On the 6th of January, prominent Kashmiri leaders and former ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were charged under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act. In addition, the detention of Ali Muhammad Sagar and Sartaj Madni, also senior politicians in the region, has been extended under the same act. This highly controversial piece of legislature, allows for the detention of suspects for up to two years without a trial. The move came after the six month period of house arrest, all four of whom had been subjected to, expired. The actions of the Indian government have been justified as taking preventative measures to establish and maintain the peace in the region.
Indian Prime Minister Modi responded in support of the detentions by saying “We won’t give permission to disturb the peace of any place in this country be it Kashmir or Northeast.” In the meantime, 389 people have been detained since Kashmir’s special status was revoked on the 5th of August, with more detention orders to be executed. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan maintains that such actions will ultimately lead to Kashmir’s full independence, as said in his statement addressing the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly.
As the situation currently stands, there are few prospects for both sides to reach a peaceful consensus. The central government’s approach to the issue of Kashmiri independence has been escalating in its crackdown for a decade, by issuing 47 presidential orders and restricting the regions autonomy. Indian expansionist policy reared its ugly head with the complete scrapping of article 370 that safeguarded the region’s autarky. This was followed by weeks of violent protests and a full information blackout, from which the people have yet to recover. However, unlike the way it was framed at the time, this is nothing new, with multiple states fighting over control of Kashmir, with the people themselves preferring self-rule and governance. This recent explosion of violence from both sides, merely showcases that tensions are running high and a permanent solution is of critical importance.
The PSA was first introduced in 1978 and between eight and 20,000 people have been charged and detained under it, according to Amnesty International figures, as of 2011. It has recently gained international attention, following the Indian crackdown in the region and the removal of its autonomy in August 2019. Since the aforementioned article of the constitution was revoked and the reactions subsided, hopes for independence remain high. At the same time, the central government has shown no signs of backing down, and with Indian ambition to completely take over the region being clear, the conflict is expected to be everlasting.
In conclusion, the four people that were unlawfully detained on Thursday are far from the first and will certainly not be the last. The fact that such high-profile cases are garnering next to no international attention, speaks volumes of the status quo in Kashmir, as well as the state of human rights protections in India. In consequence, the atrocities and violations are far from over, regardless of the level of control established by the government. As it currently stands, the four politicians and the hundreds of other detainees, stand little chance to be released peacefully.