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South Asia

There’s a Communications Blackout in Indian-Controlled Kashmir, but Some First-Hand Accounts Are Coming Out

Through Facebook posts and audio messages, Kashmiris are offering the world a glimpse of their region under siege.

Indian police forces attack Shia Muslims during the annual Muharram mourning ceremony in September 2017. (Image Credit: Seyyed Sajed Hassan Razavi/Tasnim News Agency)
Indian police forces attack Shia Muslims during the annual Muharram mourning ceremony in September 2017. (Image Credit: Seyyed Sajed Hassan Razavi/Tasnim News Agency)

The curfew and communications blackout imposed by New Delhi in the region of Kashmir continues into its third day. Over 400 people—including prominent politicians—have been arrested by Indian forces, according to The Indian Express. But reports by locals of conditions on the ground are trickling out through social media.

On midnight Monday, India’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government imposed a curfew on the 12 million people of Indian-administered Kashmir ahead of its surprise announcement that it was annexing the disputed territory—which held a nominal autonomous status.

By Tuesday, Indian television journalists—including celebrity anchor Barkha Dutt—arrived on the scene, promoting a state-friendly narrative of calm in the area and support for New Delhi’s unilateral decision.

However, reports by Kashmiri activists, journalists, and ordinary citizens have managed to make their way to the outside world.

Burhan Gilani, a Kashmiri student, has been compiling voice messages from Kashmiris on the ground and posting them on to Twitter.

In a recording posted by Gilani, an unnamed man describing himself as a Kashmiri doctor claimed that he “barely managed” to reach the hospital where he works and was stopped by security forces around a dozen times. He added that there was “utter desolation” along the route, though he “could see signs of the aftermath of stone-pelting.” He said that locals told him that there were 3-4 deaths, including that of a child.

Adnan Bhat, a Kashmiri journalist who has contributed to Al Jazeera English and Buzzfeed, posted the photo of Azrar Khan, an 11th-grade student who he said he knows personally and was shot by Indian forces at close range. Bhat wrote that Khan was battling for his life.

Responding to Bhat’s tweet, another Kashmiri posted a list of patients admitted into a local hospital. The list contained Khan’s name and stated that he had been hit by shelling.

Shah Faesal, a Kashmiri politician who served in the Indian civil service, wrote on Facebook and Twitter that “Kashmir is facing unprecedented lockdown” with its entire population “incarcerated like never before.”

Chillingly, he wrote: “It is being said that the government is ready for a casualty figure of 8-10 thousand.”

Another Kashmiri by the name of Sanna Wani tweeted a long thread detailing her attempt to leave Kashmir for India. She wrote that there was a rush to purchase basic necessities on Friday after New Delhi canceled a Hindu pilgrimage in Kashmir, signaling future unrest. And she described her fears crossing numerous checkpoints as she exited the region.

Rana Ayyub, an Indian investigative reporter, reposted onto Twitter a Facebook post by Muzamil Jaleel, the deputy editor of the Indian Express, who made his way to New Delhi from Srinagar, the largest city in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Jaleel described Srinagar as “a city of soldiers and spools of concertina wire.” He wrote that all phone service and the internet have been disconnected. Jaleel said that he heard of protests in other parts of Kashmir, but came across an Indian television crew reporting that there is “calm” in the region.

A reporter for India’s Zee News was actually heckled by Kashmiris in the Kargil area as he was trying to record a report insinuating that the locals supported the annexation move by New Delhi:

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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