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South Asia

Kashmir Lockdown Enters Sixteenth Day

Indian security personnel confront protestors in the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir on December 17, 2018. (Image Credit: Seyyed Sajed Hassan Razavi)
Indian security personnel confront protestors in the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir on December 17, 2018. (Image Credit: Seyyed Sajed Hassan Razavi)

A curfew remains in place sixteen days after India stripped the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir of its nominal autonomy and statehood, annexing the region. New Delhi began restoring landline connectivity partially over the weekend but internet and mobile phone connections remain switched off. Schools have reopened but parents are keeping their kids at home.

Ahmer Khan, a Kashmiri journalist who has reported for The Guardian and The New York Times, tweeted:

The weekend in Kashmir was tense as at least two dozen people were reportedly admitted to hospitals with pellet gun injuries. There was at least one fatality. The Guardian reports that a 65-year-old man died after Indian troops targeted protestors with tear gas and chili grenades.

Reuters reports that Indian security forces monitored hospitals and clinics seeking to arrest injured protestors. As a result, Kashmiris are resorting to medical treatment at home to treat pellet wounds and other injuries, the news agency reported.

After a growing number of young and teenage boys joined protests, the government has ordered government employees to return to duty and re-opened schools.

Government schools in Srinagar—the largest city in Indian-controlled Kashmir—re-opened on Monday but students largely remained absent. Parents are afraid of letting their children go to school because of the curfew and communication blackout, reported the BBC.

With shops shut for the sixteenth consecutive day due to curfew, Kashmiris are facing shortages of essential items including baby food, cooking fuel, and medicine.

According to the Press Trust of India (PTI), landline services were restored in seventeen areas in the Srinagar district.

While the curfew and communication blackout was eased in some areas for a few hours, strict restrictions were put in place again after clashes between Indian security personnel and protestors.

The Indian government has already banned gatherings of more than four people, barbed wires lines roads, and barriers have been put up to prevent movement.

The Indian government has arrested more than 500 politicians, separatist leaders, and activists to suppress protests. However, that has not stopped Kashmiris from protesting against New Delhi. Despite heavy militarization in Kashmir—there are roughly one million Indian security personnel in the area—there have been frequent protests, some of which have turned violent.

Apart from the detention of politicians and activists, a magistrate, on condition of anonymity, told Agence France-Presse that at least 4,000 people have been arrested so far and are being held under Public Safety Act (PSA). PSA is a controversial law that lets authorities detain someone for up to two years without charge or trial.

Shehla Rashid, a Kashmiri activist, has accused Indian forces of “entering houses at night, picking young boys, ransacking houses, [and] deliberately spilling rations of the floor, mixing oil with rice.”

Indian National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval met Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday and briefed him about the security situation in Kashmir. The Indian government is downplaying the protests and downplaying news of unrest from the valley as mere “rumors.”

With communication blackout and restrictions on journalists, very little information is coming out of the seized valley. While the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consistently defended the move saying that it was necessary for economic development; with heavy restrictions, communication blackout, and curfew; it appears quite the opposite.

Urooj Tarar covers South Asia and pivot states for Globely News. She previously worked for the English-language edition of Daily Pakistan.

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