In Kashmir, a Year of Exploding Memories

A year after the state’s special status was revoked, peace remains a distant hope.

Jammu and Kashmir—Over the past year, life in Indian-administered Kashmir has grown markedly more challenging. On Aug. 5, 2019, New Delhi revoked Article 370—which had guaranteed a measure of autonomy for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Thousands of Kashmiris were arrested on vague charges, and the government enacted a strict curfew and the world’s longest internet blackout.

Article 370 had allowed India’s only Muslim-majority state to have its own constitution, a separate flag, and freedom to enact its own laws, such as rules barring outsiders from purchasing property. In revoking the constitutional amendment, the Indian government claimed the move would bring peace and development to the region.

Instead, the past year has only brought more violence and uncertainty. Even during the coronavirus pandemic, when many conflicts have been on hold amid the United Nations’ call for a global cease-fire, New Delhi has intensified military operations in the region—striking out against Kashmiri separatists fighting for self-determination.

This is nothing new for Indian-administered Kashmir, which has long been considered the world’s most militarized zone. Conflict in the region has been ongoing since 1947, when India and Pakistan gained their independence from the British and the brutal attendant partition left Kashmir a disputed territory between the two. Two wars have since been fought over Kashmir, and countless skirmishes have erupted within the territory itself. In Indian-administered Kashmir, meanwhile, varying groups of militants have fought for independence or a merger with Pakistan. India, for its part, has long accused Pakistan of fomenting these militant movements and inciting terrorist elements within the state. Decades of clashes between Indian security forces and Kashmiri insurgents have hit civilians the hardest; forced disappearances, torture, rape, and a brutal response to protests have become a normal part of life. Between 1990 and March 2017, at least 41,000 people were killed, including some 14,000 civilians.

This year alone, at least 143 militants have been killed, with 62 deaths in June alone, according to a report by the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons. Civilians, too, are caught in the fighting, with 32 killed in the first six months of this year. On June 26, a 5-year-old was killed in the crossfire between suspected militants and Indian paramilitary forces. A 65-year-old was killed on July 1 in northern Kashmir in front of his 3-year-old grandson, who said he was shot by Indian forces—though the police refuted the claim, saying he was killed by militant crossfire.


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