily banned newspapers in what is a sweeping information blackout. While most English dailies have continued to upload news onto their websites, editors and journalists in Srinagar marched late Saturday, carrying placards reading "Stop censorship" and "We want freedom of speech."
This latest round of civilian repression has also seen the use non-lethal weapons used in the most lethal way. Doctors in the region say hospitals are brimming with people who have been hit by rubber pellets. While rubber pellets are not fatal, when they are fired by hydraulic pump action guns, as is the case currently in Kashmir, they can cause blindness, disfigurement and organ damage. Hundreds of reported cases of the pellets leaving people blind have already surfaced, with many of them being young children and teens.
Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has issued a letter to the U.N., calling on the world to pay attention to the current situation in Kashmir.
Geelani has alleged that “India continues to institutionally perpetrate violence in Jammu and Kashmir, and has ensured so far that no armed forces personnel involved in heinous war crimes to be prosecuted by its own judicial mechanism.”
He is also calling on world leaders to push India to accept the disputed nature of the state, rapidly demilitarize the region, repeal “draconian laws” and release all political prisoners.
While Pakistan has pushed for a plebiscite to take place Kashmir, as was originally supposed to happen in 1947, India has continued to reject the proposal.