“Kashmir Under Siege”—A Complete Month’s Report by Delhi-based TheWire

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TheWire claims that Indian media isn’t doing any justice by promoting a false narrative that “everything is alright” in Kashmir, while a big chunk of information is ignored.

Delhi-based The Wire India which runs under the Foundation for Independent Journalism (FIJ), published detailed day-to-day updates of Kashmir crisis titled “Kashmir Under Siege: One Month of Silence“.

The article highlights both the narratives which support and refute Indian Government’s decision to revoke Article 370 in Kashmir. However, the TheWire claims that Indian media isn’t doing any justice by promoting a false narrative that “everything is alright” in Kashmir, while a big chunk of information is ignored.

Below is the complete article.

It has been a month since Jammu and Kashmir was put under a communications and media blockade, with its residents being forced to live circumscribed lives under severe movement restrictions enforced by the armed forces.

This was in response to the Centre’s August 5 decision to read down Article 370 – which gave J&K its special status – and bifurcate it into two union territories: Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

On July 27, a week before the major events would take place, the Union government sent 10,000 additional troops into the Valley. People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted at the time that this was causing a ‘fear psychosis’ among the people.

The panic escalated when the state government issued an advisory asking Amarnath pilgrims to cut short their stay on August 3. The same day, governor Satyapal Malik informed political leaders, who were demanding clarity, that “there was no initiate in progress to dilute Article 35A, start delimitation or trifurcate”.

“He assured us that he will take up the matter with Delhi. He told us there was nothing to worry about,” Mehbooba Mufti said after meeting the governor. “But, to be honest, we are not satisfied with his assurance.”

Two days later, this would prove to be a lie.

A day before Article 370 was scrapped, on August 4, the state’s landline, mobile and internet communications were snapped. Section 144 was applied – restricting free movements – and there was an exponentially increased military force on the ground to curb any protest.

Following is a summary of the events that have taken place in J&K over the past month.

Day 1: August 5

  • Section 370 was read down in the Lok Sabha amid furore, with the BJP-led NDA enjoying an overwhelming majority: 351 votes in favour, 72 against and one member abstaining.
  • The decision was declared a ‘constitutional coup’ by the opposition – PDP president Mehbooba Mufti called it the ‘darkest day in Indian democracy’, National Conference leader and former chief minister Omar Abdullah called it a ‘betrayal of the trust of the people of J&K.’
  • Both Mufti and Abdullah were taken into preventative detention and put under house arrest.
  • First pellet gun victim was admitted to a Srinagar hospital: 17-year-old Akeel Dar. A CPRF officer allegedly shot him directly in the face with a pellet gun, 90 pellets were found in his body.

Day 2: August 6

  • The first civilian casualty was reported – a 17-year-old Osaib Altaf, who jumped into the Jhelum to get away from CPRF forces. He did not know about the curfew and had gone out to play.
  • Doctors and nurses at the SMHS hospital said that 13 victims were brought in on this day with pellet injuries.
  • Religious and political leaders in Kargil came together for a hartal.
  • Kashmir made international headlines.
  • Protests took place in Soura which came to light much later, where youths were shot by pellet guns. Among the victims was one Asrar Ahmed Khan, who succumbed to his injuries on September 4.

Day 3: August 7

Security force personnel stand guard next to concertina wire laid across a road during restrictions after the government scrapped special status for Kashmir, in Srinagar August 7, 2019. Photo: Reuters/Danish Ismail

Day 4: August 8

  • Over 500 political leaders and activists were arrested and lodged in makeshift detention centres.
  • UN Human Rights Commission expressed concern about the situation in Kashmir, saying that the latest restrictions would exacerbate human rights issues in the region.
  • PM Narendra Modi addressed the nation on the issue, focusing on equality and development, and holding Article 370 responsible for everything including terrorism, separatism, corruption and dynasticism. No explanation was forthcoming for why the decision was made without the consent of the people of J&K.

Day 5: August 9

  • International media (BBC, Al Jazeera, Reuters) reported about a protest in huge numbers, with more than 10,000 people in the streets.
  • According to Al Jazeera, security forces had resorted to firing live bullets in the air and used tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets.
  • Indian government refuted all reports.
  • NYT reported later that this caused the death of a woman in her home due to tear gas.
  • Taliban called for peace and restraint, expressing ‘deep sadness’ and asking both countries to use ‘rational pathways’.
  • UN secretary also called for maximum restraint.

