The arrest of two Kashmiri clerics in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) under the Public Safety Act (PSA) reflects the fear the Indian state has against any opposition in the occupied region. Abdul Rashid Dawoodi and Mushtaq Ahmed Veeri are both Muslim leaders with large social media followings, and it is clear that for the Indian state, this is unacceptable. For an occupying state, the idea of any popular support is a threat, especially if that support can turn into active resistance at any point. For the Indian state, anyone that is a Muslim in IOK must be controlled, and this strategy is exactly why the people of Kashmir will continue to resist the military siege.

The PSA, brought about in 1978, is a severely problematic law that allows for the state to arrest any law-abiding citizen, preventatively, for up to two years. Since 1988, according to the Indian government’s own data from 2015, over 16300 people have been arrested under this draconian legislation, almost all of them residents of IOK. The law is little more than a tool to legitimise the human rights crimes being perpetrated by the Indian armed forces.

The Indian state’s active efforts to stifle the independence movement are only fanning the flames for freedom even further. Each wrongful arrest, extrajudicial killing and instance of torture only reminds the people of Kashmir and the world at large that New Delhi has laid a military siege in the region, and is oppressing the residents to clamp down on the legitimate demand for self-determination. No amount of illegal legislation and policymaking is going to change that.

With political leaders targeted over decades, the addition of clerics to the list of wrongful arrests is not likely to be taken down by the Kashmiri people. Protests and demonstrations will follow, which will result in more state-sponsored violence. The only way to stop this cycle is to allow the Kashmiri people to exercise their freedom to choose their future. This is what the Pakistani people and government must stand for in support of our people in the occupied region.