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The true way of feeling somebody’s pain is to go through it yourself. Many things cannot be expressed till felt. Words cannot replace experiencing an event. If ever these sayings were true they are now- for Kashmir. On August 5th 2019 Kashmir was locked down. It made news. Kashmiris and Pakistanis raised a voice against this unprecedented Indian atrocity. The world heard, agreed but moved on thinking that soon the Indian government would relax the lockdown. India’s prime minister Narendra Modi had other ideas. On a high after his huge electoral victory based on hate politics he decided to crush the Kashmiri voice.

Pakistan was the first country to announce that they will stand by the Kashmiris till this inhuman imprisonment of millions is not reversed. Modi and many in the world are used to this declaration of solidarity by Pakistan and so they thought apart from some statements and protests on specific Kashmir days it would amount to nothing. But Prime Minister Imran Khan made a different narrative to attract the world attention. He wrote an article in New York Times on how Kashmir will become a danger for the world if the world does not pay attention. Thereafter his comparison of PM Modi’s party RSS to Hitler’s Nazi party made the world talk about it and write about it. The international media discovered that what PM Imran Khan was saying was not just rhetoric but based on evidence and facts.

As the world started condemning Modi, he reacted by becoming more aggressive. The introduction of the Citizen amendment Bill which was openly discriminatory and targeting Muslim and other non-Hindu communities within India finally brought a reaction within the country as well. Protests in India were marred by police brutality and exposed further PM Modi’s Hinduvta intent and action. The situation in Kashmir is far worse as they are not allowed to protest and their communication with the world a bare minimum. Media, foreign observers and anybody likely to report the reality are not allowed in Kashmir. It has been a terrible year for Kashmiris as they go through this endless agony.

India blatantly changed laws to take a draconian shape for Kashmiris trying to live their own lives. On Aug. 5 last year, New Delhi annulled Article 370 of the country’s constitution, which had guaranteed Kashmir’s special autonomous status and granted local people exclusive land and job rights. A 70-page report, “Jammu and Kashmir: The Impact of Lockdowns on Human Rights” was recently released by Forum for Human Rights comprising jurists, academics and diplomats. They state in the report that “There has been a near-total alienation of the people of the Kashmir valley from the Indian state and people, there has been denial of the right to bail and fair and speedy trial, coupled with misuse of draconian legislation, such as the Public Safety Act (PSA) and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), to stifle dissent.

Communication has been cut down which is illegal but again under the guise of terrorism from Pakistan the Supreme Court’s orders have also been tamed. Jammu and Kashmir experienced 55 Internet blackouts in 2019 alone, including the longest in recorded history, 213 days, when Delhi put the valley on lockdown in August [last year]. India’s Supreme Court in New Delhi asked whether 4G access should be reinstated. Kashmir’s Delhi government argued against that the “right to access the Internet is not a fundamental right, and various Pakistan-based terror outfits” would exploit 4G Internet to plan attacks if high speeds were restored. The courts in Delhi are also afraid of the Modi clampdowns”.

The socio economic hit to the region coupled with suppressed anger and fear already had a severe impact on the health of the people living in Kashmir. Then came Corona Virus. The COVID-19 lockdown added to their misery. Under the guise of this lockdown movement has been further curtailed. There was already a huge depression in the economy as industries shut down and schools and colleges closed, tourism stalled. With the health disaster happening due to COVID-19 and again no true picture emerging of how bad it is, it is time for the world and in particular Pakistan to put spotlight back on Kashmir. The following steps need to be taken:

1 Political Assertion-The redrawing of the political map of Pakistan is the right move to signal Pakistan’s undying intent to safeguard Kashmiri interests. The map needs to act as a vision for directing future actions. This map needs to be used internally and through diplomatic channels externally to gain support for the illegal occupation of India in Kashmir.

2 Use empathy to re-lobby in the international community for Kashmir-While COVID-19 did put Kashmir issue in the background of the international community; it did provide an opportunity—empathy. The lockdown people faced due to COVID-19 has made them very aware of how difficult it is to live at home for a few weeks. The shared stories of the physical and emotional damage it has done are common. This is the time the international community would understand the horror of a year-long lockdown. It is time to approach all international forums like the UN, HRW, Amnesty International, various parliaments of the world and put a case of the unending Lockdown of Kashmiris. It is bound to be heard and responded with much more heart and mind if the lockdown theme is pleaded.

3 Develop a common mission forum-The Indian regional policies have aggrieved other neighbours too. Its fight with China over the Galawan Valley on LAC has created more animosity. Its spat with Nepal over its re mapping of territory has soured relations. Bangladesh is also hurt by the citizen amendment bill. This is the time to create more regional support on common issues of territorial encroachment, discrimination and human rights through back and front channels.

4 Campaign for a citizen movement- #KashmiriLivesMatter as a hashtag has already got resonance. What is needed is a movement worldwide like Black Lives Matter. The video of George Floyd being strangulated to death created that movement. Videos and visuals of Indian atrocities need to be collected and shared through the social media channels with opinion leaders in the world to keep up the empathy/sympathy momentum. That pressure is essential to force action from international forums and bodies.

ANDLEEB ABBAS, "#KashmiriLivesMatter," Business Recorder. 2020-08-10.
Keywords: Political science , Indian atrocity , Indian government , Nazi party. Delhi government , Galawan Valley , Indian , LAC , UN , HRW

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