Kashmir Cut Off
Border of Azad Kashmir And Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Photograph via
In an unsettled world, amid violent wars and imperial occupations, with all norms ruthlessly cast aside, did Kashmir really have a chance to be free? As unrest spreads, India, the vaunted “world’s largest democracy,” has imposed a total communications blackout. Kashmir is cut off from the world. With even the most conciliatory and collaborationist political leaders now under house arrest, one can only fear the worst for the rest of the region’s population.
For almost half a century, Kashmir has been ruled from Delhi with the utmost brutality. In 2009, the discovery of some 2,700 unmarked graves in three of the region’s twenty-two districts alone confirmed what had long been suspected: a decades-long history of disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Torture and rape of both women and men has been reported, but since the Indian Army is effectively above the law, its soldiers have impunity in perpetrating these atrocities and nobody can be charged with war crimes.
By way of contrast, in India’s far north-eastern state of Manipur, the local women constantly subjected to rape by Indian Army personnel reacted in 2004 with one of the most striking and memorable of public demonstrations—a group of twelve women and girls, aged from eight to eighty, stripped bare and paraded outside the local Indian Army headquarters carrying placards with the tauntingly sarcastic slogan “Come and Rape Us.” They were protesting the mutilation and execution, following her suspected gang rape, of thirty-two-year-old activist Thangjam Manorama by paramilitaries of the 17th Assam Rifles. Their Kashmiri peers, subjected to similar abuses and worse, have been too fearful to do the same.