Kashmir curfew to be eased after Thursday: governor

Indian authorities cut telecommunications and imposed a curfew in its Indian part of Kashmir. (File/AFP)
Updated 14 August 2019
0

Kashmir curfew to be eased after Thursday: governor

  • Kashmir governor said lines of communication may gradually return after seven to 10 days
  • The biggest mosque in the area was ordered to close during Eid

NEW DELHI: Restrictions on freedom of movement in Kashmir will be eased after Independence Day on Thursday, the state governor has said, although phone lines and the Internet will remain cut off.
Satya Pal Malik told Wednesday’s Times of India that communications will stay blocked as India’s government relaxes its clampdown since it stripped the region of its autonomy in early August.
“We don’t want to give that instrument to the enemy until things settle down,” Malik told the paper in an interview.
“In a week or 10 days, everything will be alright and we will gradually open lines of communication,” he said.
Fearing unrest, India snapped telecommunications and imposed a curfew in the part of Kashmir it controls on August 4, a day before its surprise presidential decree to strip the Muslim-majority region of its special status.
Tens of thousands of troop reinforcements have been deployed to the main city of Srinagar and other towns and villages, turning the picturesque city into a deserted warren of barbed wire and barricades.
The lockdown has not completely prevented protests, however.
According to residents around 8,000 people took part in a demonstration after Friday prayers, with security forces firing tear gas and pellet-firing shotguns to break up the rally.
On Tuesday the Indian government confirmed for the first time that clashes took place, blaming them on “miscreants” and saying its forces reacted with “restraint.”
For the Muslim festival of Eid on Monday the Himalayan region’s biggest mosque, the Jama Masjid, was ordered shut and people were only allowed to pray in smaller local mosques so that no big crowds could gather, witnesses said.
Footage filmed by AFP on Monday showed hundreds of people protesting in the Soura area of Srinagar, shouting slogans such as “We want freedom” and “India go back.”
Three helicopters continuously hovered over the area as protesters jeered and shook fists at the aircraft.
“What India has done is unacceptable to us. Our struggle will continue even if India keeps Kashmir locked down for months. Only solution is that India has to accept what Kashmiris want,” one protester told AFP.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan following independence from Britain in 1947, and has been the spark for two wars between the two nuclear-armed arch-rivals.
An armed rebellion against Indian rule — supported by Pakistan, New Delhi says — has raged since 1989, claiming tens of thousands of lives, mostly civilians.
India marks Independence Day, marking the end of British rule in 1947, on Thursday, a day after Pakistan.
On Wednesday Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who on Sunday likened India’s government to Nazi Germany, was due to make a speech in the legislative assembly in Pakistani Kashmir.


India’s ‘patriotism pop’ songs urge Hindus to claim Kashmir

Updated 9 min 41 sec ago
0

India’s ‘patriotism pop’ songs urge Hindus to claim Kashmir

  • The songs delivered a message to India’s 250 million YouTube users about moving to the Muslim-majority region, buying land there and marrying Kashmiri women.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has revoked Kashmir’s decades-old special status that was guaranteed under Article 370 of India’s Constitution and sent thousands of troops to the region

NEW DELHI: The music videos began appearing on social media within hours of the announcement by India’s Hindu nationalist-led government that it was stripping statehood from the disputed region of Kashmir that had been in place for decades.
The songs delivered a message to India’s 250 million YouTube users about moving to the Muslim-majority region, buying land there and marrying Kashmiri women.
It’s the latest example of a growing genre in India known as “patriotism pop” — songs flooding social media about nationalism and the country’s burgeoning right-wing ideology.
Earlier songs were limited to the rise of Hindus in India, defeating regional rival Pakistan and hoisting the Indian flag in every household. Now, they include settling in Kashmir — a rugged and beautiful Himalayan region claimed by both Pakistan and India, although both countries control only a portion of it.
On Aug. 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked Kashmir’s decades-old special status that was guaranteed under Article 370 of India’s Constitution and sent thousands of troops to the region. The move has touched off anger in the Indian-controlled region, which has been under a security lockdown that has seen thousands detained to prevent protests there.
One of Modi’s revisions allows anyone to buy land in the territory, which some Kashmiris fear could mean an influx of Hindus who would change the region’s culture and demographics. Critics have likened it to Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories.
The patriotic songs are mostly shared on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and the fast-growing app TikTok, which in June had about 120 million active users in India. Despite their low production values, poorly matched lip-synching and repetitive techno beat, many of these soundtracks have gotten millions of hits on YouTube.
The songs are a hit among youthful followers in northern and eastern parts of India, and their creators don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.
Nitesh Singh Nirmal identifies himself as a producer, songwriter and composer for his Rang Music studios in the eastern state of Bihar. A Modi admirer, Nirmal claims to be the first to produce a soundtrack on the revocation of Kashmir’s statehood, completing it in three hours.
The song, “Dhara 370,” or “Article 370,” starts with visuals of an Indian flag fluttering atop New Delhi’s famous Red Fort, followed by old footage of Modi from a previous Independence Day ceremony. The singer thanks Modi and his government for keeping his promise to remove Article 370 from the constitution. The video then cuts to the map of Kashmir, along with words that roughly translate to how Pakistan has lost to India.
The song has gotten more than 1.6 million hits on YouTube since it was posted there by Nirmal, who has no musical background. He said he only found his calling when Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party resoundingly won the 2014 election.
That’s when Nirmal thought he could write songs about nationalism.

