Kashmir is under siege and women are in the crossfire

In early August, the Indian government mounted an unprecedented illegal occupation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (hereafter referred to as J&K or Kashmir) on the northern tip of the subcontinent. Abrogating Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which gave J&K a special status and laid out conditions contingent on which they had joined the Indian Union during independence from British rule, Parliament announced communication blackouts and curfews. An information blockade, along with curbs on the media, house arrests of leaders and activists, and other human rights abuses followed. As it now stands, more than 7 million people are under siege, with more than 3,000 arrested and detained. Communications channels (including telephone services and the internet) remain severely restricted despite government propaganda that they have been restored. One million Indian security forces are deployed in the region—already the world’s most militarized zone—and have been using pellet guns at protestors, resulting in blindings and other injuriesTourists, students, pilgrims, and non-residents have been asked to evacuate, and the local police have been disarmed.

The civil liberties of Kashmiris are in tatters: they are running out of essentials, including medical supplies, and there is a genocide alert out for Kashmir. This recent aggression follows a checkered history that pre-dates the independence of India and Pakistan from British rule in 1947. The tug of war between India and Pakistan over the region, as well as the Kashmiri people’s demand for self-determination, has endured since then, creating a humanitarian nightmare caused by militarization and militancy. Enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings (otherwise known as “fake encounters”), mass rapes, and torture, among other abuses, have dogged life in Kashmir, particularly in the wake of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (in force in Kashmir since 1990), which has been used to give the military impunity for various violent crimes on the civilian population.

And—as in any conflict—there is a gendered aspect to this, with women bearing a disproportionate burden in Kashmir.


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