Lockdown badly affected daily lives in IOK: Report

Srinagar, December 12 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons has said that the lockdown imposed by the Indian government has egregiously affected daily lives of the people of the territory.

The APDP in a report released in Srinagar said, the indefinite curfew imposed in Kashmir in the aftermath of repeal of Article 370 is the extension of a de-facto State of Emergency, with the consequence of placing more restrictions and shackles on Kashmiri people’s human rights.

Occupied Kashmir is under strict military siege since August 5 when Narendra Modi-led government in New Delhi scrapped Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution that granted special status and rights to the territory and its residents. As part of a wider crackdown, internet services have been blocked except at government-designated kiosks and political leaders detained.

The report says that with the abrogation of Article 370, there have been reports of human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and torture. It says that the main brunt of this violence has been borne by the youth, politicians, civilians and religious organizations. It says that hundreds of detainees were shifted to various Indian jails. It maintains that hundreds of the detainees were booked under draconian law, Public Safety Act. “Almost everyone who has been detained and subsequently released has complained of being tortured, or experienced cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment in detention,” it says.

The report points out that since the lockdown was imposed, there is a clampdown on the communication and internet services have been barred for over 4 months now, with no respite in sight. The lockdown has directly impacted all facets of life, including access to the health services, education, justice, religious freedom and business and employment.

It says states that the curbs have led to a reduction in the number of patients visiting hospitals and thereby restricting access to healthcare. Due to the clampdown, the report said, various planned and critical surgeries got cancelled. “Because of the non-availability of internet, senior consultancies from across the globe, meant for discussing cases, were not possible,” it said. The report adds that due to the blockade, there was a dearth of medicines at various places and mental health implications of this are unfathomable currently.

The APDP report paints an especially grim picture of education. It says militarization has affected almost all aspects of the valley, but one group which has seen its impacts most adversely is students. It says that schools have been closed for 4 months now, yet board exams were held in these difficult circumstances. “The situation in Kashmir has gravely impacted children: many children have been detained under the PSA for “stone-pelting”, many have lost their vision due to pellet firing on their eyes by security forces, some have died due to teargas shelling, and many experience post-traumatic stress disorder. In this context, it becomes imperative to ask how educational institutions can function in a conflict zone, particularly post 5th August 2019,” it says.

The report says that high instances of night raids by Indian forces have been reported by both Indian and international media and the prevailing atmosphere has a negative impact on children’s mental health in occupied Kashmir. Reports by international media such as the Washington Post have also noted that children have been detained under draconian law, Public Safety Act (PSA), the youngest being nine-years old, it says. The presence of the armed forces in public spaces becomes a hindrance to access to schools, it adds.

The APDP report maintains that after the Indian government repealed the special status of occupied Kashmir, freedom of press has been severely restricted and violated. “Voices of dissent in the field of journalism have been repressed in all forms. This is evident when one compares the coverage of the issue from the ground by the international media and Indian national media. However, this elimination of truth and suppression of the freedom of expression through the systematic silencing of local media had been set in motion ever since the 1990s,” it states.

The report says that the lockdown in Kashmir has severely impacted the ability of people to access food and conduct trade. “Several local businesses were affected immediately due to the road blockades and curfew. A member of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) was reported to have said, on 11th August, that “the average loss of business per day in Kashmir today is to the tune of at least Rs 175 crore as life has come to a standstill due to the restrictions imposed by the authorities,” it adds.

The APDP report says that Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid has been off limits for prayers 17 weeks in a row now. However, Jamia Masjid is not the only one affected and reports indicate other mosques have also been closed, it adds. “Journalist Safwat Zargar, writing for Scroll, reports that there has been a crackdown on mosques across the Valley, in an attempt to curb dissent against the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Article 370. Safwat Zargar also documents instances of intimidation by the security forces where clerics have been summoned to army camps and “counselled” and threatened not to speak out against the removal of Article 370. Some clerics have also been detained for being critical of government policies. APDP has recorded testimonies of families of Imams (head priests) of various mosques who have been detained and booked under PSA,” it adds.

The report says that the major norms of human rights include not only the right to believe in a certain religion but also to engage in practices that further such belief. “In Kashmir, however, the ability to commemorate holy days or take part in communal gatherings for Eid or other festivals has been severely curtailed, especially after the revocation of Article 370. In sum, the Indian State has effectively prevented any and all forms of socializing and has attempted to break the spirit of community togetherness,” it maintains.

The APDP report says that access to justice is a right recognized under the major international and regional human rights instruments including the Charter of the United Nations – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  However, when it comes to Kashmir, every law and principle of democracy seems to go out of the window and laws are the tools that are used by the authorities to suppress and oppress the common man.

It says that since the Indian Government abrogated Article 370, the residents of Kashmir are being deprived of their basic fundamental rights. Since 5th August, 2019, the High Court and the lower courts have been dysfunctional for a considerable amount of time due to the restrictions and blockades, it says.

The report says that many lawyers including the High Court Bar Association President, Mian Abdul Qayoom and Nazir Ahmad Ronga, have been detained by the Indian authorities in various jails of India hundreds of kilometers away from their homes. It says that the courts and other judicial mechanisms operating in the Kashmir Valley are largely inaccessible to the common Kashmiris due to restrictions, thereby denying them access to justice.

The APDP report says that the Indian government has continuously asserted that ‘normalcy’ has been returned to Kashmir. But, the testimonies and ground level reports indicate the contrary, as there are still severe restrictions and curtailment of basic human rights of the residents of the Kashmir Valley, it adds.

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