Authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir refused to provide death certificates for civilians killed in the region after the Hindu nationalist-led government revoked the Muslim-majority area’s autonomy, the Independent reported Tuesday.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked New Delhi-held Kashmir’s special status and broke the region up into two areas controlled by the federal government on August 5.
Dilbagh Singh, the police chief in Indian Kashmir, reportedly claimed there has been “not a single casualty” in the region since Modi’s decision.
“The reality on the ground is a lot less clear,” the Independent acknowledged, adding:
Families in Kashmir say several civilians have died amid clashes between security forces and protesters since India announced its decision to withdraw the region’s autonomy, despite the government’s official stance that there has not been a single casualty.
Speaking to The Independent in Srinagar, the regional capital, one doctor who asked to remain anonymous says hospital staff have received clear verbal instructions from the authorities to keep admissions related to the clashes to a minimum, and to discharge victims quickly, in order to keep statistics down.
And in the cases of the three deaths [linked to protests in the region], relatives spoke of their frustration at trying to get doctors to formally acknowledge the role played by the clashes – or even to issue them with death certificates at all.
The Independent learned from the victims’ families that Indian security forces had killed at least three civilians during the protests that have broken out across Kashmir in recent weeks.
Ahead of his decision to revoke Kashmir’s ability to make its laws, Modi deployed thousands of additional security forces and implemented an ongoing security lockdown and communication blackout.
The blackout includes the blocking of phone lines, the Internet, and news outlets.
As a result, Breitbart News found, it is unclear exactly how many civilians have perished in recent Kashmir clashes.
Some of the victims’ relatives accused Indian authorities of altering death certificates to clear security forces of potentially unlawful killings.
Rafiq Shagoo, who lost his wife allegedly to tear gas canisters recently fired near his house, told the Independent:
They lied, they dodged me. When I managed to get the certificate, it didn’t mention the real cause of death. I am not able to register the real cause of my wife’s death. They have been told by the authorities to manipulate the cause of death to keep the casualty record clear.
Despite a 2003 ceasefire, India and Pakistan regularly engage in military battles along the border that divides Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rivals.