Indian army soldiers patrol a street near in the Indian controlled Jammu and Kashmir region. Credit: Belga
The restrictions on movements in the wake of COVID-19 have crippled social life across the world. People have started suffering acute psychological stress caused by the lockdowns.
We in Europe are bearing the brunt despite the fact that internet services are on, virtual interactions are taking place and there is no bar on going out for essential services. And of course, food, medicines and emergency services are available to everyone.
COVID- 19 Pandemic has pushed the entire world into a state of fear. The UN and the WHO have started drawing attention to repercussions of lock down on mental health of people. Here in Europe many studies on the effects of lock down on psychological state of children have been kicked off. The experience of this partial lock down which has lasted for not more than a month and half is horrific and detrimental to human beings in many ways.
Having been through this physical and psychological trauma due to lockdown in our countries, it’s high time to feel and speak for the worries, distress and sufferings of Kashmiris, living a miserable life in Indian occupied Kashmir, which continue even in the midst of Corona crises when the entire world has softened.
Feeling the adverse psychological repercussions of lockdown, we must not forget that the residents of Indian occupied Kashmir have been experiencing such security lockdown and communications blackout by the Modi Government since 5 August 2019, more than 8 months now. In the Indian occupied Kashmir, it’s not like here in Belgium, that is a lock down for your own protection, but it is a complete restriction of movement with use of brutal force to curb the right to self – determination of Kashmiris.
Indian occupied Kashmir has almost become a synonym for human rights violations. The ordeal of innocent Kashmiris spans over 70 years and so does the silence of the international community, including those entities who claim to be flag bearers of human rights and own the defense of human rights violations as their core value. Brutalities shot up at an exponential rate since August 5, 2019 with India’s inhuman tactics to silence the voice of Kashmiris and alter demography by revoking of the special status or limited autonomy granted under Article 370.
Situation is grim due to complete black out of communications, which has made life even more miserable. Defying all the international norms of freedom of information India stopped the flow of information by stopping internet services in the region. For the last 8 months Internet services have been disrupted. The digital social interaction and flow of information is completely cut off.
The New York Times in its report published on 27 April revealed acute psychological problems faced by the people of Kashmir as COVID-19 has added to already existing trauma of human rights abuses in Indian held Kashmir. People are dying as poor medical services are further hampered by restrictions on communications. In the state of curfew they could not get medical advice even through digital means. People could not call ambulances in the emergencies due to dysfunctional telephone lines.
Now when the COVID -19 crisis has taken the entire world in it’s grip and Indian occupied Kashmir has also fallen victim to this calamity. People are suffering from the pandemic. In these circumstances, where extraordinary conditions are pushing governments for extraordinary measures, people of Indian occupied Kashmir are deprived of even ordinary facilities of life.
Indian government toes RSS ideology. It is withholding information about COVID-19 cases in Indian occupied Kashmir and not allowing medical assistance to affected people. The Modi Government has kept on pursuing RSS methodology and continued with acts of violence and vandalism aimed at targeting India’s religious minorities like Muslims, Sikhs and Christians even in the times of COVID-19 crises.
A recently released report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom revealed that religious freedom has not deteriorated as much in the past year in any other country as it has in India. The report recommends to include India in countries of concern and for it’s inclusion in black listed countries. The United States expressed displeasure towards Indian government also by unfollowing the Twitter accounts of Narendra Modi and Indian Embassy in the US.
World has to rise up in defence of human rights of the people in India occupied Kashmir. The first step in this direction is the recognition and acceptance of the factual situation on the ground by those who claim to be defenders of human rights.
Recently the European Union has called for a thorough, prompt and transparent investigation of human rights abuses in Indian occupied Kashmir. While writing on behalf and direction of EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell, the Head of Division, Regional Affairs and South Asia at EU External Action Service (EEAS) Ms. Caroline Vinot has affirmed that any allegation of human rights abuse should be investigated thoroughly, promptly and transparently, in line with international human rights obligations.
It’s time to sympathetically ponder over inhuman treatment of minorities by Indian government. I request all European leaders, international stakeholders and Human rights organisations to raise voice in solidarity with Indian religious minorities and suppressed people of Indian occupied Kashmir against continued repressive Indian policies. The role of the EU as a defender of Human Rights is at a test now. Will the EU immediately start a probe into violations of human rights in the Indian occupied Kashmir?