Mobile and internet services have been disconnected in India-administered Kashmir since August 5 when New Delhi stripped the region of its semi-autonomous powers and deployed tens of thousands of extra troops to enforce an unprecedented crackdown.

Reports suggest Kashmiris are livid about India's latest move, as demonstrations continue, business owners refuse to work and children are being kept home.
Reports suggest Kashmiris are livid about India's latest move, as demonstrations continue, business owners refuse to work and children are being kept home. (AFP)

With children as young as nine detained, protests and tear gas, allegations of torture, businesses shut and no mobiles or internet: it's now been two months of misery in India-administered Kashmir.

India stripped the disputed region's limited autonomy on August 5 and said it would split the state in two, after sending in tens of thousands of troops, in addition to some 500,000 already there, to impose a lockdown and detaining the region's top politicians.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the audacious move was to end "a vicious cycle of terrorism, violence, separatism, and corruption" and make Kashmir a "paradise once more."

But Kashmiris say the move was unilateral and New Delhi's ultimate plan is to change the demographics of the Muslim region by settling Hindu outsiders. 

Journalists hold signs during a protest against the ongoing restrictions of the internet and mobile phone networks at the Kashmir Press Club during a lockdown in Srinagar on October 3, 2019. Journalists in India-administered Kashmir protested on October 3 the two-month-old
Journalists hold signs during a protest against the ongoing restrictions of the internet and mobile phone networks at the Kashmir Press Club during a lockdown in Srinagar on October 3, 2019. Journalists in India-administered Kashmir protested on October 3 the two-month-old "communications blackout," which they said is making their jobs virtually impossible. (AFP)

Pakistan fears 'bloodbath'

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947 and has been the spark for two wars between the nuclear-armed foes and numerous clashes, most recently in February.

Since 1989 tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died in a popular uprising against Indian rule by rebels wanting all of Kashmir to be part of Pakistan or an independent state.

Evidence on the ground suggests that there locals are livid about India's latest move, with regular demonstrations, business owners refusing to open their premises and children kept out of schools.

The Indian government says that most people in the Kashmir Valley, the main hotbed of resistance to Indian rule, support the move and that opposition comes only from elements backed by Pakistan.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan last week told the UN General Assembly that India could unleash a "bloodbath" in the Muslim-majority region, warning of the risk of nuclear war.

More than 4,000 people have been arrested since August 5, including 144 minors, around 1,000 of whom remain in custody, some under a law that allows suspects to be held for up to two years without charge.

A recent fact-finding report released by India's women activists claimed 13,000 detentions, some as young as nine-year-old boys, in the Kashmir valley. 

Pakistani children take part in an anti-Indian protest rally in Lahore on October 3, 2019. The nuclear-armed neighbours regularly target each other with mortar shells and gunfire on the de facto border known as the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Himalayan territory, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan.
Pakistani children take part in an anti-Indian protest rally in Lahore on October 3, 2019. The nuclear-armed neighbours regularly target each other with mortar shells and gunfire on the de facto border known as the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Himalayan territory, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan. (AFP)

Government-imposed gag

Landlines have been restored but mobile phones and the internet remain snapped in most of the Kashmir Valley, home to around seven million people. India insists "normalcy" is being restored.

On Thursday, dozens of journalists held a sit-in protest against an ongoing communication blackout, describing the blockade of the internet and mobile phones as a government-imposed gag.

The journalists, holding placards and wearing black bands, said the government was muzzling the press in the region and demanded that the internet and mobile connectivity be restored.

A joint statement issued by 11 Kashmir-based journalists’ associations read, "How long can the journalists of Valley rely solely on official releases and occasional press briefings that have always been a one-way communication?"

UN, Trump show concern

Around 100 civilians and 400 Indian soldiers have been wounded in clashes since August 5, authorities say.

Locals have also blamed the authorities for the deaths of four civilians — including a mother who choked to death after tear gas was fired into her home.

Outside the main city Srinagar, young men told AFP news agency last month that soldiers tortured them. The military strongly denies this.

Protest rallies for Kashmiris also took place in several countries including Pakistan, Britain, the US and Bangladesh

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has said she is "deeply concerned" while Washington has called for a "rapid" lifting of restrictions.

US President Donald Trump on multiple occasions voiced keenness to mediate the dispute between India and Pakistan. While Islamabad has welcomed it, New Delhi has for decades rejected third-party intervention in the dispute. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies