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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Blackout of journalism in Kashmir under Modi’s regime

The human rights watchdog Amnesty International, tried, for the millionth time on Saturday to raise support for the Kashmiri men and women reeling under a “vicious crackdown” by an oppressive regime “determined to stifle dissent using draconian laws, policies and unlawful practices.”

Kashmiris have always been subjected to inhuman and aggressive policies by the State of India. The element of violence has always been the core aspect of Indian state policy toward IIOJK. The elections of 2014 and the advent of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in power have become a catastrophe for the people of Kashmir.

It was for the first time in its history that BJP formed a coalition government in Indian Illegally Occupied Kashmir with collaboration in Delhi and since then it has inched forward to realize its dream of assimilating Kashmir. Narendra Modi a Nationalist Hindu Prime Minister bolstered his supporters who are fascinated by the death of Kashmiris and humiliate them by sharing images of tortured dead bodies as trophies.

Read more: How the people of Kashmir are being punished by the laws

Freedom of expression under Modi’s regime

Global human rights watchdog and Amnesty international claimed that the basic right to freedom of expression is threatened in Indian Occupied Kashmir. Zahoor Wani, a senior activist of Amnesty International in India stated that a new kind of censorship is being observed in the valley. Kashmir-based journalists are being arrested and are not allowed to perform their professional duties such as raising serious concerns about the worsening state of freedom of expression.

The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) is used to harass journalists. The state governments of Jammu and Kashmir dismissed the internet service with a perceptive to prevent violence, social unrest or deal with the law-and-order situation. In the year 2018, by November Internet service was suspended 60 times and out of these 27 shutdowns was in IIOJK.

Freedom of expression is regarded as the most basic and essential right of individuals in democratic, secular, and liberal countries, but in Indian-occupied Kashmir under Modi’s Hindutva government, it is far from this fundamental right. The government’s only objective is to silence any voice that criticizes Modi’s policy against Kashmir and its people. The world should take note of Modi’s harsh actions in Kashmir, which are limiting people’s right to freedom of expression and thought. It violates not only Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, which states that all people have the right to free expression and opinion.

Read more: Pakistan’s Kashmir policy and the way forward

International organizations and the international community must take note of India’s suppression of free expression in the Kashmir Valley and urge India to respect the people’s fundamental right to free expression and opinion. On the 2022 World Press Freedom Index, India’s rank fell from 142 in 2021 to 150 out of 180 countries, largely because of punitive action against journalists in Kashmir.

Reports on violations of human rights

Many International Organizations have recorded that India has been committing severe crimes against humanity for decades. Two different reports were issued independently, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in June 2018 and the other; by the All-Parties Parliamentary Group (APPG), which were released by the British Parliament (Oct 2018) on Human Rights in Kashmir revealed serious violations of Human Rights in Indian Occupied Kashmir. The statistics penned by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) show that during different protests 130-145 citizens died from July 2016 to march 2018.

The number of injuries is approximately 9042 from July 2016 to August 2017. More than 1000 people were detained from March 2016 to August 2017. The troll of forced disappearances from 1989 till date as mentioned by (the Association of Parents of Disappeared Person) is 8000. During the research, OHCHR found 143 documented cases of apparent sexual violence. Most of the time sexual violence cases are not documented or reported.

Physicians for Human Rights reported on 01 December 2016 that the killing of prominent freedom fighter Burhan Wani in July 2016 triggered the protests in Indian Occupied Kashmir. 87 people were killed and thousands were injured during violent clashes between the protestors and Indian forces. The report claims insensitive and extreme use of force against the unarmed protestors by Indian forces with weapons claimed inaccurately less lethal. The weapons used against the Kashmiri protestors included “pepper gas shell, tear gas grenade, live ammunition, 12-gauge shotgun loaded with metal pellets” which caused a huge number of injuries. However, Indian authorities justified the use of these weapons to reduce the intensity of the protestors.

Indian media reported on 09 September 2016 Indian Home Ministry approved the use of Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide (PAVA) shells as the alternative to Pellet guns. Pellet guns were to be used rarely however more than 100 cases were reported of Pellet injuries in the hospitals of Srinagar.

Read more: How the voting rights granted to non-Kashmiris reinforce the Hindutva agenda

The Executive Director of Amnesty International India Aakar Patel claimed that even unarmed peaceful protestors were injured and blinded by the Pellet firing. Children in homes were not even safe from Pellet firing. Amnesty International issued a report under the title “losing sight in Kashmir: The impact of Pellet firing Shotgun” report assimilated 88 stories of pellet victims.

In IIOJK, the media has traditionally been closely regulated. The harassment and arrest of journalists in Kashmir have increased in recent months. The government is using its power to compel people to follow the government line; if they do not, they are harassed and threatened by government agencies, and they are sometimes booked under the Public Safety Act, which allows authorities to arrest or detain people who act against the security of the state.

  1. Sajjad Gul: The Public Safety Act was used to imprison Sajad Gul, a Kashmiri journalist who reported on suspected “false encounters” by Indian security personnel.
  2. An editor at Kashmir Times Anuradha Bhasin said that “Authorities have fostered a systematic dread and started a frontal assault on free media.”
  3. In a 1978 case Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to travel was a fundamental right. The court stated that the term “personal liberty” used in Article 21 has a very broad meaning and includes the right to travel abroad.
  4. One Kashmiri activist said that “social media is our media, everyone’s media. We’re in it to show the world what is done to us generation after generation”. Further, he mentioned that “Indian politicians and media misrepresent us. This has to end. How else do we protest without being called terrorists? “

Lack of accountability of security forces

National security laws of India such as the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) provide impunity to the forces to use force and commit crimes against Kashmiri people.  Military forces are not held accountable for committing crimes. Against this enduring chronicle of military horror, the Kashmiri movement for justice and fundamental rights offers an overwhelmingly moral voice. In the year 2007 Supreme Court ruled in the favor of the army. It also endorsed the provisions of AFSPA that give military forces the right to execute on doubt, sustaining that the law was vital to upholding Indian Occupied Kashmir.

India has always denied the legitimate basic rights of the Kashmiri people and neglected the upright demand for self-determination. Indians have always ignored the plea of the International Humanitarian Organization for an investigation of human rights violations in IIOK.  It is evident from the reports issued by the OHCHR and APPG, that Kashmir an internationally recognized disputed territory needs the consideration of the international community. The responsibility also lies with the internationally valued protector of Human Rights. The US should play its role in putting an end to the persecution and oppression faced by the Kashmiris.

People in IIOK also abolish all the inhuman and draconian laws. Apparently, international organizations such United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Conference have failed to put up the case of innocent Kashmiris effectively. Predominantly, India’s policy towards Kashmir remained steady all through history. Regardless of which political party is in the power. India never showed any flexibility towards the demand for the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people. However, the strategies of Congress and BJP to deal with Kashmir are different. Absolute authority to the security forces and lack of accountability for the committed abuses has further worsened the situation.

Read more: BJP forcing Indians and Kashmiris to buy flag

India has used all the means to suppress the Kashmiri movement and to shatter the spirit of the Kashmiri people but all the efforts have proved in the vein. Brutal use of bullets, metal pellets, tear shells and pepper shells have not affected the Kashmiri struggle to liberate their homeland from Indian occupation. Structural and political violence such as governor rule, curfews and restricted freedom of expression have not subjugated the Kashmiri spirit rather it has positively affected the Kashmir cause.



The writer is a graduate of the National Defense University, Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.