The Amnesty International India on Thursday launched a worldwide ‘urgent campaign’ in a bid to highlight the human rights violations and curfew in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
The draconian communication blackout in (Indian-occupied Jammu and) Kashmir is an outrageous protracted assault on the civil liberties of the people of Kashmir, said the Amnesty International India as it launched a global campaign today in a bid to highlight the human cost of the lockdown.
“The blackout has now been a month old and cannot be prolonged any further by the Indian Government as it has grossly impacted the daily lives of Kashmiri people, their emotional and mental well-being, medical care, as well as their access to basic necessities and emergency services. It is tearing families apart,” said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty International India.
The Indian government has imposed a curfew and communications blackout in the occupied Kashmir for about a month to avoid a violent reaction on repealing the special status for the valley.
“Imagine a world where you cannot call home. This is the reality of thousands of Kashmiris around the world. Eight million Kashmiris living in the region today have been locked in their homes for over a month. Outside the region their friends and families are unable to get in touch amidst stories of curfews, protests, medical emergencies and use of excessive force by the administration. Families have been torn apart as they live under siege – a collective punishment for the people of Kashmir- this is the human cost of the blackout and it cannot be ignored,” wrote the Amnesty International on its website.
The Indian government on August 5 illegally repealed the special status given to the occupied Kashmir under the constitution’s Article 370 and Section 35 A, and bifurcated the region into two Union Territories – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. The arbitrary move is feared to spark unrest in the disputed territory.
The decades-old conflict of Kashmir has resulted in horrific wars and continuous border tensions between Pakistan and India. The issue has strained the bilateral relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours as it is at core of their foreign and security policies.
In response to this indefinite communication blackout, Amnesty International India has launched the campaign #LetKashmirSpeak on 5 September, 2019 – which marks a month of the communications blackout, to ask for immediate lifting of the lockdown. While landline telephones have been announced to be restored, their obsoletion in the recent past will fall woefully short in facilitating communication for the 8 million people of Kashmir.
The global campaign can be accessed here.
“While the region of Jammu has begun to see easing of the lockdown in many districts, most of Kashmir still remains under a severe communications blackout. Depriving an entire population of their right to freedom of expression, opinion and movement for an indefinite period is akin to taking the region back to the dark ages. ‘Naya Kashmir’ cannot be built without the Kashmiris. The country is yet to hear from Kashmir after a month of being repeatedly been told by the Indian government that all is normal. This is not normal. Let Kashmir speak,” said Aakar Patel.
“Meanwhile, sketchy reports coming out of the region have highlighted unattended medical emergencies, mass arrests and detentions, children and youth being picked up in the middle of the night, torture of civilians, indiscriminate use of tear gas, rubber bullets and pellet guns at protestors. All this with the backdrop of heavy military presence and a history of serious human rights violations in the region. This adds to the heightening of tensions and feelings of insecurity at a time when families are unable to contact each other and ensure their wellbeing – as many young and aged remain locked in their homes.
“The attempts to restrict the freedom of press, like in the case of journalist and author Gowhar Geelani who was arbitrarily stopped at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi from boarding his flight to Germany, have further compounded the effect of the communication blackout. According to a recent Kashmir Press Club statement, at least three senior Kashmiri journalists were asked to vacate government accommodations as soon as possible, which is ‘nothing but harassment aimed at coercing journalists to toe a particular line’. The government’s attempts to create a public opinion of ‘normalcy’ in Kashmir while curbing the freedom of independent press have usurped the voice of the people,” the AI said.