India-administered Kashmir is under a fresh lockdown and this time it’s not primarily related to the coronavirus.
On August 3, the state government of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) ordered the imposition of restrictions in the Kashmir Valley on August 4 and 5, following “inputs” suggesting that “Pakistan-sponsored groups” were planning to observe August 5 as Black Day and the area could witness violent protests endangering life and property.
The government also cited efforts to contain the coronavirus as one of the reasons for the curfew, in order to prevent a mass gathering of people and contain the spread of the virus.
Over the next two days, public movement is completely restricted in Kashmir. The only people exempt are those working in essential services such as medical staff on COVID-19 duty.
The state government has imposed the order under section 144 in The Code of Criminal Procedure, which empowers local magistrates on behalf of the state government to issue orders in case of an apprehended danger.
“Curfew curtails our liberties. We cannot move out of our homes whenever a curfew is imposed. A curfew in Kashmir means that you are locking six million people in jail without declaring their houses as a jail,” said Umer Maqbool, a journalist based in India-administered Kashmir.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which shared power with the BJP in Kashmir until 2018, is expected to go ahead and hold peaceful protests on August 5, despite the curfew.
“On the one hand the BJP is claiming that they have neutralized separatists by abrogating Article 370, but on the other hand the government of J&K is claiming that the curfew needs to be imposed as separatist and pro-Pakistan groups are planning protests. These statements are contradictory. Either the BJP-led central government or the J&K administration is lying. Both statements can’t be true,” Maqbool told DW.
A year after the abrogation of article 370
August 5, 2020 marks a year after the abrogation of Article 370, which granted special status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). Its revocation meant that Indians outside the state gained the legal right to own property there.
Critics say this change could lead to demographic transformation and have accused the Hindu nationalist-led government of wanting to establish a Hindu majority in the predominantly Muslim region.
A year ago, Kashmir was cut-off from the rest of India through a similar curfew, through a communications blackout. A number of leaders in the state were placed under house arrest for months.
The people of Kashmir got access to the internet and social media this March after spending seven months in the dark.
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