Saturday Aug 24, 2019
Indian forces continued their lockdown of Occupied Kashmir for the 20th day on Saturday, after India withdrew Article 370 of its Constitution that gave a special status to the disputed territory.
Indian authorities continued to impose strict curfew and other restrictions across the valley, preventing Kashmiris from holding demonstrations against the Indian occupation and its move of ending special status for Jammu and Kashmir.
According to the Kashmir Media Service, people are faced with acute shortage of essential commodities including baby food and life-saving medicines due to the severe blockade in what appears to be a brewing as a humanitarian crisis.
Internet and phone communications have been cut and tens of thousands of troop reinforcements have flooded the main city of Srinagar and other towns and villages in the occupied valley.
Residents have been confined to their houses due to stringent restrictions amid all the communication links of the territory with the outside world snapped by the authorities.
The curfew and lockdown has led to protests in the valley with thousands of Kashmiris including Hurriyat leaders placed under house arrest or detained.
Residents in the Muslim-majority region have complained of a stifling environment as well as the inability to get in touch with family and friends worried about their wellbeing.
The Indian government has put in place an extra 500,000 troops to the restive region, imposing a strict communications clampdown since Aug 5.
On Friday, Indian authorities tightened security in the restive region following calls by Hurriyat leaders for a march to a United Nations office. Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India's revocation of occupied Kashmir's special autonomy.
But hundreds of Kashmiris defied the curfew and other restrictions to hold a forceful demonstration in Srinagar against the illegal occupation and scrapping of special status of the territory.
Nearly 1,000 people including men, women, and children took part in a demonstration in Soura area of Srinagar after Friday prayers, as Indian troops fired pellets and teargas shells to disperse them. Several people were injured as the firing triggered intense clashes between troops and protesters.
United Nations human rights experts have urged India to end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests in occupied Kashmir.
"The shutdown of the internet and telecommunication networks, without justification from the Indian government, are inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality," the UN experts said. "The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence."
"We remind the Indian authorities that the restrictions imposed by the Indian government are intrinsically disproportionate because they preclude considerations of the specific circumstances of each proposed assembly," they added.
"We are gravely concerned about allegations that the whereabouts of some of those detained is not known as well as the general heightened risk of enforced disappearances, which may proliferate against the backdrop of mass arrests and restricted access to the internet and other communications networks," added the experts.
The Muslim-majority disputed Himalayan territory is claimed by both India and Pakistan and both countries have fought three wars over Kashmir since Partition in 1947.
The near-total communications blackout has triggered global concern, with a group of UN human rights experts warning Thursday it amounted to "collective punishment" and risked exacerbating regional tensions.
On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, telling him Paris was keeping an eye on the Kashmir region.