Sep
13
What’s really going on in Kashmir? | The Fact Checker


-This video has been shared
widely across social media, appearing to show
chaotic crowds of protestors and general unrest
in Kashmir. It was filmed after India
revoked a constitutional provision
that granted autonomous powers to the state of Kashmir
on August 5th. While Indian Prime
Minister Narendra Modi has called the decision
a new dawn for residents in the area, many people across
those regions feel differently. The Indian government and
Kashmir state police officials have said the region is calm
and returning to normal. -The valley has remained largely
peaceful over the last one week. -But video and eyewitness
accounts suggest a different story. In order to understand
what’s happening in Kashmir, you have to understand
the history of the long-disputed territory. 72 years ago,
the Indian subcontinent, which was previously
under British rule, split into two separate,
independent states — Pakistan, which has
a Muslim majority, and India,
which has a Hindu majority. Jammu and Kashmir, which is on
the border of India and Pakistan initially chose
to remain independent. But the Hindu prince
who ruled the region later acceded to India. That move led to Article 370
of the Indian Constitution, which granted a special status
of autonomy to the state. And the Indian government’s
decision to overturn it undoes nearly seven decades
of history. It removed Kashmir’s
semi-autonomous status, which gave it the power
to make its own laws and prevented nonresidents from
buying property in the region. The government also stripped
Kashmir of its statehood, turning it into a, quote,
“union territory.” Both Pakistan and India still
claim control of the region. -So it has been
a big flash point between the two
nuclear-armed neighbors, which have been rivals
for the past 70 years. -Kashmir is a Muslim-majority
state in India, and it’s still a touch point in
the predominantly-Hindu country. Modi leads the Hindu
nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party,
or the BJP, which won a landslide election
during which Modi campaigned on the promise
of revoking Article 370. -The actual implementation
came as a surprise to everyone in the country,
especially to Kashmir, ’cause there was no sort of
preceding dialogue or notice given to it. It happened all of a sudden. -In anticipation of the backlash
to the decision, the Indian government shut down all forms of communication
in Kashmir, including the Internet,
cable TV, and landlines. Thousands of security forces patrolled the streets
at checkpoints, public meetings of more
than four people are banned, and schools and colleges
remain closed. Many high-profile political
leaders in Kashmir continue to be held
under detention. -But there have been
sporadic protests in the valley, but the government has tried
to ensure that no large-scale protests or incidents
of violence get reported. -Misinformation, including
old video, has been widely shared
during the aftermath of the announcement
to revoke Article 370. However, the argument of old
or fake footage has also been used
to decry real protests as fake. -So what we found
when we traveled there was there was a sense
of anger and resentment against India’s decision
and the way it was implemented. And I think that’s a crucial
point, as well, that people felt cheated
and betrayed that India, after making promises
for all these years, has suddenly sort
of unilaterally decided to revoke something without even
consultation with the people. A section of the Indian
National Press and, of course,
the government has tried to sort of push back on this and say that there are also
people that are happy and, you know,
things are easing out. But I think what we found
there was definitely — that was not the case. -The Indian government
has continued to change its story
regarding a protest that occurred in Kashmir
on August 9th. First, they denied a large-scale
protest took place in Srinagar. Here’s what video
from the day shows. Fact checkers in India
geolocated the protests at this mosque in Srinagar. Signs referring to Article 370
verify these protests were in response
to the recent decision and not old video
that had resurfaced. The Indian government
walked back its statement and acknowledged the unrest. But Kashmir state police
official denied any, quote, “firing” took place. Video published by the BBC
has audio of firing and tear gas
as protesters disperse. Officials later acknowledged
pellets were fired and caused injuries. Their justification
was that firing referred to live bullets,
not pellets. More protests erupted on August
16th after Friday prayers and continued
into the following weekend. In response to allegations
that the protests were fake or using old footage, protesters started
writing the date on their signs to prove that these protests
were, in fact, happening. Photos and videos from
the ground are hard to come by, given the harsh crackdown
on communication channels. While India eased restrictions
on landlines in Kashmir after two weeks,
authorities have refused to say when Internet access and mobile
services will be restored. The existing visual evidence
points to irrefutable proof of discontent over the move
to revoke Article 370, a reality the Indian government
has tried to deny.