The report says recent editorials in local papers covered only harmless topics, such as the benefits of Vitamin A, as part of widespread throttling of local media. Meanwhile, Pakistan says it'll give "fullest possible response" to India over Kashmir.

Indian paramilitary troopers stand guard during a lockdown in Srinagar on September 6, 2019.
Indian paramilitary troopers stand guard during a lockdown in Srinagar on September 6, 2019. (AFP)

India's government is muzzling Kashmir's media as part of the lockdown it imposed on the disputed Himalayan region a month ago, according to a new report by two rights networks.

The study comes after Delhi revoked Kashmir's limited autonomy on August 5 and sent in tens of thousands of extra troops to reinforce the half a million already there.

Published earlier this week, the study said reporters were 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."

Editorials on 'benefits of Vitamin A'

It also highlighted that recent editorials in major Kashmir papers covered only harmless topics, such as 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 India-administered Kashmir and spoke to more than 70 journalists, local administration officials, and residents.

An official in the Information and Broadcast Ministry told AFP news agency on Friday it could not offer any immediate comments as it had yet to see the report.

Harsh methods

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

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

But since August 5 at least 500 protests and incidents of stone-throwing have occurred and some 4,000 people, including members of the business community and civil society, have been detained, according to multiple sources.

Five civilians have also died, the army said this week, blaming the deaths on stone-pelters and rebels. But locals say the deaths were caused by pellet guns, tear gas and during clashes with Indian troops.

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

On Friday, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan said his country will make the fullest possible response to India's actions in disputed Kashmir and the global community would be responsible for any "catastrophic" aftermath.

The remarks on the annual Defence Day remembrance of Pakistan's fighters in a 1965 war with India underscores rising tension between the nuclear-armed foes.

"I have informed the world that Pakistan does not want war, but at the same time, Pakistan cannot remain oblivious to the challenges posed to its security and integrity," Khan said in a statement on the website of state-run Radio Pakistan.

"We are prepared to give the enemy the fullest possible response. Failing, the world community will be responsible for the catastrophic aftermath," he added.

This week Khan had said war between the South Asian neighbours was a risk, but Pakistan would not act first.

Pakistani doctors and paramedic staff hold placards and shout slogans as they take part in a protest against India, in Islamabad on September 6, 2019.
Pakistani doctors and paramedic staff hold placards and shout slogans as they take part in a protest against India, in Islamabad on September 6, 2019. (AFP)

Diplomatic offensive

Khan has led a vigorous international diplomatic campaign seeking the support of the United States, former colonial power Britain and others to press India over the Himalayan region, but his Hindu-majority neighbour has ruled out outside involvement.

Pakistan will never abandon Kashmir, army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa told a defence function in the city of Rawalpindi.

"We are ready to give sacrifice for our Kashmiri brothers, will fulfill our duty till last bullet, last soldiers and last breath," he said in a televised speech. "And we are prepared to go to any extent."

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

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir's mostly Muslim population and most people support the rebels' cause against Indian rule. Nearly 100,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown since 1989. 

The Indian military has been accused of suppressing the Kashmiri uprising using brutal tactics, including the infamous pellet guns which have wounded or blinded many Kashmiris.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies