For over seven decades Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) has been in a state of perpetual conflict, violence and subject to state-terrorism by Indian forces. The recipients of this brutality also include the innocent women and children. Women suffer the disappearances of their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers — most of the time never to return or be heard of again. Not only this, but they live invariably in fear of being violated at the hands of the occupying forces. Along with the continuous physical and emotional violence, all other aspects of life like education, healthcare, and livelihood are impacted. Kashmiris are living their lives under siege, denied not just of the right of self-determination but most other of their basic human freedoms. The occupying forces are trying to repress their voices so that their excesses stay concealed from the rest of the world.
The Indian state has resorted to employing odious measures like the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act that permits detaining Kashmiris without a formal charge to stifle the voices of the beleaguered Kashmiris; in Kashmir, having a voice is seemingly a crime that cannot be tolerated. Be it politicians and activists like Asiya Andrabi or journalists like Masrat Zahra, a female photojournalist from IIOJK, anyone who tries to exercise their freedom of speech is picked up to intimidate them and quell their efforts of exposing the grotesque face of Indian occupation.
The inhumane curfew and communications blackout that has been perpetuated by the COVID-19 pandemic was designed precisely to hoodwink the world about the goings-on in the valley. India does not want the world to know about the plight of the Kashmiri people and the systematic genocide to change the demographic balance of the region that it is carrying out to further its interest. It has been stifling the voices of the people for decades using all the tools at its hands; no politician, activist, journalist, or common person who tries to raise their voice against the daily cruelty or for freedom is allowed any freedom of speech. However, as the voices grow louder, efforts to hush them are increasingly becoming futile; every now and then the world gets a peek into the human tragedy that continues unabated.
Life in the Valley remains at a standstill with unbearable emotional, physical and economic cost for its people. The Valley is under siege with food and medical supplies woefully inadequate. Students cannot go to their educational institutions because of the military curfew and as a result of the complete communications blackout people find it difficult to get news about their loved ones. Essentially, the Valley continues to be cut off from the rest of the world that has conveniently turned a blind eye to the Indian state’s terrorism. However, no matter what cruelty the Indian state brings down upon Kashmiris, they resolve not to give up their struggle for their rights. The people of Kashmir remain staunch and resolute in the face of the immense challenges that plague them every day. It is this resilience, courage, tenacity and persistence that will help the Kashmiri people realize their dream of freedom.
While India is doing all it can to try to quash the freedom struggle in IIOJK and deluding the world about it, the world also needs to come out of its slumber and open its eyes to what is actually going on. India needs to be pushed for an end to the brutalities that its forces are carrying out and making good on its promise to let Kashmiris exercise their right of self-determination. India should also be held accountable for its injustices and reneging on its pledges that has resulted in endless trauma for the people of the valley.
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