Srinagar, the largest metropolis of Jammu and Kashmir, is a city full of soldiers and barbed wire rolls, Indian journalist Muzamil Jaleel noted this week. Neither landline nor mobile phones or the Internet worked. In view of the rigorous communication blockade, he was able to publish his Facebook post only after he returned from Kashmir to Delhi.
According to other eyewitnesses, almost all shops are closed and the streets are deserted except for security forces. ATMs lack replenishment. While police units have been equipped with satellite phones, the lines of hospitals remain dead. Kashmiri, who live in other parts of India, complain in the social networks, they have been trying for days to reach relatives in vain.
Fear of Hinduization
On Monday, Indian Interior Minister Amit Shah announced that he would turn the state of Jammu and Kashmir into a so-called Union territory. The predominantly Muslim-inhabited region, which also claimed the arch-rival Pakistan, thus loses its autonomous status after 70 years. Many Muslims in the Indian-controlled part of the crisis region see the repeal of Article 370 of the Indian constitution as the beginning of a “Hinduization”. From then on, special rights which Kashmiri enjoyed when acquiring land and obtaining public service posts will cease to exist. Voices in Kashmir fear that the long-debated decree has been to relocate Hindus from other parts of the country to the Himalayan region, changing their demographic makeup.
Delhi seized draconian measures for fear of large-scale protests. The agency Reuters quotes a police officer not mentioned by name, according to which 300 local politicians have been appointed. Many of them argue for a separation of Kashmir from India. The newspaper “India Today” reported that 400 politicians and activists were under house arrest. Businessmen and intellectuals were also arrested. For several days no newspapers have been published in Kashmir. It was virtually impossible for journalists to move, and security forces were allegedly marching in some editorial offices. A spokesman for the United Nations complained that the blockade on communication prevented the population from participating in the discourse on the future of Jammu and Kashmir.
Modi defends course change
Despite the repression, there are apparently sporadic protests. Teenagers repeatedly threw stones at security forces, who in return used tear gas and pellet rifles. According to safety circles, at least 13 persons were injured and admitted to hospitals. A teenager drowned in a river as he tried to evade police control.
In view of the state of siege, many statements by the Hindu nationalist government Narendra Modis seem cynical. Jammu and Kashmir are waiting for a better future, prophesying modes after the controversial constitutional change in a tweet. On Thursday evening, Modi said in a televised address to the nation that partial autonomy had hampered economic development and instead strengthened terrorists and fueled corruption.
Pakistan, which controls the smaller part of Kashmir, but sees itself as advocating all Muslim Kashmiri, has reacted with indignation to India’s course change. Islamabad called on the Indian ambassador to leave the country. Pakistan also wants to leave the chief post at its Delhi office vacant. In addition, the only train connection between the two neighboring states should be suspended and bilateral trade suspended. Because of the small volume, trade restrictions are mainly symbolic. India would be more aggravated by the threatened closure of Pakistani airspace, which had already been imposed after hostilities in February 2019. As a result, airlines were detoured detours and thus high additional costs. The punitive measure would apply this time only to Indian Airlines.
At the same time, Pakistan, whose reputation has struck off because of the long-term support of Islamist groups, is using the controversy for a diplomatic offensive. Islamabad wants to bring the illegal status change it considers to be in front of the UN Security Council. Prime Minister Imran Kahn accused the hostile fraternal state of pushing an ideology that places Hindus above all other religions. However, Pakistan lacks credibility on this point – religious minorities have a very difficult time in the Islamic Republic.
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