Life is far from normal for the 12.5 million people in Indian Illegally-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir especially after 5 August 2019. Life remains hard in the region after the August 2019 action of revoking Article 370 of the Indian constitution that granted special status to the region with hundreds of checkpoints in place, killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rapes and other brutalities. Internet coverage is slow there to deny the fundamental right of freedom of expression to the residents. On August 5, 2019, the Indian government revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution that granted special status to the region followed by a continued clampdown in the Indian Illegally-Occupied Kashmir.

Security operations against Kashmiri fighters have been continuing. The previous year was tagged as one of the bloodiest years for some time. The Indian-occupied Kashmir has so far seen many military operations and over 400 killings besides regular internet shutdowns and destruction of structures. Panic gripped occupied Kashmir after India announced deploying more soldiers to one of the world’s highest militarized areas. With an indefinite security lockdown in Indian Illegally-occupied Kashmir and elected representatives under house arrest, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is suppressing the voice of Kashmiri people.

On 5 August 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi scrapped Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which allowed the state of Jammu and Kashmir to make its own laws, and cancelled Article 35A, which gave the state’s legislature the power to determine who was a permanent resident. 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. The move is being seen as an attempt to dilute the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir with Hindu settlers. The Indian government stripped Kashmiris of the special autonomy they had for seven decades through a rushed presidential order.

Kashmir dispute is the part of the unfinished agenda of subcontinent partition. No government of time ever tinkered with this special status of Kashmir but Modi ventured to change the constitutional status of Kashmir due to political expediency. Revocation was part of BJP’s electoral manifesto and action aimed at showing people to have acted upon it.

The Indian government then sent about 40,000 additional troops into the territory — already the most militarized zone on earth — to deal with the inevitable negative reaction to Modi’s decision. A curfew was imposed, schools and universities were closed, the internet was shut down, thousands of tourists and pilgrims were told to leave, and politicians were put under house arrest. All aspects of society in Kashmir have been severely affected by these measures. Undoubtedly, the greatest hardship for Kashmiris over the past years has been the very limited access they’ve had to the internet. While broadband was restored intermittently, a few months ago after India’s Supreme Court ruled that the internet shutdown violated people’s freedom of speech and expression, mobile users are still limited to 2G networks and internet shutdowns are frequent. The restrictions have severely impeded the daily lives of students, traders and journalists. Security forces continue to behave appallingly and with impunity towards civilians, particularly during raids on homes in search of militants. According to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, nearly 13,000 people are still in detention without having been tried. Last, but not least, 400,000 domicile certificates were granted to non-Kashmiri Indians in May last year alone, strongly suggesting that the Indian government intends to change the ethnic composition of the occupied Kashmir. 

 

The economic effect has been dire while Coronavirus lockdown measures have only added to the hardship. The economy of the region, which relies heavily on tourism, has been completely gutted. Kashmiris will continue to suffer for some time yet. But it’s clear that the dreadful situation in the occupied Kashmir cannot continue indefinitely. Eventually, the Indian government will need to negotiate with Kashmiris and find a peaceful way forward.