For some, the abrogation of Article 370 was simply a declaration, but for others, it was a declaration of state-sponsored terrorism on Jammu and Kashmir. The following records prove the latter surmise:
In different events of violence, there have been at least 347 killings, including that of 74 civilians in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir in the first seven months of 2020, reports Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). Between 1st January and 1st August, more than 197 militants — of which 83% were locals — have been killed in counter-insurgency operations. The official data mentions increased militant practice since 2019.
In March 2020, the country’s Home Ministry announced in the two houses of Parliament that between 5th August, 2019, and 29th February, 2020, 7,358 people have been arrested in Kashmir. But according to various human rights bodies, the number is much higher — over 13,000.
5th August, 2020, marks one year since the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A. Jammu and Kashmir lost its special status and the state was bifurcated into Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Home Minister Amit Shah held Article 370 to be the root cause of terrorism in Kashmir, alluding to the “mismanaged” autonomy the state enjoyed.
However, the record-shattering and unrecorded human rights violations in the state prove that Article 370 was neither the cause of terrorism in the state nor will its abrogation quantify any reduction of the same. These revocations have only been implemented for the state to be solely governed by the Centre, and by govern, I mean strangle it with massive masculine militarisation sponsored by the Hindu-nationalist government of the country.
To avoid resistance and voices disobeying the national narrative, all modes of communication were suspended, leaving the region with no internet and causing unrelenting trouble for Kashmiris, especially students. A year later, and the picture hasn’t entirely changed. So much for ‘Digital India’ or should I say ‘Digital Mainland India’?
Infringing the Right to Freedom of Press and Right to Freedom of Expression, the Jammu and Kashmir police filed cases against two Kashmiri journalists under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), according to the bi-annual Human Rights Review of January-June 2020.
Along with zero connectivity, violation of fundamental rights as well as the imposition of Article 356 (President’s Rule), the state has also witnessed routine arrests of at least 4,000 people under the state’s Public Safety Act, which allows the government to detain anyone above the age of 16 years without any trial for two years. Union Minister G Kishan Reddy said on 5th August, 2019, that 5,161 “preventive arrests” had been made in the Kashmir Valley.
Moving on to the issue of allegiance of the Indian government towards the women of Kashmir, the answer is simple — women’s bodies have been weaponised and turned into battlegrounds by the Indian army. The JKCCS reported that on 13th May, 2020, during a raid in a village in Budgam, Nasrullah Pora, by the armed personnel of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), women were tied to trees and physically tortured.
Rolling back to August 2019, soon after the change of status of Kashmir, Indian men on Twitter celebrated their perceived benefit from the provision. “Marrying Kashmiri girls” started taking the shape of a trend on Twitter, and in line with these sentiments, Google Trends reported a surge in “Kashmiri girls” on 5th August, right after the revocation.
As these were passed on as jests and limericks on social media, there was and still exists an undertone of violent regressive mentality towards women and their materialisation. The tweets illustrate how political agendas highly direct towards sexualisation and dehumanisation of Kashmiri women.
Kashmir is one of the most heavily securitised and militarised states in the world, and the conflict has left 70,000 dead, as approximated by the Committee of Concerned Scientists. Over years of this conflict and the resultant policing, an insurmountable number of women have been sexually harassed, battered and raped by Indian security forces. The government has consistently denied such claims, but investigations by international organisations have a different story to tell.
Human Rights Watch has reported that these events occur during two scenarios: search or cordon operations. One of the most horrific incidents of gender-based violence in the region was the Kunan Poshpora mass rape case in 1991. The Indian Army raped 23-100 Kashmiri women during a raid in the villages of Kunan and Poshpora. Even after 29 years, the victims await justice and compensation from the Indian State.
The BJP-led Central government has fulfilled its promise of abrogating Article 370 and successfully turned the State of Jammu and Kashmir into a protectorate. However, a year later, the achievements of this step are still nebulous. The obvious questions that need to be asked here are: how much has the insurgency and interference from Pakistan reduced in Kashmir and how much development that was assured after the removal of Article 370 has the state witnessed?
Unfortunately, the level of disturbance has only seen an upward motion since 5th August, 2019. “Development can defeat terrorism” is one of the most commonly used phrases by our incumbent government for Kashmir. However, this is an oversimplified approach for a state that is more of an issue at this point. The conflict of Kashmir is a concoction of historical and political grievances, cross-border disputes and religious-ethnic clashes, and this mountain of problems will barely move with a counter-benefitting prospect of development-defeating terrorism.
Also, the Indian State has been carrying out settlers’ colonialism in Kashmir in the form of land seizures, genocide of the indigenous people, altering of its demography, enabling military and illegal occupation, communalism and causing a plethora of climate and environmental hazards.
With growing dissent all over the country, disgruntled Kashmiri politicians and the interference of Pakistan in the Valley, the Centre can only hold off its responsibility towards the State a little longer. Once it’s done sniffing out all freedom, New Delhi has to build a road on its own for Kashmir.