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India Takes Kashmir, But Loses Kashmiris

ON THE SUNNY, CLOUDLESS MORNING WHEN Imaad Tariq was born in Kashmir, most of his family had no idea.

Naina Bajekal

“Nobody knows that my wife delivered a baby boy,” says Tariq Ahmad Sheikh, at the hospital on Aug. 6, a day later. “We couldn’t inform family, nor is anyone able to reach here.”

In the early hours of Aug. 5, the Indian government shut down the Internet as well as landline and cell networks in Kashmir, as part of an unprecedented bid for greater control of the disputed Himalayan territory, which both Pakistan and India claim and over which they have gone to war three times. Some 7 million people in the region were left with no way to contact the outside world, as the government closed schools, banned public meetings and barricaded neighborhoods. Officials arrested more than 100 people, including political leaders, activists and former chief ministers of the state. Local reports quote police saying at least one protester died.

But few Kashmiris will know any of that. Many may not even be aware that hours after the blackout began, India’s Home Minister Amit Shah announced the state of Jammu and Kashmir would be stripped of the special status it had held since shortly after the Partition of British India in 1947. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said it would revoke two crucial articles of India’s constitution that have guaranteed Kashmiris the right to their own flag, constitution and near autonomy for seven decades. Overnight, India brought in radical changes to its only Muslim-majority state, while its population was left in the dark.

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August 19, 2019

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