Day 6: August 10

  • False reports of ‘normalcy’ started coming in, undermined by ground reports that spoke of conflict and protest.
  • The Editors Guild of India issued a statement condemning the restrictions on media freedom.
  • petition signed by Kashmiri Pandits, Dogras and Sikhs criticised the Centre’s ‘unilateral’ decision to revoke the state’s special status.
  • Haryana chief minister ‘joked’ about bringing Kashmiri women to Haryana to address the gender imbalance.

Kashmiri girls shout slogans as they attend a protest. Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

Day 7: August 11

  • One day before Eid, Muhammad Rafi reported that ATMs had run out of cash, local and wholesale shops were out of supplies and local bakeries, butchers and markets had few takers.
  • Local sheep sellers found no takers for traditional ‘qurbaani’.
  • Early signs of medicine shortage began.
  • Reuters reported protests by the hundreds in Soura again, with slogans like “What do we want? Freedom! When do we want it? Now!”
  • A PTI report said trade suffered an estimated loss of Rs 1,000 crore in the week since the revocation of Article 370.
  • In Lucknow, Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey was briefly put under house arrest for protesting the scrapping of Article 370.

Day 8: August 12 (Eid al-Adha)

  • Streets were empty as government-enforcedlockdown continued.
  • CRPF helpline number – 14411 – received over 870 calls over August 11 and 12, with 55% of the callers trying to get information about their families.
  • The Centre doubled down on the communication blockade, even asking Twitter to suspend eight Kashmir-based accounts for ‘spreading rumours,’ including that of separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani.
  • Kashmiris in Delhi gathered at Jantar Mantar to not celebrate, but ‘observe’ Eid on an unhappy note.
  • China asked India not to impact regional peace and stability, India said Kashmir was ‘internal matter’.
  • A woman lost her child when forced to wait 12 hours in the absence of transport facilities to go to the hospital.

Day 9: August 13

  • The Supreme Court heard the first petition by Congress activist Tehseen Poonawalla against the communications shutdown.
  • Zubair Sofi reported that people were stranded in hospitals with no way to return home amidst the curfew, and were being forced to beg for money to eat.
  • Governor Satyapal Malik invited ex-Congress president Rahul Gandhi to visit Kashmir, after the latter expressed concerns over the law and order situation. Malik proceeded to accuse him of politicising the situation by wanting to bring a group of opposition leaders to the state.

Day 10: August 14

  • Former IAS officer Shah Faesal was stopped at Delhi airport, and taken to Srinagar where he was detained under the Public Safety Act.
  • A fact-finding team – including Kavitha Krishnan and Jean Dreze – returned from Kashmir to state that the whole region was consumed by anger and anguish.
  • They reported ‘scores’ of young men being illegally detained without any reason.
  • A resident of Pulwama said that not a day had gone by without forces raiding the villages and arresting the youth, with families in the dark over where they had been kept.

Day 11: August 15

  • Pakistan observed a ‘black day’ on India’s Independence Day.
  • China sought a closed-door informal consultation at the UNSC on India’s decision on J&K, while India played it down.
  • A group of academics took a strong stand against the reading down of Article 370.
  • Iltija Mufti, the daughter of Mehbooba Mufti managed to send out a letter to Union home minister Amit Shah from where she had been kept under house arrest.
  • She said that as the rest of the country celebrated Independence Day, Kashmiris had been caged like animals. 

Day 12: August 16

  • 130 people urgently wrote to the Centre, detailing the various disruptions to healthcare and medical services caused by the restrictions.
  • Journalists also detailed the disruption to medical services with chemists across Srinagar being closed.
  • Sanitation in Srinagar had also taken a hit with heaps of garbage, dead bovines and dogs spotted everywhere, prodding concerns of an epidemic.
  • Another huge protest took place at Soura.
  • Protestors also raised the ‘Azad Kashmir’ flag.
  • The Supreme Court expressed anguish over “defective” petitions challenging the reading down of Article 370 of the constitution.

A Kashmiri man looks out from a window of his house in Srinagar on August 17, 2019. Photo: Reuters/Danish Ismail

Day 13: August 17

  • Irfan Amin Malik, a Greater Kashmir journalist was picked up by security forces from his home and detained.
  • Reuters reported that city residents had been assaulted and their homes raided after stone-throwing incidents.
  • The government reported normalcy returning to Kashmir, with phone lines being intermittently switched on.

