India Throttles Voices in Kashmir

NEW DELHI, India (AFP) — India’s government is muzzling Kashmir’s media as part of the lockdown it imposed on the region a month ago, according to a new report by two human rights networks.

Kashmir has been under tight lockdown since India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed virtual martial law on Aug. 5. This photo shows India-controlled Srinigar on Aug. 7. (AP photo/Dar Yasin)

The study comes after Delhi revoked Kashmir’s special autonomy on Aug. 5 and sent tens of thousands of extra troops to reinforce the half a million already there.

Published this week, the study said reporters are being subjected to surveillance, informal investigations and harassment for publishing reports considered adverse to the government or security forces.

Titled “News Behind The Barbed Wire,” its findings reveal “a grim and despairing picture of the media in Kashmir, fighting for survival against the most incredible of odds.”

It reported that recent editorials in major Kashmir papers covered only harmless topics, such on the benefits of Vitamin A and “Should you consume caffeine during summer?”

“This is intrinsically undemocratic and harmful, as it privileges the voices of authority and weakens those who speak truth to power,” the report said of the situation faced by the media in Kashmir.

Published by the Network of Women in Media, India and the Free Speech Collective, the report was prepared by two journalists who spent five days in Indian Kashmir and spoke to more than 70 journalists, administration officials and citizens.

An official in the Information and Broadcast Ministry told Agence France-Presse on Friday it could not offer any comments as it had yet to see the report.

The government has also restricted movement and curtailed phone and internet services, ostensibly to control unrest in a region where separatists have waged an armed rebellion against Indian rule since 1989.

The Indian government says bringing Kashmir under its direct rule will boost the economy and generate more jobs. It insists the situation is calm and normal and that the curbs are being eased gradually.

But since Aug. 5, at least 500 protests and incidents of stone throwing have occurred and some 4,000 people have been detained, according to multiple sources.

Five civilians have died, the army said this week, blaming the deaths on stone-throwers and militants.

The Kashmir move has enraged neighboring Pakistan, which also claims the region.

Kashmir has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between the two nuclear-armed arch-rivals.

© Agence France-Presse

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