My remarks

  • Thank you very much for inviting me to this timely discussion. I will echo much of what previous speakers have already said, and add a few observations of my own.
  • I experienced many horrible curfews and lockdowns during the ten years I lived and worked in Kashmir. But nothing could possibly compare to what people have to contend with now and since August 5 of last year.
  • On top of all the inhumane measures that had already been implemented to incarcerate an entire population for months, the Covid 19 crisis presented yet another opportunity for Indian authorities to clamp down even further.
  • Among increasing demands by international activists, policy makers abroad, human rights organizations, and even parts of Indian civil society, as well as mounting harsh treatment by international media, instead of restoring some semblance of democracy or civil rights, the virus enabled the security apparatus to implement a double lockdown instead.
  • While claiming that it was done to curb the spread of the virus, in reality the continuous slowing of internet speed, the closing off of entire neighborhoods as Red Zones,” and once again the imposition of draconian restrictions on the movement of all people, the virus has actually been spreading at an accelerated pace for lack of communications and lack of proper care.
  • Healthcare has always been a huge problem in the Valley. In remote areas it is practically non-existent. With no proper means of communication and the absence of road connectivity, people are completely stuck during most emergencies and always at a loss whom to reach out to. Now little information about the effect of the virus has been trickling out of these places.
  • In these areas, it is impossible to get an ambulance, any emergency care, or an adequate supply of medicines during the best of times. How would testing for a fast spreading virus be done now or ever there?
  • Often the complete lack of healthcare in these areas is the result of corruption and funds never reaching.
  • Unfortunately, this has been exploited by the Indian Army on whom some of the poorest villagers have come to depend for emergency intervention.
  • Since clinics or dispensaries are only available at the nearest army camp, often the sick have no choice but to ask for assistance despite their fear of the troops.
  • To further perpetuate this helplessness of the people, the army has institutionalized this assistance by calling it part of its “hearts and minds program.”
  • In 2002, the state went as far as to create a formal program between the civil administration and the army to collaborate on providing basic healthcare to the poor in remote areas. Accordingly, the state provides an ambulance while the army makes available some nurses or doctors from among their ranks or engages select government doctors to reach out to communities.
  • Of course, none of this is done without an ulterior motive! It allows the army to expand its stable of informers in those areas by often making healthcare care conditional upon collaboration.
  • In the cities and towns, mohallas are now not only separated by concertina wires and other fencing, but often also by hastily dug trenches “to keep infected people at bay.” No vehicles can travel in or out as a result and that of course includes ambulances.
  • More often than not, people are now simply giving up on adequate relief and have stopped seeking care until it is too late.
  • Even after it became clear that the death rate of the virus has been lower in Kashmir as elsewhere in South Asia and unlike in other parts of the world, the double lockdown was not relaxed as it has been in India, and the real reason for the draconian measures has become abundantly clear.
  • Stopping the spread of the virus was at best secondary while jailing people again.
  • First and foremost, the double lockdown was used to set the stage for and accelerate the final chapter of what began August 5 and that aimed at demographic change in Kashmir without protests by the people to stop them.
  • Since the new lockdown, rules for the new Domicile Law have been implemented at accelerated speed and once again without the advice or consent by any of the locals.
  • With communication networks often shut down or slowed to a trickle, and journalist not being able to report freely without facing arrest, the full extent of the new rules has only become clear in recent days. And the result will be nothing short of total devastation of the Kashmiri identity within 5 years.
  • Outsiders will now be able to settle permanently, buy land, and occupy government jobs on a much faster timeline than originally feared. Up to a million domiciles will be inducted as part of the first batch. Many are already there.
  • Ethnic flooding has thus begun and will soon be complemented by a delimitation exercise that aims to make Hindu majority Jammu the main stakeholder in legislative processes.
  • At the same time and while the world is busy with Covid 19, the Indian Army is taking full advantage of that preoccupation by not only once again increasing the number of forces in the Valley, but also by moving heavy guns into some villages near the LoC in the hope that villagers will be hit by Pakistani firing in response to the ever increasing shelling of AJK by the Indians.
  • Furthermore, CASOs have increased exponentially throughout every district with houses being searched night after night, resulting in extreme hardships and psychological torture.
  • Dozens of local boys and rebels have been killed during the double lockdown. And a continuation of the earlier “Operation All Out” is in full swing again.
  • As part of the scorched earth policy of the Indian forces, many houses have been blown up and burned to the ground, leaving many families homeless and nowhere to turn for fear of virus transmission.
  • Several innocent bystanders have also been killed, including a 14-year-old boy and a mentally challenged young man.
  • Perhaps most upsetting is the new practice of disallowing funerals of local boys and/ or rebels near their families and communities. While it is aimed at preventing large funerals where local rebels are being eulogized as heroes, it deprives families of an opportunity to say goodbye to their loved ones as they are often unable to travel to the locations of the government designated burial sites. So mourning has now also become outlawed in occupied Kashmir.
  • This is just some of what has been happening in the guise of “virus prevention.” It is abundantly clear that Covid 19 has become a welcome ally for the cruel Indian military occupation.
  • I could go on but will now stop here.
  • In closing, I urge everybody to please note was has been happening throughout the Valley and raise the details wherever and whenever it counts.
  • Most Kashmiris are completely worn out and too scared or traumatized to reach out on their own
  • It is no longer about human rights violations alone.
  • It is about the complete dehumanization of an entire people whose will is being systematically destroyed.
  • It is up to all of us to fight for the survival of the Kashmiris as a people with a unique identity. It is unconscionable not to.
  • Things have never been as bad and hopeless as they are now.
  • Thank you very much for having me here.


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