Day 14: August 18

  • At least 4,000 people had been arrested and held under the Public Service Act. Most of them had allegedly been flown out of Kashmir due to prisons reaching capacity.
  • In a Twitter thread, Shehla Rashid alleged human rights violations, saying, “Armed forces are entering houses at night, picking up boys, ransacking houses, deliberately spilling rations on the floor, mixing oil with rice, etc.”
  • The Indian Army termed these allegations ‘baseless and rejected’.
  •  In Sopore’s mandi, fruit traders said they had been told by the army to take their produce and empty the yard.

Day 15: August 19

  • Imran Khan, in a series of tweets, stated: “India has been captured, as Germany had been captured by Nazis, by a fascist, racist Hindu Supremacist ideology and leadership.”
  • He also pointed out the connection between the Nazi ideology of ethnic cleansing and the ‘genocide ideology’ of the RSS. He went on to say that the world at large should be afraid of a nuclear arsenal in such hands.

Day 16: August 20

  • Donald Trump called up Imran Khan and instructed him to tone it down.
  • He also spoke to both India and Pakistan prime ministers, urging them to reduce tensions on the upsurge.
  • The Indian government decided to open schools in J&KStudents did not attend, with parents angry at the risk that it might pose to send out their children in conflict areas.
  • The Indian Medical Association (IMA) criticised British medical journal Lancet for its editorial piece on Jammu and Kashmir in a letter.
  •  In response to the editorial, the IMA, in its letter, alleged that the Lancet had “no locus standi on the issue of Kashmir” and had “committed breach of propriety in commenting on this political issue”.
  • Reuters reported that for more than a week, the young men of Soura had created a barricade to keep out the Indian armed forces, saying, “We feel we are guarding the LOC here.”

A woman, whose family car was allegedly damaged by Indian security forces after clashes between protesters and the security forces during restrictions, sits outside her house in Srinagar. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

Day 17: August 21 

  • Donald Trump reiterated his desire to ‘“do the best I can to mediate or do something” over the “explosive situation” between India and Pakistan in Kashmir where “you have millions of people that want to be ruled by others”.
  • This is despite the US State Department insisting it had no intentions of mediating in Kashmir.
  • Trump said: “Kashmir is a very complicated place. You have Hindus and you have the Muslims and I wouldn’t say they get along so great”.
  • India Today reported that the BJP will carry out a nationwide campaign, reaching out to 2000+ public personalities to spread ‘public awareness’ on the decision to read down Article 370.

Day 18: August 22

  • petition filed in the Supreme Court by six prominent citizens challenging the constitutional validity of the president’s amendments to Article 370 and the J&K Reorganisation Bill had claimed that these orders were “unconstitutional, violative of the basic structure of the Constitution and violative of fundamental rights”.
  • The Centre issued a statement saying there were no plans to reduce or withdraw security forces from J&K, saying that Pakistan was trying to provoke the situation, and reiterating that the region was ‘peaceful now.’
  • Mudasir Ahmad reported that medical supplies were dangerously low with multiple pharmacists saying that their shelves were running empty.
  • Five human rights experts of the United Nations on Thursday called for India to lift the communication clampdown in Kashmir, describing the measures as a “collective punishment” for the entire population of the region, calling the detentions ‘serious human rights violations’.

Day 19: August 23

  • Data from hospitals showed that more than 150 people had suffered injuries from tear gas and pellets, with officials saying that the number was probably higher and that those who were discharged within hours did not feature on the list.
  • The Telegraph claimed there was an unofficial gag on reporting, with local media saying that their survival depended on not criticising the government decision.
  • video dispatch from the New York Times showed huge protests – apparently from over a week before – with citizens chanting ‘One Solution, Gun Solution.’

Children play with toy guns next to Indian security force personnel during restrictions after the scrapping of the special constitutional status for Kashmir by the government, in Srinagar, August 13, 2019. Photo: Reuters/Danish Ismail

  • Former Kargil MLA Asgar Ali Karbalai spoke to The Wire, saying, it was “unfortunate that India used democracy to snatch rights of Ladakhis” and called the decision to bifurcate the state a communally motivated one.
  • group of members from marginalised communities and anti-caste alliances condemned the support of ‘certain Dalit-Bahujan leaders’ toward the reading down of Article 370.
  • Mudasir Ahmad reported the agony of the scores of people who had lost their eyesight due to the pellets used by the Indian army, with a mother of one of the victims saying, “They want to kill and blind our young boys with pellets.”
  • The Press Council of India (PCI) sought permission from the Supreme Court to intervene in the petition filed by Anuradha Bhasin asking to lift media restrictions in the Valley. PCI was in favour of the ban, describing it as being ‘in the interest of the nation’.

