Image source: Kashmir Media Service
by Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai 1 April 2023
The Modi government’s oppressive policies in the Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) have sparked growing outrage from human rights organizations worldwide. The government’s tactics have been aimed at quashing basic civil liberties, including freedom of expression and the press. This has resulted in a systematic campaign of intimidation and harassment against journalists, who have been threatened with arrest, detention, and other forms of punishment for reporting on the situation in the region.
Perhaps the most alarming manifestation of the Modi government’s repressive tactics in IIOJK is its brazen assault on press freedom. The government has gone to great lengths to silence independent media outlets and pressure them into becoming mouthpieces for the government. As a result, the people of the region are left in the dark about the true nature of the situation, and a critical source of information is systematically suppressed.
The suppression of media freedom in IIOJK is part of a broader pattern of repression in India, where the Modi government has been using strong-arm tactics to ensure favorable coverage. The government’s Hindu-chauvinist movement has put severe pressure on India’s press, with journalists surveilled and jailed. The New York Times has warned that the rest of India may end up looking a lot like Kashmir if this trend continues.
But media suppression is just one aspect of the Modi government’s repressive strategy in IIOJK. The government has also resorted to arming villagers in an attempt to maintain control in a region where security forces have been largely ineffective. This approach has raised concerns that the government is encouraging civil war in the region, rather than addressing the underlying issues driving conflict.
Moreover, the Modi government has revived civil militias in the region, raising fears that this will only exacerbate the already precarious security situation in IIOJK. These militias are typically comprised of civilians who are given weapons and tasked with maintaining order in their communities. However, the use of militias is often associated with human rights abuses, and there is little evidence to suggest that this approach will be effective in restoring peace to the region.
Another troubling aspect of the Modi government’s approach to IIOJK is its settler-colonial policy. Bulldozers are being used to demolish homes and properties in the region, displacing residents and erasing their cultural heritage. This policy is seen by many as an attempt to change the demographic makeup of the region and erase Kashmiri identity.
The Indian government’s repressive tactics in IIOJK are not limited to media suppression, arming villagers, reviving militias, and settler-colonial policies. The government has also been using the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to crack down on dissent in the region. The NIA has been accused of harassing and arresting activists, journalists, and intellectuals, with little evidence of wrongdoing.
The Modi government’s suppressive media and repressive strategy in IIOJK have also resulted in the revival of civil militias in the region. The deployment of armed villagers has raised serious concerns among human rights groups, who have called for an immediate end to the practice. It is feared that arming civilians will lead to increased violence and further militarization of the region.
Furthermore, Indian bulldozers are now carrying out settler-colonial policy in Kashmir, which is causing immense harm to the local population. Reports suggest that the Indian government is implementing a plan to change the demography of Kashmir by settling outsiders in the region. This policy has been met with widespread protests, as it threatens to uproot the local population and erase their identity.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has also geared up its repressive activities in IIOJK. The agency has been targeting political leaders, journalists, and human rights activists in the region, using draconian laws to stifle dissent. The NIA has been accused of fabricating evidence and subjecting detainees to torture and ill-treatment.
The Modi government’s final assault on India’s press freedom has also begun, with Kashmiri journalists and analysts criticizing Modi’s role against Indian media and its freedom of expression. They have termed Modi’s repressive media policies as a deterioration for Kashmiri journalism. An article in the New York Times has highlighted that the Modi regime is intimidating media to serve as government mouthpieces, creating an information vacuum in the region of 13 million people.
The Indian government is replicating this disturbing model on a national scale, and its Hindu-chauvinist movement has already put severe pressure on India’s press, with journalists surveilled and jailed. The Indian repressive government is using strong-arm tactics against media outlets to ensure favorable coverage. The New York Times has said that the rest of India may end up looking a lot like Kashmir.
Overall, the situation in IIOJK is bleak, and the Modi government’s approach is doing little to alleviate the crisis. Journalists in Kashmir are working under a cloud of fear, and the suppression of media freedom is not just a local issue but a global one, with implications for the future of democracy and human rights around the world.
If the Indian government succeeds in introducing the Kashmir model of information control to the rest of the country, Indian democracy itself will be at risk. As such, it is essential that the international community speaks out against the Modi government’s repressive policies in IIOJK and calls for an end to the suppression of media freedom and civil liberties in the region.
Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai is the author of The Troubled triangle: US-Pakistan Relations under the Taliban’s Shadow.