500 Indian academics, scientists call for an end to Kashmir curfew | Pakistan Today

500 Indian academics, scientists call for an end to Kashmir curfew

–Demand that New Delhi lift curfew and communications blackout

–Call for probe into human rights abuse allegations

ISLAMABAD: A group of around 500 academics and scientists in India have expressed concern over the humanitarian crisis in Indian Occupied Kashmir [IOK] precipitated by New Delhi’s illegal and unilateral action to revoke Article 370 of the Indian constitution, thereby ending the occupied state’s autonomous status.

The Indian government has since imposed a curfew, detained and arrested opposition leaders in IOK in addition to flooding the state with security personnel.

“We are appalled by the government’s decision to restrict telecommunications and the internet in Kashmir for over a month. We understand that landlines have been restored in some parts of Kashmir, but since landline teledensity in the state is below 1%, this measure has failed to provide substantive relief to the people there,” the statement issued by the group said.

“In our own institutions, we have witnessed students suffering because they are unable to maintain contact with their families. Moreover, credible reports suggest that these restrictions have made it difficult for ordinary people in Kashmir to procure medical and essential supplies or even for children to attend school,” the statement read.

“We believe the [Indian] government’s actions in detaining and restricting the communications of opposition leaders and dissidents in Kashmir is uncharacteristic of our democratic values. The arrest and disappearances of opposition leaders and dissidents is highly undemocratic,” the statement continued.

“We are disturbed by the multiple reports of human rights violations being committed by Indian forces. We would like to express our solidarity with the Kashmiri people and offer our support to those outside Kashmir who have been cut off from their families and friends,” it added.

“We remind the government that it is duty-bound to uphold the rights and protect the welfare of all of its citizens. In line with these obligations, we call on the government to immediately restore full communications to the valley, lift security restrictions, release dissidents and opposition leaders, and conduct transparent and impartial investigations into the allegations of human rights abuses,” the statement concluded.

Members of the group include Abhisodh Prakash, Suvrat Raju, Adhip Agarwala, Junaid Majeed, Tuneer Chakraborty, Apratim Ganguly, Parita Mehta, Animesh Nanda, Srashti Goyal, Subhadip Chakraborti, Divya Jaganathan, Faizan Bhat, Omkar Shetye, Rituparna Ghosh, Aditya Kumar Sharma, Arif Shaikh, Saientan Bag, Zaid Zaz, Subrata Dev and Abhishek Dhar.

At present, all small and major sectors of life including business and commerce, education, transport, horticulture and tourism in IOK are virtually defunct as the communications blockade continues to add to the prevailing uncertainty.

The transport sector is among the one that has been affected the worst as 50,000 vehicles stand grounded since Aug 5.

The tourism front has also taken a hit due to the clampdown. All hotels and houseboats are almost empty and are running in huge losses.

Amid the lockdown, cordon-and-search operations are being conducted at various places in the occupied valley with the aim to silence pro-freedom voices.

Indian officials have confirmed that as many as 343 politicians, business leaders, and youth have been booked under a controversial law – PSA (Public Safety Act) – and shifted to jails in India’s UP (Uttar Pradesh) and Haryana states since the Aug 5 Presidential Order.

However, it is believed that the actual number of people imprisoned under the PSA is far more than figures presented by the government.

In the meanwhile, the Indian government has decided to reopen around 50,000 temples in IOK, which were closed down over the years. In this regard, Indian Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy has said that the government has set up a committee to survey the temples closed or destroyed.

The Indian army is also planning to open Siachen glacier for civilian access months after the Ladakh division was declared a union territory.

Information regarding the effects of the 5.8 magnitude earthquake in IOK — which devastated parts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and claimed over two dozen lives there on Tuesday — was unobtainable because of the communications blackout.

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He can be reached at [email protected]