Curfew in Kashmir. Representative image. Photo: Reuters

Day 20: August 24

  • Jammu and Kashmir administration issued a statement asking political leaders not to visit the Valley as it would ‘disturb the gradual restoration of peace and normal life.”
  • Day-time restrictions had been lifted from 69 police station areas, said J&K principal secretary Rohit Kansal. Despite the curbs, Kansal said, the total dispatch of fruits this year has been 1.20 lakh metric tonnes against 89,000 metric tonnes during the corresponding period last year.
  • A delegation of opposition leaders led by Rahul Gandhi attempted to visit Kashmir. They were detained at Srinagar airport and sent back.

Day 21: August 25

  • Former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan resigned over Kashmir restrictions.
  • The flag of Jammu and Kashmir state was removed from Srinagar’s Civil Secretariat, leaving only the Indian national flag up.
  • Governor Satya Pal Malik defended the communication blackout in the Valley. He said there is was harm in a blackout if it saved lives. He also said that there had been no incidents of violence in J&K in the preceding ten days.
  • He also released a list of the benefits offered to the people of the state by the move.
  • Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati lashed out at the opposition parties’ attempts to visit Srinagar.
  • Forty to 50 political leaders had been detained at the Centaur Hotel on the Dal Lake, with their families queuing up to visit.

Day 22: August 26

  • “We spoke last night about Kashmir. The prime minister really feels he has it under control,” said Donald Trump, avoiding another offer of mediation, while Imran Khan said: “Will these big countries keep looking at their economic interests only?”

Kashmiri residents throw stones towards security forces during restrictions after the scrapping of the special constitutional status for Kashmir by the government, in Srinagar. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

Day 23: August 27

  • Reports had begun coming in of houses burning down in Srinagar because emergency services could not be reached in time. The fires, apart from causing huge property damage, also left people injured and forced to find lodging elsewhere.
  • Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi spoke with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation about the situation in Kashmir, saying that “hegemonic designs” were a threat to regional peace and security and needed to be taken seriously.
  • Pakistan also considered the closure of airspace for India.
  • Scroll.in reported that the army was distributing handbills that articulated the various benefits of Article 370 during the day, and was conducting violent raids by night.
  • Governor Satyapal Malik confirmed that pellet injuries took place after August 5, but said all injuries took place below the waist, and “only one person was hit in the neck, and he is also fine now.”
  • Upon being asked when political leaders would be released, he said that he had gone to jail 30 times, and that ‘whoever goes to jail will come out shining as a future leader’, saying they can take ‘political benefit’ of detentions in the future.

Day 24: August 28

  • The Supreme Court allowed the Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury to visit Jammu and Kashmir to meet his party colleague and former MLA Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami in the state. Habeas corpus petitions do not generally involve a visit from the appellant, requiring the state to produce the detained party instead.
  • The court decided to examine the legal challenge against the Centre’s decision to read down Article 370, and referred the matter to a five-judge constitution bench.
  • It also sought responses from the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea seeking the removal of restrictions imposed on journalists after Article 370 was scrapped.
  • The Congress slammed Pakistan for “mischievously” dragging party leader Rahul Gandhi’s name in a petition reportedly moved in the United Nations to justify its “lies” and misinformation on Jammu and Kashmir, with Rahul Gandhi doubling down on the stance that J&K was an internal Indian matter.
  • Union minister Prakash Javadekar attacked Rahul Gandhi’s statements for giving Pakistan a ‘handle’ by which to attack India and also made a communal dig at Indian Muslims in the process.

Day 25: August 29

  • Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said that “Not being able to contact anyone, to talk to anyone, and not having any mode of communication – this can be the worst punishment,” in a speech completely unrelated to Kashmir, and then, unaware of the irony went on to praise the reading down of Article 370 shortly after.
  • He later called it unethical journalism that this had been pointed out.
  • Sitaram Yechury met his ailing party colleague Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami.
  • Pakistan successfully test-fired nuclear-capable surface-to-surface ballistic missile ‘Ghaznavi’ with a range of up to 290 kms.

