Social Activist Talha Baig told the media persons that Indian government shut down the Internet as well as landline and cell networks in Kashmir, as part of an unprecedented bid for greater control of the disputed Himalayan territory, which both Pakistan and India claim and over which they have gone to war three times.
Some 7 million people in the region were left with no way to contact the outside world, as the government closed schools, banned public meetings and barricaded neighborhoods. Officials arrested more than 100 people, including political leaders, activists and former chief ministers of the state. Local reports quote police saying at least one protester died.
But few Kashmiris will know any of that. Many may not even be aware that hours after the blackout began, India’s Home Minister Amit Shah announced the state of Jammu and Kashmir would be stripped of the special status it had held since shortly after the Partition of British India in 1947. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said it would revoke two crucial articles of India’s constitution that have guaranteed Kashmiris the right to their own flag, constitution and near autonomy for seven decades. Overnight, India brought in radical changes to its only Muslim-majority state, while its population was left in the dark.
Talha Baig also told that it as an attempt to shift the region’s demographics; the legal maneuver paves the way for (largely Hindu) outsiders to buy property there for the first time, sparking comparisons to Israeli settlers in the West Bank. As Kashmir was always seen as real estate, not a place with people.
While Modi’s government stokes tensions between Hindus and Muslims elsewhere, unrest in Kashmir has been steadily growing. A U.N. report in July cited local data showing 160 Kashmiri civilians were killed in 2019 alone, thought to be the highest figure in over a decade. India’s latest move has further widened the rift with its neighbor, risking a return to hostilities between the nuclear-armed states.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan warned that India’s actions would likely spark militant violence, leading to tit-for-tat strikes. “If we fight a war until we shed the last drop of our blood, no one will win,” he said. “It will have grievous consequences for the entire world.” Pakistan has since downgraded diplomatic ties and suspended bilateral trade with New Delhi.