Indian Kashmir Crackdown: Number of People Detained Nearly Doubles in 3 Weeks

A policeman throws a tear gas shell at Kashmiri protesters demonstrating against Indian rule in Srinagar.Kashmir on Friday. Photograph: Mukhtar Khan/AP
Mukhtar Khan/AP

Indian authorities in New Delhi-held Kashmir have detained nearly 4,000 people, about 80 percent of them accused of stone-pelting, in a bid to stifle protests since revoking the region’s limited autonomy last month, Reuters reported Thursday.

The latest figures nearly double the 2,300 in custody as of three weeks.

Citing Indian government data from September 6, however, Reuters acknowledged that India had released 2,600 since the arrest figures reached 3,800.

Reuters explains:

Authorities in Indian Kashmir have arrested nearly 4,000 people since the scrapping of its special status last month, government data shows, the most clear evidence yet of the scale of one of the disputed region’s biggest crackdowns.

It was not clear on what basis most of the people were being held, but an Indian official said some were held under the Public Safety Act, a law in Jammu and Kashmir state that allows for detention for up to two years without charge.

The data for the first time shows the extent of the detentions, as well as indicating who was picked up and where. More than 200 politicians, including two former chief ministers of the state were arrested, along with more than 100 leaders and activists from an umbrella organization of pro-separatist political groups.

Authorities reportedly took nearly eight out of every ten detainees into custody for stone-pelting and other miscreant acts.

On August 5, the ruling Hindu nationalist government rescinded Indian Kashmir’s special status. The move came amid a security lockdown and communication blackout that reportedly continues, including the blocking of phone lines, the internet, and news outlets.

Human rights group Amnesty International denounced the crackdown as “distinct and unprecedented” in Kashmir’s recent history, adding that the arrests are fueling to “widespread fear and alienation,” according to Reuters.

“The communication blackout, security clampdown, and detention of the political leaders in the region have made it worse,” Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty International in India, declared.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan, India, and China all have competing territorial claims to the region. Beijing mainly stays in the shadows between the India-Pakistan dispute, providing Islamabad military and economic support to defend its position.

Pakistan and India claim Kashmir in its entirety, but a border is known as the Line of Control; (LOC) separates most of the region between the two rivals. Islamabad ceded some of its Kashmir territories to its “all-weather ally” China.

India disputes China’s occupation of Kashmir lands on the Indian side of the LOC. An unofficial border also separates Indian and Chinese Kashmir. All three stakeholders with claims to the region have warned of potential nuclear war.

Reuters notes:

Muslim-majority Kashmir, claimed by both India and Pakistan, has been in turmoil since India stripped its portion of the region of its autonomy and statehood on August 5, leading to clashes between security forces and residents and inflaming tension with Pakistan.

India argues the removal of New Delhi-administered Kashmir’s special status will help integrate the region into the country’s economy to the benefit of all, and avoid violence.

New Delhi claims at least five people have died from the crackdown.

Reuters concedes that the arrest figures exclude “those under informal house arrest, nor people detained in a round-up of separatists that began in February after a bomb attack by a Pakistan-based militant group on Indian troops.”

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