Day 26: August 30

  • The US expressed hope that things would soon be back to ‘normal political status’ in Kashmir.
  • The BBC reported a violent army crackdown, showing villagers with injuries they say had been received from being beaten with sticks and cables and given electric shocks.
  • Two brothers alleged that the day that India announced the scrapping of Article 370, they were woken up and taken to an outside area where nearly a dozen other men from the village had been gathered, and beaten up.
  • Another villager said he was asked to name ‘stone throwers’ and when he said he couldn’t, he was beaten with sticks and rods for two hours and electrocuted, and when he passed out and beaten again when he regained consciousness.
  • Another villager said that his mouth was filled with mud, and while the soldiers beat him, they asked him why he was screaming.
  • Another man, whose brother is a militant, said that they tied his arms and legs, with one leg broken, hung him upside down and beat him for two hours.
  • A villager said he asked them to just shoot him instead, as the torture was unbearable. They did not.
  • The villagers said that the soldiers told them to warn everyone else that they would face similar repercussions if they participated in the protests.
  • Section 144 was reimposed ahead of Friday prayers.

Day 27: August 31

  • Journalist-author Gowhar Geelani, who recently re-joined German agency Deutsche Welle as an editor, has claimed that he was stopped from travelling to Bonn from Delhi. His book, Kashmir: Rage and Reason was released last month. He says no reason was given to him in writing, and an immigration official kept repeating, “These days, there is a lot of trouble because of Kashmir.”
  • The Wire’s Arfa Khanum Sherwani reported that even politicians who have staunchly supported Kashmir’s relationship with India have been jailed.
  • Officials said the situation remained peaceful.

Day 28: September 1 

  • Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were allowed to meet their familiesreports say.
  • US senator Bernie Sanders said he was extremely concerned about the situation in Kashmir.
  • Eighty-two out of the 105 police station areas had no restrictions, officials said, adding that normal life was still affected, but that the situation remained peaceful.Men with pellet injuries are treated inside a house in a neighbourhood where there have been regular clashes with Indian security forces following restrictions after the government scrapped the special constitutional status for Kashmir, in Srinagar August 14, 2019. Photo: Reuters/Danish Ismail

Day 29: September 2

  • Pakistan’s Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) founder Altaf Hussain, living in exile in the UK, declared the revocation of Article 370 by the Indian government an internal matter. He retains a firm grip over MQM, one of Pakistan’s biggest political parties.
  • Two FIRs filed against Gandhi Peace Foundation president Kumar Prashant for allegedly spreading lies about the RSS and saying that his talks were ‘anti-national,’ given the situation in Kashmir.
  • Mudasir Ahmad reported that people had begun avoiding going to the hospital when they were injured with pellet guns because the army was targeting the wounded in hospitals to arrest them.  
  • He reported that the entire neighbourhood looked ravaged, with broken window panes replaced with tin sheets and ply boards to prevent tear gas from entering homes.
  • Roads leading to Anchar were barricaded to prevent armed forces from entering, with further comparisons made to Gaza.
  • A group of boys allegedly “developed expertise” in removing pellets with forceps and tongs.

Locals have collected canisters of teargas shells and other ammunition allegedly fired by the forces in the locality.

  • According to the residents, the elderly and children have now developed “health issues” owing to the tear smoke shelling that frequently fills the air.
  • A middle-aged local man said that it was getting too difficult to live there, but noted that moving out was too risky.
  • Pakistan PM Imran Khan said that he would never start a war with India.

Day 30: September 3

  • The Kashmir Press Club (KPC) expressed serious concern over the “unprecedented communication blockade” in the Valley and criticised the authorities for allegedly asking some senior journalists to vacate their government accommodation.
  • Lawyer for Pakistan at the International Court for Justice said it would be ‘extremely difficult’ for his country to prove the charge of genocide in Kashmir for want of evidence.

Day 31: September 4

  • Maharashtra government was the first to announce that it would be setting up a tourist resort in Kashmir and Ladakh.
  • Amit Shah announced that nobody’s land would be taken away, and only government land would be used to establish industries, hospital and educational institutions.
  • He also promised that internet would be restored in the next 20-25 days.
  • Asrar Ahmed Khan, who was shot by a pellet gun by the army the day after Article 370 was read down, died.
  • His father showed The Wire a pellet-peppered face and an X-ray showcasing pellets all over his skull.
  • He did not have any bullet injuries, the police said. They said it was a ‘stone’ injury.

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