- An extreme crackdown in the Indian territory of Kashmir has kept Kashmiri citizens under virtual house arrest and without a lifeline to the outside world for nearly a month.
- Extreme military and police brutality could lead to major uprisings, including violence and bloodshed, experts warn.
- While the Indian government and military forces have engaged in mass arrests, forced “disappearances,” and other human rights violations before in Kashmir, the scale of militarization and civilian suppression is unprecedented, making it ripe for a full-scale insurgency.
- “Never before have Kashmiri Muslims felt so threatened by Hindu Nationalists’ attempts to forcibly assimilate them with the Indian Union,” a Kashmir expert told Insider.
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The Indian government staged a takeover of the territories of Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month. A total information blockade followed, as well as reports of house arrests, and the Indian government’s decision to completely negate Kashmir’s special autonomous status.
The Indian government and military forces have for decades engaged in mass arrests, forced “disappearances,” and other human rights violations in Kashmir, but the scale of militarization and civilian suppression is unprecedented, making it ripe for a full-scale insurgency.
“Kashmir has turned into an internment camp,” Angana Chatterji, the co-chair of the Political Conflict, Gender, & People’s Rights Initiative at the University of California at Berkeley and an expert on human rights in Kashmir, told Insider.
“It’s virtually impossible [for people] to step outside their homes,” she said, as 55,000 Indian military personnel patrol the streets of Kashmir. Kashmir and Jammu have a population of 10 million that’s majority Muslim, and these citizens have been without internet since August 4, making it impossible to communicate with the outside world, much less each other.
“They want to make sure that people stay indoors, that people don’t mobilize and protest,” Hafsa Kanjwal, a professor at Lafayette University and an expert on Kashmir, told Insider.
India’s government formally abrogated Article 370 of its constitution, which gave Kashmir its special status as an autonomous state, earlier this month. The unprecedented move by the Hindu nationalist BJP government revokes Muslim-majority Kashmir’s ability to make its own laws and determinations under the guise of integrating the state into India and increasing development there.
No voice for Kashmiris
But India’s actions — arresting thousands of Kashmiris, putting political leaders under lockdown, and disarming the Kashmir police force — reaveal different motivations.
Decisions about Kashmir’s future — and any negotiation thereof — have always been between Pakistan, which controls some parts of the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, and India, according to the 1972 Simla agreement. Now, with the Indian government seizing power, Kashmiris are out of options.
“Kashmiris are being forced to take a stand in a bilateral political situation,” Chatterji said. “They, as the primary stakeholders, must argue for themselves.”
“Potential for a full-blown insurgency remains strong,” Wajahat Peer, a political scientist from Kashmir, told Insider. “With no room for dissent,” he said, the people of Kashmir have “no choice but to engage in armed struggle.”
There is precedent for armed insurrection — in the late 1980s, for example, militant Kashmiri groups headed to Pakistan for arms training and led an insurrection against the Indian administration in Kashmir in 1990. According to Human Rights Watch, the Indian National Congress party had rigged elections in Kashmir to benefit Indian rule and arrested opposition leaders. That conflict led to around 100,000 Hindus leaving Kashmir, and countless human rights abuses by Indian forces there. Uprisings in 2009, 2011, and 2016 resulted in injuries, restrictions, and human rights abuses against Kashmiris, as well.
‘Only one solution’
The current situation seems to be different. For one, there wasn’t really a precipitating event that brought on India’s state-wide blackout and blatant political power grab.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” according to a United Nations Human Rights Council statement on Kashmir.
“The information blackout is clearly unprecedented,” Peer said. “So is the increase in military deployment at a time when insurgency in Kashmir is residual.”
2019 is a watershed moment in Kashmir, Chatterji told Insider. “There’s no going back, they’ve destroyed a tenet of the constitution.”
“Never before have Kashmiri Muslims felt so threatened by Hindu Nationalists’ attempts to forcibly assimilate them with the Indian Union,” Peer said.
“So there is an overarching consensus in the Kashmiri society that they need to right for the protection of their identity. And surely it will generate massive resistance.”
Even with limited communication and highly militarized streets, Kashmiris are still protesting, The New York Times reports. While some are peaceful, others proceed with chants advocating for armed struggle.
“Only one solution,” protesters shout. “Gun solution!”