A year into lockdown, ‘things have gone worse in Kashmir’

Indian security personnel during a lockdown imposed by the authorities as a preventive measure against the surge in COVID-19 cases in Srinagar. (AFP)
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Updated 25 July 2020

A year into lockdown, ‘things have gone worse in Kashmir’

  • Alienation in the region is having a ‘disastrous economic and political impact’

NEW DELHI: Anger and alienation in Kashmir are having a disastrous economic, social and political impact, a New Delhi-based rights body says in a report released a year into India’s lockdown of the region.

On Aug. 5 last year, New Delhi annulled Article 370 of the country’s constitution, which had guaranteed Kashmir’s special autonomous status and granted locals exclusive land and job rights.
The move sparked widespread anger, which was met with a brutal response from India’s military, detention of political activists and civilians, suspensions of all democratic rights and a media blackout of the valley.
The central government also divided the state into the Union Territory of Ladakh and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir — directly governed by a New Delhi representative.
“In this one year, everything has become worse. The alienation is worse, anger is stronger, cynicism is more pronounced and the sense that India wants to quash and humiliate Kashmiris is stronger,” Dr. Radha Kumar, one of the 21 high-profile activists who prepared the report, told Arab News on Friday.
Kumar cited new measures taken by New Delhi — such as a domicile law where outsiders can become residents of the region, a media policy to control the regional media and a building law allowing the military to buy land and make a permanent structure — that “are fueling strong resentment among people.”

BACKGROUND

• On Aug. 5 last year, New Delhi annulled Article 370 of the country’s constitution, which had guaranteed Kashmir’s special autonomous status and granted locals exclusive land and job rights.

• The move sparked widespread anger, which was met with a brutal response from India’s military, detention of political activists and civilians, suspensions of all democratic rights and a media blackout of the valley.

• The central government also divided the state into the Union Territory of Ladakh and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir — directly governed by a New Delhi representative.

The 70-page report, “Jammu and Kashmir: The Impact of Lockdowns on Human Rights,” was released on Tuesday by Forum for Human Rights. The rights body, comprising prominent jurists, former diplomats and academicians, said that the economic, social and political impact of India’s actions “have been disastrous.”
“There has been a near-total alienation of the people of the Kashmir valley from the Indian state and people,” the report reads, adding: “There has been denial of the right to bail and fair and speedy trial, coupled with misuse of draconian legislation, such as the Public Safety Act (PSA) and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), to stifle dissent.”
Khurram Parvez, a Srinagar-based activist, told Arab News that the human rights situation has deteriorated.
“All civil and political rights of people completely stand curbed. Only those affiliated to the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) can speak or organize political activity. Others, even if they are pro-India parties, continue to be gagged,” he said, adding that encounters, arrests and torture “continue unabated.”
“The BJP had claimed that the human rights situation will improve post the abrogation of Article 370, but we see it’s not at all a priority for the government.”
According to Parvez, the situation is becoming more complicated as China is now a “stakeholder” in the Kashmir dispute due to its border claims against India.
Kashmiris say that they are increasingly frightened of speaking up.
“It’s almost a year since my uncle was picked up from his home and put in a jail in a faraway place in Agra in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. What was his crime we don’t know,” Shabeer Ahmad, a resident of Lelhara village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, told Arab News.
“There is so much fear among people that they are afraid to speak their mind or question the authorities lest they are arrested or eliminated.”


Lebanese diaspora in London protest in support of Beirut protesters

Updated 34 min 10 sec ago

Lebanese diaspora in London protest in support of Beirut protesters

  • At least 100 people — both Lebanese and non-Lebanese — showed up at the protest denouncing government corruption and negligence following the port explosion that killed at least 158 people
  • Many of the chants at the London protest targeted politicians from across Lebanon’s ruling elite, including Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah

LONDON: The Lebanese diaspora in London gathered in Hyde Park on Saturday in a protest showing solidarity for those demonstrating in Beirut.

At least 100 people — both Lebanese and non-Lebanese — showed up at the protest denouncing government corruption and negligence following the port explosion that killed at least 158 people, injured more than 6,000 and left 300,000 homeless.

“It is very important to show support and solidarity with our fellow Lebanese protesting in the country,” one protester said. “Here in London we can peacefully protest, but those in Lebanon must go through attacks by both the internal security forces and political leaders’ thugs.”

Many of the chants at the London protest targeted politicians from across Lebanon’s ruling elite, including Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.

“Terrorist, terrorist, Hassan Nasrallah is a terrorist,” was one of the slogans chanted at the protest.

Another was: “All of them means all of them, and your leader is one of them.”

The Lebanese national anthem was played at the beginning of the protest following a moment of silence to honor those who were killed in the explosion. Protesters were seen breaking down in tears as the names of those who died were read aloud.

Posters carried pictures of the victims, with others carrying the message that “their blood is on your hands” — referencing the government’s negligence around the cause of the explosion.

The Lebanese government announced that 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate was located in one of the warehouses in the port and was the main cause of the blast’s immense power. Lebanese President Michel Aoun did not rule out the involvement of foreign interference.

“The incident might be a result of negligence or external intervention through a missile or a bomb,” Aoun said on Friday.