Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that press freedom in Kashmir remains under attack while India holds a G-20 summit in Srinagar. In a statement, “CPJ calls on the Indian government to end its brutal crackdown on the media and immediately release the four arbitrarily detained Kashmiri journalists”.
It said, “CPJ has also documented foreign travel bans on Kashmiri journalists, indicating efforts by the Indian government to chill reporting on rights abuses and repression in the region.” The statement added, “Government raids on news outlets and journalists’ homes are also commonplace in Kashmir.
In November 2022, police raided the homes of at least seven Kashmiri journalists, one of whom told CPJ he believed he was targeted for his critical reporting.” Pertinently, four journalists from Kashmir Fahad Shah, Asif Sultan, Sajad Gul, and Irfan Mehraj are currently facing detention under various sections of the law. Since India revoked its special status in 2019, press freedom has deteriorated significantly, and journalists in IIOJK are continuously facing intimidation and fear. Indian govt has introduced the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA) and using these acts to silence critical journalists. India at present stands 150 out of 180 in the international press freedom ranking. IIOJK is one of the most dangerous places in the world where people associated with the press and media are performing their professional duties in the most difficult circumstances. According to the latest report by global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, India’s ranking in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index has slipped to 161 out of 180 countries.
Since 1989, twenty journalists have been confirmed killed while performing their duties during the Kashmiris’ ongoing liberation struggle. Journalists face manhandling, abductions, murder attempts, harassment, detentions, summoning to police stations,s and death threats by Indian Army, police, and other agencies. In a statement, Amnesty International India said that the arrest of Kashmiri journalist Irfan Meraaj under black law was yet another instance of the long-drawn repression of human rights and the crackdown on media freedoms and civil society in the region of Jammu and Kashmir. Aakar Patel, chair of the board at Amnesty International India said, “Indian authorities should prioritize ending impunity for the human rights violations that human rights defenders and journalists have bravely documented and exposed, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, and ensure that human rights defenders and activists can work in a safe and enabling environment without any fear of reprisals.”
The G-20 tourism meeting has commenced in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir amid high levels of security. Notably absent from the meeting are significant nations such as China and Saudi Arabia. India’s primary agenda is to portray a sense of normalcy in the occupied region, despite severe human rights violations being inflicted upon its inhabitants. The entire Occupied Kashmir has been gradually occupied by the military, and strict control has been implemented at all entry points. The people of Kashmir have been under this atmosphere of fear for the last seven decades, as free speech and movement have been restricted. The excessive security arrangements made are raising concerns regarding the necessity of such measures. Despite claims of peace, the question remains as to why such heightened security is deemed necessary.
It has been established that the living conditions in this town are unfavorable and its residents lack freedom. The Free World is currently discussing the feasibility of promoting tourism in the world’s largest prison. The question that the G20 delegates are likely to ask is why the occupying army has been in their vicinity and has controlled Kashmir for 70 years. The delegates are now convening at a location where the inhabitants have been demanding their freedom for three generations. While sitting in occupied Kashmir, which is currently the world’s largest prison, they will inquire whether tourism can help to liberate the area and allow free movement. If an answer can be provided and an opportunity is presented, the G20 delegates ought to explore such prospects.
On 23 May 1987, 72 innocent Muslims were murdered and hundreds injured in Maliana, Uttar Pradesh in the backdrop of Babri Masjid- Ram Janambhoomi dispute. Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel indulged in looting, arson and killing in Maliana. The PAC personnel opened fire on innocent and unarmed villagers of Maliana.
Many houses were looted and burned by the PAC personnel. The massacre was carried out by the PAC in collaboration with the local extremist Hindu community. According to eyewitnesses, “death was raining from all sides and no one was spared, including children and women.” In his book Hashimpura 22 May: The Forgotten Story of India’s Biggest Custodial Killing (translated from the Hindi), Vibhuti Narain Rai wrote: “In…Maliyana, a violent mob of Hindus and personnel from the PAC had mercilessly killed dozens of Muslims. The only difference was that here the victims were not under police custody, unlike those in Hashimpura.
