POLITICS
02/09/2019 6:10 PM IST | Updated 03/09/2019 6:01 PM IST

The Idea of India: Kashmir Interrupted

29 days have gone by since mobile phone services and the internet was severed in Kashmir. The Modi government is yet to disclose how many Kashmiris have been arrested since 5 August.

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In this Friday, Aug. 9, 2019, photo, Kashmiri women shout slogans during a protest march in Srinagar, Kashmir. 

Welcome to the third installment of the Idea of India, HuffPost India’s monthly conversation about how we see ourselves as a people and as a nation.

This August, the Narendra Modi government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s (J&K) special constitutional status (Article 370), a long-standing pledge of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The unilateral and secretive manner in which this decision was enforced has set it up for challenge in the Supreme Court. Constitutional law expert A.G. Noorani told HuffPost India’s Akshay Deshmane,It is utterly and palpably unconstitutional.” 

Deeply worrying is the continuing curfew and the communication blackout, leaving millions of people without mobile phone services and the internet since 5 August. While almost all Kashmiri politicians and political activists have been jailed or placed under house arrest, the Indian army and J&K police are raiding people’s homes, detaining civilians, and sending many of them to prisons outside Kashmir. At least four people have died as a result of the lockdown and more have suffered pellet gun injuries.

As Kashmir is erased, Indian democracy dies in silence.

Shortly after Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced the abrogation of J&K’s special status, and its bifurcation and demotion to a Union Territory, 

HuffPost India’s Aman Sethi wrote that Kashmir’s silent erasure marked the death of Indian democracy because a country of 1.2 billion people must run on deliberation, conversation and consensus. While new states have been created from old ones in independent India, Sethi noted, “this is perhaps the first a state and its residents have been imagined out of existence.” 

Good for the future of Kashmir.

Rahul Pandita, a journalist and a Kashmiri Pandit, believes that the abrogation of Article 370 is good for J&K. In a conversation, Pandita said the perceived ambiguity of Kashmir’s relationship with India has plagued the region and its people, and the Modi government’s decision eliminates any ambiguity, once and for all. “I think now the time has come for Kashmiris to accept that in 1947, the Indian state chose to intervene on their behalf and made Kashmir a part of India,” he said.  

In our Kashmir coverage, HuffPost India focused on how the nearly month long communication blackout has disrupted people’s lives in every imaginable way, even ruining Eid.  

On 7 August, Safwat Zargar filed this report on the first civilian casualty Article 370 was nullified. Osaib Altaf, a 17-year-old, drowned in a river as he tried to escape CRPF personnel during a curfew. 

Piyasree Dasgupta spotted a wave of misogyny on the social media platform, Tik Tok, with men posting lewd video fantasies of “getting” women from Kashmir. 

Upon returning from a fact-finding mission from J&K, Kavita Krishnan, the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, told us that the   security forces were carrying out raids  and picking up young men, even children, across villages. 

Kashmiri political activist Shehla Rashid spoke to us about why she felt compelled to tweet out unverified allegations of torture against the Indian army, which triggered calls for her to be arrested. “If the media was allowed to function, if social media was allowed to function, I would not have to do this,” she said. “I really do think the world needs to hear all this…” 

Former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter, Iltija Mufti, spoke to us about her 16 days under house arrest. “I feel like our lives are straight out of George Orwell’s 1984,” she said. Her mother remains under house arrest. 

In his first remarks after leaving Kashmir, former IAS officer, Shah Faesal, told us that the BJP had “destroyed” the mainstream in Kashmir. “Who will remain there to carry out mainstream politics, I don’t know,” he said, a week before he too was placed under house arrest.  

Thank you for your feedback on the Idea of India newsletter, which looks at differing views, in an attempt to draw us back into an even-handed conversation. We are working to include some of your messages in our coming newsletters. 

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Please do share your thoughts: What is your idea of India? Write to me at betwa.sharma@huffpost.in

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