100-Day Lockdown in Kashmir: Paradise to Living Hell

A couple of days ago, Syed Ali Geelani in his letter to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan asked Pakistan to withdraw from peace pacts with India. He also urged Khan to redesignate the de facto Kashmir Line of Control.

He is of the view that since India has ended all bilateral agreements unilaterally, Pakistan should also withdraw from Tashkent, Shimla, and Lahore agreements in all aspects.

This rare letter was issued at a time when India’s lockdown of Kashmir completed 100 days. Needless to say, it is one of the most worst the world has ever seen. The world in general doesn’t know what is going on there. The number of troops was increased in a veil of secrecy. The special status of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked. Nobody actually knows what is going on there. But one of largest genocides in the history is anticipated. However, the fact of the matter is that it is tough to prove in the absence of evidence.

On August 5, India abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by revoking Article 370 of India’s constitution. On November 12, the lockdown in the area, worst in the history of the conflict, completed its 100 days.

Panic had gripped people in the area when two days before revoking the Article 370, the Indian government had issued an advisory for tourists, students, and workers from other states to vacate the area on an immediate basis. Something was about to happen certainly.

On November 12, the lockdown in the area, worst in the history of the conflict, completed its 100 days.

One of the world’s most militarised region, with over 700,000 troops on the ground, has certainly seen the worst in the history so far. The use of pellet guns in Kashmir valley is unprecedented.

Businesses, education, and health sectors have been the most affected. Particularly, the owners of orchards had to bear huge losses. The tourism industry in the paradise has also seen the worst dip. Apart from the Kashmiri people suffering, the area also witnessed episodes of violence when workers from outside Kashmir were killed. The situation is clearly uncertain. The world does not clearly know what went there, what is going on there, and what is next for the Kashmiris. The reports coming from the region say the mental health problems among the citizens have been on rise.

While the ban on most communication facilities including internet and prepaid connections remain, some communication restrictions including postpaid mobile services and landline phones have been eased.

The New York Times in its first report out of the lockdown state termed Kashmir a ‘living hell.’

Prime Minister Imran Khan fears a blood bath. Khan vows to support the Kashmiris’ struggle for self-determination and has impassionedly and forcefully denounced the lockdown in Kashmir.

No action from big powers of the world came into the limelight when it comes to supporting Kashmiris at global level. Apart from the fact that at the 74th United Nations General Assembly session, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said India had invaded Occupied Kashmir. Turkish President Racep Tayyip Erdogan said that the solution to Kashmir issue can only be found through dialogue. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hoped that the Kashmir issue is effectively solved.

It’s been more than hundred days. The world is waiting for the ban to be lifted at a time when the Kashmiris are waiting for the world to act.

The use of pellet guns in Kashmir valley is unprecedented.

Zahid Hussain, an award winning Pakistani journalist, is of the view that while Pakistan’s political and diplomatic support is critical, it largely depends on how the Kashmiris take forward their struggle. He further says that while the options for Pakistan are limited, the diplomatic efforts will only be helpful if the international community feels that the situation is worthy of its attention. He further said that Prime Minister Khan’s speech at the UNSC has more to do with the global power politics than the diplomatic efforts.

On the other hand, Ashley Tellis, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says, ‘A lot of what they are doing now is an exercise in public diplomacy. These guys are realistic enough to know that nothing is going to change on the ground.’

November 9 marked another important day in the history of South Asia when Pakistan inaugurated the Kartarpur Corridor to allow Sikhs to visit Dera Sahib without a visa, while India’s secularism claim was sort of done and dusted by the verdict in the Babri Mosque-Ram Temple case. Certainly, both developments are going to have far reaching effects not just for the region but the whole world. Pakistan presents the image of an ever inclusive country while India does the opposite.

Revocation of Article 370 is certainly going to have serious long-term effects not just on Kashmir, India, and Pakistan but the whole region and the world. The abrogation largely works as part of the Hindutva ideology – to make India a Hindu majority. However, this unprecedented and unexpected step of stripping the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir state is going to have far reaching effects not just for the future of Kashmiris but also India. The implications are going to be huge for a region, which has largely seen conflict in the past 70 years, particularly at a time when the Kashmiris were entirely excluded in the process. The step is certainly a slap on the secular face of India and the imposition of lockdown in Kashmir a darkest phase in the history of Indian democracy. However, an important thing to be mentioned here is that the lockdown has certainly put the issue of Kashmir in the international light. The world community remains silent while one of the gravest human rights violations is being committed by India in Kashmir. And it would not be an understatement to say that the world community is acting as a mere bystander and doing nothing to protect the rights of 8 million Kashmiris.

Afsana Afsar

Afsana Afsar

Afsana Afsar is an Associate Editor at the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research. She also serves as an editor at The Nation.

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