During the 1987 riots [in Meerut], Maliyana became more infamous than Hashimpur.” Maliana massacre brought harsh and sharp criticism of the behaviour of the PAC from human rights organisations worldwide. A tribunal set up by Indian People’s Human Rights Commission criticized the role of the PAC during Meerut riots of 1987. The report of Amnesty International accused PAC for the killing of people. According to Telegraph, Gian Prakash report stated that Muslims are more prone to communal incitement due to their illiteracy and cultural backwardness. A probe committee headed by Justice G.L. Srivastava wrote: “On 29 May 1987, Uttar Pradesh government announced the suspension of the PAC commandant R.D. Tripathi, who ordered the firing in Maliana. Despite his involvement, Tripathi was never suspended. He was awarded promotions in the service till his retirement.” Meerut District Court set free all 41 men accused in the massacre.
In the judgment passed on 31 March, Additional District and Sessions judge Lakhvinder Singh Sood underlined the lack of “sufficient evidence…to convict the accused” as the reason. It has been almost 36 years since the innocent Muslims were murdered during the riots and it will remain a blot on the state and the justice system of India. It is one of the Sangh Parivar’s agenda to establish Hindu Rastra without tampering the constitution. The minorities are thwarted by the judiciary, the community over the years will feel neglected and automatically accept that they are the second class citizens which is the ultimate motto of Sangh Parivar.
Bulldozer politics and raizing of Muslim houses and place of worship, series of acquittal in Muslim lynching case, and booking minorities under stringent UAPA, NSA etc. and keep them as under trial for decades, are the part of the same game plan where state of Gujarat and UP acts as laboratory. It will soon expand after 2024 elections.
The G20 tourism meeting scheduled to be held in Kashmir has encountered opposition from some local groups and governments, and several member countries have announced their non-participation. The summit, which aims to discuss and coordinate strategies on sustainable tourism, was planned to take place in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, from June 24 to 25.
However, some Kashmiri separatist groups and politicians have called for a boycott of the G20 event, claiming that it legitimizes the Indian government’s rule over the disputed region and ignores the human rights abuses and political turmoil there. The call for boycott has led to protests and clashes in some areas.
In addition, at least four G20 members, including Canada, the United States, Australia, and South Korea, have opted out of attending the summit, citing concerns about security, travel advisories, and the current situation in Kashmir. Some observers also speculate that the recent trade tensions and diplomatic disputes among G20 countries could have influenced the decision not to participate.
The absence of these major players could weaken the impact and scope of the G20 tourism meeting, which is supposed to address issues such as climate change, cultural heritage, and innovation in the tourism industry. Some participants and organizers have expressed disappointment and frustration, while others hope that the summit can still produce meaningful outcomes and promote dialogue among different stakeholders.
Narendra Modi-led Hindutva government of India cannot hide the reality about the worsening situation in IIOJK by distorting truth and twisting facts through its propaganda machinery based on lies and deceptions. The Indian government is attempting to mislead the world by using its pliant media to publish fake reports about the so-called peace and development in the occupied territory. Modi regime is holding the G-20 event in Srinagar to try to show the world that a new era of the so-called peace and development has started in IIOJK especially after 2019 illegal scrapping of Article 370. By doing so, New Delhi also aims to divert the attention of the international community from its atrocities and ulterior motives in IIOJK.
The unilateral and illegal actions of 5th August 2019 and other tyrannical measures taken afterwards by the Indian government have added to the miseries of the Kashmiri people and further aggravated the already volatile situation in the south Asian region. Director of South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in the US, Michael Kugelman said, by holding the G-20 event, India wants to claim there is peace in the region. Kashmiri people are not against peace and development but breaking shackles of Indian slavery is their prime objective. Lasting peace and prosperity in the South Asian region is impossible till the resolution of Kashmir dispute according to the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir as enshrined in the UN resolutions.