"Crisis in Kashmir" by Jeffrey Avina
Ever since 2016, there has been one thing that has consistently been in the 24-hour news cycle, the persistent face of our President. From every tweet to every lie, Donald Trump has appeared on the screens of American citizens. While it serves to know the controversies he has been the subject of, it takes time away from other issues that deserve our attention. The Amazon Rainforest had been on fire for 16 days before posts on social media had started to circulate and cause awareness. Unlike the Amazon, there are stories around the world that could benefit from more media attention. One of these such stories can be found coming out of Kashmir.
Kashmir, until recently, has been an Indian controlled, Muslim majority state on the border of Pakistan and India. According to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, Kashmir could retain democratic autonomy in all matters except foreign affairs, defense, and communications. This had been true until the newly re-elected Prime Minister and leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Narendra Modi, scrapped the 370 and provision 35A ( a provision that honored the agreement between the Indian Government and the people of Kashmir by barring outsiders to the region from buying a property). Due to the removal of these provisions, fears of demographic change rose within Kashmir overnight. The BJP has been touted as the party of Hindu Nationalism and has been trying to judicially repeal these laws for some time now to no avail. Only until Modi was re-elected as the BJP able to do away with Article 370 entirely. The Indian Government then shut down Internet access going in and out of the Kashmir Valley. No media, no communication, and no way for people on the outside to reach those within.
As of August 29, no official death toll has been put out by the Indian Government, although reports coming out of Srinagar (the capital city of Kashmir) have noted that the hospitals are running out of the necessary supplies needed to treat the increasing number of patients coming through their door. The Wall Street Journal spoke to a doctor inside Srinagar who said that “Hospitals have become graveyards.” The increase in patients could be due to the use of pellets guns and tear gas by the Indian Armed Forces. Many sources from within Kashmir claims to have been beaten maliciously and many times without reason. Thanks to the media and communications blackout imposed by the Indian Government, there is no way to verify any of these claims. The Indian Army has since called these claims “Baseless” and “Unsubstantiated.” India has also issued a message saying, “India remains committed to ensure that the situation in Kashmir remains calm and peaceful.” Funny how that all works.
Journalists inside Kashmir have been persistent and unrelenting in their pursuit to get the information out amid this media crackdown. USB and Flash Drives containing photos and videos of the protests are being smuggled out of the country every day so that the rest of the world can know of what is happening within the Kashmiri borders. But what is being done?
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has begged the international community for foreign aid for weeks now. The UN has also expressed concern and has launched its investigation on the matter, but fears persist.
Now the burden falls to us, what is our country to do about the clear and ongoing suffering? President Trump has since stated that Prime Minister Modi “Really feels he has it under control,” but what does he have under control? The military occupation of an autonomous state? The beatings of innocent people? Or is it the beginnings of a bigger situation that could lead to even more strife and conflict for the people of Kashmir.