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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Social Activists take to Twitter as the Kashmiri tied to military jeep video goes viral

Screenshots from a video of a Kashmiri protester tied to an Indian military vehicle, to use him as a “human shield” against demonstrators pelting stones, has gone viral.

The video is from the recent by-poll election in Srinagar on April 9, the capital of India’s northernmost state Jammu and Kashmir. More than eight Kashmiris were killed and dozens more were wounded during the election as Indian security forces opened fire on protesters. The Indian government has said that dozens of military personnel were injured by protesters pelting stones.

Pro-independence protesters boycotted the elections and a little over 7 percent of the 1.2 million registered voters in Kashmir participated in the by-poll. The elections for a vacant seat in the lower house of the Indian Parliament Lok Sabha recorded the lowest voter turnout in the history of the region.

Read more: Indian Kashmir: From Pellet Guns to Developmental Projects?

More than half a million Indian military personnel are deployed in India’s northernmost state Jammu and Kashmir, which remains one of the most densely militarized zones in the world. Many Kashmiris reject Indian rule over Kashmir and have been fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan, since 1989.

The larger Kashmir region was geographically divided between India and Pakistan when the two became separate states in 1947. In Indian-ruled Kashmir, where an independence movement as been heating for decades, more than 70,000 people have been killed reportedly by Indian security forces, amidst reports of serious human rights violations by the Indian government under the guise of the 1978 Public Safety Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Both provide the basis for military impunity in the region.

Read more: Deaths and injuries sustained by Kashmiris: Majority vote by staying away from State By-election

During the recent clashes, the heat of the violence was felt on social media.

This video was widely shared on social media. A voice in the background can be heard shouting in Hindi “stone throwers will meet a similar fate” as the vehicle passes through the streets of Kashmir.

The video was soon picked up by politicians, such as Omar Abdullah, an ex-chief Minister of the region. Abdullah’s tweet was shared by many and created outrage.

Read more: Kashmir Bleeds: A Proxy Battleground and Nuclear Flashpoint in South Asia

The Indian army is reportedly investigating the incident. However, a section of Indian media and the Attorney General were seen trying to justify the action of the security forces saying the “human shield” idea was innovative and it saved lives of the security forces. And there were also condemnations of the actions of the pro-freedom protests. More videos emerged of the protesters indiscriminately attacking the security forces and shouting “Go India, Go back” slogans.

Kashmiri blogger Aarif Muzafar points at the selective condemnation and biases of the India media in portraying the news on Kashmir:

Few days ago, a video of Kashmiri boys attacking CRPF men in Budgam went viral. In no time, ‘prime time’ shows were set to condemn the assault forgetting the eight murders that had just taken place. [..]

Aarif continues:

The question whether beating of the CRPF men is justified or not is a matter of great debate. Of course, human dignity cannot be challenged at any cost whatsoever. But let’s tell the truth about India’s presence in Kashmir. If I start from my own person, I can extensively deliver firsthand accounts of the violence that I have been an eyewitness to.

During an assembly election in our village a long, long time ago, I was used by the army as a human shield, which is a globally acknowledged war crime. My father and my uncle had fled the village overnight to evade the continuous harassment and my elder brother had also escaped to some other place. I was the only male member at home. I was nine or ten. The army took me to the suspicious and sensitive places and I was left free after an hour long search. In her Independence Day speech last year, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti herself acknowledged the use of human shields in Kashmir.

This piece was first published in Global Voices.