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Kashmir lockdown hinders journalists from flying abroad

September 2, 2019

India-administered Kashmir has been under a strict lockdown in recent weeks after New Delhi revoked the region's special status. A Kashmiri journalist has now been prevented by authorities from flying abroad.

India-administered Kashmir in a state of lockdown
Image: Reuters/A. Abidi

India-administered Kashmir — known as Jammu and Kashmir — has been under a strict lockdown since New Delhi last month revoked its decades-old special constitutional status. The Indian government decided to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its statehood and turn it into two territories directly governed by New Delhi. 

The move touched off anger among Kashmiris. To suppress any unrest, authorities have cut all communications, imposed a curfew and deployed thousands of additional troops to a region which is already one of the most militarized in the world.

Read more: Kashmir communication blackout distorts public discourse in India

The suspension of communication services, including the internet and landline phones, has made it difficult for information to trickle out of Kashmir.

Despite the restrictions, reports suggest that people have repeatedly taken to the streets to protest against the government's decision.

Many detained

Kashmir is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, although both countries only control parts of it. The region has long been a flashpoint between New Delhi and Islamabad, and two of the three wars they have fought have been over it. Both sides also fought a limited war in 1999. 

In recent days, authorities said they have eased some restrictions on people's movement and restored some landline phone services.

Read more: Kashmir: DW reporter's first-hand account of the 'siege'

But since New Delhi announced its move last month, prominent Kashmiris, including high-profile former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have been detained by the authorities.

The government has repeatedly declined to provide a tally of how many people have been taken into custody. They said the "few preventive detentions" were made to avoid a "breach of the peace" in a region where rebels have been fighting Indian rule for decades.

No travel abroad?

Kashmiris have also been prevented from flying abroad.

On August 31, Kashmiri journalist and author Gowhar Geelani was barred by Indian immigration officials in New Delhi from traveling to Germany to take part in a media training program organized by Germany's international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW).

After checking in, Geelani said, he was stopped at the immigration desk for more than an hour before being denied permission to travel abroad. The journalist said that the authorities did not give any specific reasons for stopping him, and instead kept saying: "These days, there is a lot of trouble in relation to Kashmir."

Gowhar Geelani
Geelani said he was stopped at the immigration desk for more than an hour before being denied permission to travel abroadImage: Twitter/Gowhar Geelani

They also stressed that they were simply "following the orders" of their higher-ups.

"I am a published author, broadcast journalist, television analyst and political commentator. Last month, my book Kashmir: Rage and Reason was released by Rupa Publications. I do not understand what unknown crimes I have committed..." Geelani said.

Some Indian media outlets have falsely reported that Geelani recently re-joined DW as an editor. The media training program in Bonn is a pre-requisite to Geelani's appointment at DW's Delhi office, after which the signing of contract will follow. The journalist had previously worked for DW.

Geelani has been critical of the Indian government's recent moves in relation to Kashmir.

Geelani's was not the only case of authorities barring prominent Kashmiris from flying abroad. Last month, Kashmiri bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal was detained at New Delhi's international airport and sent back to Kashmir. Faesal has sharply criticized New Delhi's actions, telling last month that the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had "murdered" democracy.

Deutsche Welle Debarati Guha vorläufiges Kommentar App Bild
Debarati Guha Head of DW's Asia Department, focussing on politics, social structures and gender issues
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