The seven million people who live in Kashmir remain cut off from the outside world after thousands of Indian troops moved in, put political leaders under arrest as India’s BJP-led government stripped Kashmir and Jammu of its autonomy.
Since a presidential decree issued on August 5 revoked Article 370 of India’s constitution that guaranteed special rights to the Muslim-majority state, its population has had no access to phones or internet and has had to obey a strict curfew. India’s action has angered neighbours Pakistan, who claim Kashmir in full but only administer it in part. The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought two of their three wars over the disputed territory.
Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik told The Times of India that the freedom of movement imposed on the Kashmir population will be eased after India’s Independence Day on Thursday (local time).
However, all avenues of communication will remain blocked.
“We don’t want to give that instrument to the enemy until things settle down,” Malik told The Times of India.
“In a week or 10 days, everything will be alright and we will gradually open lines of communication,” he added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi told ndtv.com that the decision to grant autonomy to Indian-controlled was 70 years too late.
“It is now clear to everyone how Articles 370 and 35(A) fully isolated Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. The status quo of seven long decades clearly could not fulfil people’s aspirations. Citizens were kept away from the fruits of development. The greatest casualty was the lack of any proper economic avenues to increase earnings. Our approach is different – instead of the vicious cycle of poverty, the people need more economic opportunities. For years, intimidation ruled the roost. Let us now give development a chance,” he said.
“My sisters and brothers of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh always wanted a better future, but Article 370 did not enable it. There was injustice against women and children, Scheduled Tribes as well as Scheduled Caste communities. And, most importantly, the innovative zeal of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh was not harnessed. Now, from BPOs to startups, from food processing to tourism, many industries can avail of investment and create opportunities for the local youth. Education and skill development will also bloom.
“I want to clearly assure my sisters and brothers of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh that these regions will develop as per the wishes of local people, their dreams and ambitions. The growth of these regions will first and foremost be powered by those belonging to these regions. Articles 370 and 35(A) were like chains that kept people tied. These chains are now broken, people have been unshackled from such dominance and they will now shape their own destiny,” Modi added.
Amnesty International India condemned the decision to allow the continuation of the security crackdown and communications blackout in Kashmir.
In a press release, the human rights organisation said the court’s refusal to pass an order on lifting restrictions in Kashmir was “a blow to the people of Jammu and Kashmir”.
It added that the Supreme Court’s plan to review the situation after two weeks “extends the status quo on the blanket restrictions”.
Amnesty also expressed “deep concern” over the people’s right to freedom of movement and freedom of expression and opinion, as well as the detention of political leaders and activists, and “the impairment of the press to freely report on the current developments and act as a bridge for the voices from the region”.
Amnesty International India warned that “a complete clampdown on civil liberties is only likely to increase tensions, alienate the people and increase the risk of further human rights violations”.