India has implemented blackouts today in Kashmir, in order to cut off communication amongst locals and preempt any potential demonstrations that could arise due to the recent death of Kashmiri separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The 92-year-old fought for most of his life for a Kashmir free from Indian rule (he tended toward the idea of union with Pakistan), even being put under house arrest for more than ten years. He died late Wednesday, September 1.
Even in death, the Indian government was not willing to grant Kashmiris “permission” to mourn, to the extent that not even the family was present for the burial.
The AP reports that while Kashmiris had wanted to bury Geelani according to his will, i.e. in a martyr’s cemetery in Srinagar, the authorities seized his body. Geelani’s son stated:
“‘They snatched his body and forcibly buried him. Nobody from the family was present for his burial. We tried to resist but they overpowered us and even scuffled with women.’”
Unfortunately, none of this is surprising.
The Indian government has been acting in Kashmir with brutality and impunity basically since partition (1947). An economically and strategically important area, India has had to find ways to maintain the territory despite the will of its Muslim majority. This has included the more recent action of revoking Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which gave Kashmir considerable autonomy, something that Modi’s Hindutva-embracing government could not tolerate. India has also allowed non-Kashmiris more opportunities to purchase land in Kashmir, a typical settler-colonial tactic, one that we see happening all the time in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The tactic of issuing blackouts like the one today is also a common strategy used by India in Kashmir.
While often making less noise in international news, Kashmir continues to suffer at the hands of the Indian government, which seems to see Kashmiri lands as the priority and its people as an unfortunate burden that comes with that.
- Geelani was firm in his personal support of merging with Pakistan; it has been noted that he also “advocated for Kashmiri peoples’ right to self-determination.“
- See, for example, page 14 here: https://jkccs.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/TORTURE-Indian-State%E2%80%99s-Instrument-of-Control-in-Indian-administered-Jammu-and-Kashmir.pdf ↑