Thousands detained in Indian Kashmir crackdown, official data reveals

Indian security personnel stand guard on a deserted street in Jammu on Monday. Photo: Reuters
Updated 12 September 2019

Thousands detained in Indian Kashmir crackdown, official data reveals

  • Bulk of those arrested - more than 3,000 - were listed as “stone pelters and other miscreants”
  • Data for the first time shows the extent of the detentions

SRINAGAR/NEW DELHI: Authorities in Indian administered Kashmir have arrested nearly 4,000 thousand 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.
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 Aug. 5, leading to clashes between security forces and residents and inflaming tension with Pakistan.
India said the removal of the status that its part of Kashmir has held since independence from Britain in 1947 would help integrate it into the Indian economy, to the benefit of all.
In an attempt to stifle the protests that the reform sparked in Kashmir, India cut internet and mobile services and imposed curfew-like restrictions in many areas.
It has also arrested more than 3,800 people, according to a government report dated Sept. 6 and seen by Reuters, though about 2,600 have since been released.
A spokeswoman for India's interior ministry did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Jammu and Kashmir police.
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 organisation of pro-separatist political groups.
The bulk of those arrested - more than 3,000 - were listed as "stone pelters and other miscreants". On Sunday, 85 detainees were shifted to a prison in Agra in northern India, a police source said.
Rights group Amnesty International said the crackdown was "distinct and unprecedented" in the recent history of the region and the detentions had contributed to "widespread fear and alienation".
"The communication blackout, security clampdown, and detention of the political leaders in the region has made it worse," said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty International India.

'RIGHT TO LIFE'
India says the detentions are necessary to maintain order and prevent violence, and points to the relatively limited number of casualties compared with previous bouts of unrest.
The government says only one person is confirmed to have died compared with dozens in 2016 when the killing of a militant leader sparked widespread violence.
"The right to life is the most important human right," India's national security adviser Ajit Doval told reporters recently.
The report contains data from the 13 police districts that make up the Kashmir Valley, the most populous part of the Himalayan region where the main city of Srinagar is located.
The largest number of arrests have been in Srinagar, the data shows, at nearly 1,000. Earlier unrest often centered in rural areas.
Of the detained political leaders, more than 80 were from the People's Democratic Party, formerly in coalition in Jammu and Kashmir state with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
About 70 are from the National Conference, which has for years dominated politics in Indian administered Kashmir, and more than a dozen from India's main opposition Congress party.
Police also arrested more than 150 people accused of association with militant groups fighting Indian rule.
An Indian official said it was likely that more than 1,200 people were still held, including all the high-profile politicians and separatists mentioned in the report, while dozens more are being arrested every day.
In the 24 hours before the report was compiled, more than two dozen people were arrested, mainly on suspicion of throwing stones at troops, the data showed.
The data did not include 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.
Days before India's move to strip Kashmir of special status, one prominent separatist leader told Reuters that more than 250 people with links to the movement were already in detention.
 


Director of groundbreaking new women-led Pakistani series hopes men will watch too

Updated 14 min 15 sec ago

Director of groundbreaking new women-led Pakistani series hopes men will watch too

  • Asim Abbasi says his “job is done” if the series 'Churail' helps men become empathetic toward women’s issues
  • Says he titled the series Churail to subvert the meaning of a word that was long been used to label women negatively

KARACHI: The British-Pakistani director of a new groundbreaking Pakistani TV show that aims to put the spotlight on stereotypes about Pakistani women said he hopes men too will watch the show and develop a more empathetic attitude towards women’s problems.
The ten-episode 'Churails', which is the Urdu word for witches, releases on Tuesday on the Zee5 app. It stars top actresses Sarwat Gilani, Yasra Rizvi, Nimra Bucha and Mehr Bano as four women who start a detective agency to expose cheating husbands behind the facade of a burqa boutique.
“After watching it, even on a marginal rate, [if] they [men] become empathetic towards what a woman goes through and understands them better, I think my job is done,” London-based Asim Abbasi said in an interview with Arab News. 
Abbasi said he had titled the series Churail to subvert the meaning of a word that has long been used to label women 'negatively'. In his show, Churail is a woman who opposes oppression and is liberated emotionally, physically and sexually, he said. 
“I have put forward the issue of the status of a woman in a patriarchal society without giving moral judgement on it,” he said. “Churails is not just about how a woman should stand up for her rights but also how she is downplayed in our society through acts of child marriages, domestic violence, abusive attitude, and judgement on her physical appearances.”
“Mainstream media all over the world generally portrays a woman in a very suppressive and deprived state, who needs a man as her savior and a guiding force,” said leading lady Gilani, who plays the role of family woman Sarah who finds out her husband is cheating on her, which leads her to meeting the three other women with whom she sets up the detective agency. 
“But in Churails all these women uplifting and supporting each other in fighting their battle," she added. 
Yasra Rizvi, who portrays the role of event planner Jugnu Chaudhry, said her character was “breaking all the stereotypical portrayals of women in our media.”
Mehar Bano, who portrays Zubaida, a young girl from a poor family who wants to be a boxer, said she took boxing training to play the role. In the play, her father beats her after he learns that she wants to box. 
“At that point, the Churails squad rescued her and then inspired by their mission, she also became their part,” Bano said.
Nimra Bucha, who plays a self-determined woman from a middle class background, described her character as such: “Batool has had enough to bear from men and the society and now leads her own life on her terms and conditions.”