By LIPR Ambassador of Peace Dr. Syed Ali Naqvi
The 2019–2021 Jammu and Kashmir lockdown was a security lockdown and communications blackout that had been imposed throughout the Indian-administered union territory of Jammu and Kashmir following the revocation of Article 370 which lasted until February 2021, with the goal of pre-emptively curbing unrest, violence and protests. Thousands of civilians, mostly young men, had and have been detained in the crackdown. The Indian government had stated that the tough lockdown measures and substantially increased deployment of security forces had been aimed at curbing terrorism.
The revocation and subsequent lockdown drew condemnation from several countries, especially Pakistan, which had lodged protests with India on multiple occasions.
On 5 February 2021, Jammu and Kashmir’s Principal Secretary of Power and Information, Rohit Kansal, announced that 4G internet services would be restored in the entire union territory. Subsequently, the ban of 4G and 3G services ended.
United States – Alice Wells, the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, said in a statement that the U.S. hoped “to see rapid action – the lifting of the restrictions and the release of those who have been detained”. She added that the U.S. was “concerned by widespread detentions, including those of politicians and business leaders, and the restrictions on the residents of Jammu and Kashmir”. U.S. lawmakers Ilhan Omar Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have also called for an end to the communications blockade. President Donald Trump volunteered to serve as a mediator for the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, but only if both countries accepted his offer.
Pakistan – Pakistan reacted with extreme alarm to the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and subsequent lockdown, in what it viewed as the unilateral annexation of an internationally disputed region, and a further example of “Indian aggression” in what it considered to be “illegally occupied Pakistani territory”. Pakistani officials said that the country would “downgrade” diplomatic ties with India, dismiss the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, and halt bilateral trade with New Delhi. Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, warned that the lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the presence of close to 1,000,000 Indian troops there was laying the groundwork for the alteration of Kashmir’s Muslim-majority demographic via genocide. The Indian government’s actions were met with outrage by the Pakistani people, who held nationwide protests against the “illegal Indian military occupation” and in solidarity with the Kashmiri people, with the Government of Pakistan subsequently designating 5 August to be observed as the Youm-e-Istehsal (transl. ’Day of Exploitation’) annually.
China – China said it was very troubled about the unfolding state of affairs in the newly-organized Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Chinese politician Hua Chunying urged both countries to show restraint and act sensibly. She stated that India and Pakistan should abstain from further escalatory measures that could radically alter the existing state of affairs in the region. She called on both countries to settle the dispute through dialogue in order to preserve peace and stability in the war-torn region.
Turkey – President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the abolition of Kashmir’s Autonomy has worsened the everyday situation for Kashmiris. He also stated that the issue of Kashmir is as important to Turkey as it is to Pakistan, openly supporting the latter’s position on the dispute with India over Kashmir.
United Arab Emirates – the UAE ambassador to India, Dr. Al Banna said that his country had acknowledged the latest events in Jammu and Kashmir. He stated that this restructuring was not an unprecedented occurrence in the history of India and that the decision was intended to decrease regional inequality and enhance operational efficiency for the Indian government. He labelled India’s latest decision in Jammu and Kashmir to be its internal issue.
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation – OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen reaffirmed the OIC’s pledge to peacefully settling the Kashmir issue. At the same time, he asked the international community to increase its efforts to aid the Kashmiri people in their struggle for human rights and peace. The organization called on the United Nations to pressure India to abide by all relevant UN resolutions and encouraged India to employ dialogue with Pakistan to calm the tensions. Lastly, the organization requested India to rollback on security raids, honour human rights, abstain from altering the Muslim-majority demographics of Kashmir and settle the conflict with the help of the United Nations.
Amnesty International – The NGO for human rights started an online petition titled Let Kashmir Speak, which demanded a lifting of “the blackout of communications in Jammu and Kashmir” while “letting the voices of the people of Kashmir be heard” and allowing “unconditional and unconstrained access to news and information from the valley”.
United Nations – The United Nations’ special rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, said in a statement that “there’s something about this shutdown that is draconian in a way other shut downs usually are not”. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres raised concern over the new limitations placed on Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, adding that the latest events “could exacerbate the human rights situation in the region.” He urged Pakistan and India to exercise restraint with each other and to engage in bilateral dialogue to de-escalate the already-sensitive situation.
Iran – The Iranian government expressed concern over the situation in Kashmir following the lockdown, urging both India and Pakistan to engage in dialogue as regional partners and resolve the situation peacefully rather than through military force. On 21 August 2019, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted: “We have good relations with India, but we expect the Indian government to adopt a just policy towards the noble people of Kashmir and prevent the oppression & bullying of Muslims in this region.”