“I am doing service for the nation. People dance to these songs,” he says.

The Indian media — from news to entertainment — has left no stone unturned in portraying Kashmiri women in the racist trope of ‘coveted fair-skinned ones’ (and) at the same time being helpless and needing saving from their own men — all this while demonizing Kashmiri men.

Political anthropologist Ather Zia

Nirmal’s claims about their popularity aren’t far-fetched. TikTok, which lets the user lip-synch to music and make short vines, is flooded with images of Hindu nationalists declaring plans to go to Kashmir and marry women there. Most of the videos have music similar to the kind produced by Nirmal.
In April, TikTok was removed from Android and iPhone app stores after an Indian court ruled it was “encouraging pornography.”
The rising appeal for songs that promote nationalism and talk about reclaiming Kashmir have paved the way for lesser-known artists to join in.
Salman Siddiqui, who is in his 20s and studies science in the state of Uttar Pradesh, wanted to showcase his musical writing prowess and contacted Nirmal. They collaborated on a song about a man who is seeking a Kashmiri bride and wants to be the first to have a wedding procession that travels from India to the region.
Nirmal and Siddiqui insist the songs are not sexist.
“It’s the desire of a young man’s heart to marry a Kashmiri woman,” Siddiqui says.
The idea was boosted Aug. 6 by lawmaker Vikram Saini, who told members of his Bharatiya Janata Party “eager to get married” to go to Kashmir, adding that his party has “no problem with it.”
Critics say the idea of marrying Kashmiri women to “reclaim” the region is rooted in a patriarchy that objectifies and dehumanizes Kashmiris.
Political anthropologist Ather Zia calls this a “fetishization in the Indian imagination.”
Such songs are a “culmination of a toxic misogynistic nationalist thinking that draws validation from humiliating Kashmiri women,” Zia said.
“The Indian media — from news to entertainment — has left no stone unturned in portraying Kashmiri women in the racist trope of ‘coveted fair-skinned ones’ (and) at the same time being helpless and needing saving from their own men — all this while demonizing Kashmiri men,” she said.
Some artists oppose writing such songs, but they say the audience demand is strong.
Singer Nardev Bainiwal, who lives in Haryana state and owns the Jawan Music Co., has a song on Kashmir that got 1.9 million hits on YouTube.
“We write songs about things people want,” Bainiwal says, noting his main audience is from smaller cities and towns in northern India where Internet penetration has picked up in recent years.
Google Trends has shown an increase in Indians using search terms like “marry Kashmiri girl” and “buy land in Kashmir.”
“I am personally against such declarations, but if we don’t make these songs, someone else will and we will lose out on money,” Bainiwal says.
Nirmal says that since he published his song Aug. 5, he has earned nearly $100 for work that cost him about $20 to produce.
He says the key is to keep abreast of the news and gauge the public mood. He has songs ready if India’s Supreme Court allows a Hindu temple be built on a site where hard-liners in 1992 attacked and demolished a 16th century mosque, sparking deadly Hindu-Muslim violence.
“Songs about building of the temple could be my next hit,” he says.
Apart from the online revenue, the artists also perform concerts. Nirmal has had 10 shows in the last two weeks.
“The business,” Nirmal says, “is booming.”