On August 5, the Indian state revoked its constitutional article that gives Kashmir a special status. Communication with the occupied territory have been shut down since then while international solidarity is organizing. Suchitra Vijayan reflects on the situation in this text.
“It Feels like the Night Before the Floods.” ///
The evening of August 4, 2019 was the last time I heard from my friend and the editor of the Polis Project Nawaz Gul Quanungo, based in Srinagar, Indian-occupied Kashmir. I have called his phone and landline every day since. However, all I hear is the same automated voice telling me that the number is unreachable. One of his last messages to me was, “It feels like the night before the floods,” referring to the brutal and unforgiving floods that completely submerged Kashmir in 2014.
On the early hours of August 5, the India State imposed a strict curfew and an unprecedented information blockade on Kashmir. All lines of communication, including landlines, mobile phones, and the internet, were suspended. Many Kashmiris remain cut off from their families, unable to reach them. Days leading up to the blockade 38,000 troops were moved into the Kashmir Valley. A recent report puts the troop count at a million.
The Indian State and many of its embedded journalists have called the situation, “normal” and under “control.” However, there is nothing “normal” about living in the world’s most militarized region, under a violent curfew and an information blockade, while being totally cut off from the world. Since the crackdown, 4,000 people, mostly young men, have been detained. AFP reported that people arrested “were flown out of Kashmir because prisons here have run out of capacity.” Kashmir’s political leadership, both pro-India and pro-independence, remain detained in unknown locations. Lawyers, journalists, local business leaders and human rights activists have also been arrested. Under what law, we don’t know.
After imposing the blockade, India’s ruling right-wing BJP party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modiabrogated Article 370 and Article 35-A of the Constitution that conferred special status to Kashmir and bifurcated the State into two Union territories: Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. With the abolition of Article 35-A, India has become a settler-colonialism state in Kashmir. Many Kashmiri fear that India will settle non-Kashmiris, and fundamentally change the demographic makeup of the region. Art 370, is a constitutional agreement that enshrined autonomous status to Kashmir and the conditions of accession to India. Legal expert and author of Article 370: A Constitutional History of Jammu and Kashmir (2011) A.G. Noorani, has called the abrogation of Article 370, “utterly and palpably unconstitutional” and a “deed accomplished by deceitful means.” A decision that adversely affects over eight million Kashmiris was rushed through the Indian Parliament, unilaterally without their consent in less than two hours without any discussion or deliberation. Abrogation of Article 370, terminates the legal basis of Kashmir’s accession to India. Kashmir is no longer Indian administered or occupied Kashmir, it now land that has been forcibly annexed. More importantly, these acts should be seen as a part of the BJP governments calculated strategy of dismantling India as a constitutional republic and it transforming it into an ethnonational settler-colonial state.