In a case of an attack on media freedom in besieged Kashmir, Indian forces picked up a 26-year-old journalist, Irfan Malik, in a midnight raid on August 14. Malik, who works for a prominent local newspaper Greater Kashmir, was detained from his house in Tral town in Kashmir’s Pulwama district. The administration has not provided any information on the charges under which he was taken into custody.
The arrest comes in the background of the on-going military siege and communication blockade imposed by the Indian government last week, following the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which provided special status for the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The government also decided to bifurcate the State into two union territories, administered directly by the central government.
Since the crackdown, around 1,300 political leaders, civil rights activists, trade unionists and civilians have been detained by Indian security forces.
“He hasn’t done anything wrong”
Amid the massive crackdown and communication blackout in the valley, Malik’s family travelled to the Media Facilitation Center in Srinagar to apprise them about the arrest.
“I met him at the police station today. He (Irfan) too is not aware why he has been detained,” his mother Haseena told the Indian Express. “I appeal to the police authorities to release my son, because he hasn’t done anything wrong,” she said.
Kashmiri journalists are facing constant harassment and intimidation by Indian security forces, and their movements have been severely restricted. Due to the complete communication blockade, journalists are unable to do their duty.
According to journalists in Kashmir, they had always been working under conditions of threat and intimidation by Indian authorities but, with the current military siege, things have worsened.
Last week, the executive editor of Jammu and Kashmir-based Kashmir Times, Anuradha Bhasin, filed a petition in the Supreme Court, demanding media freedom and revocation of restrictions imposed on journalists. She also asked the court to give a direction for the restoration of communication lines in Kashmir.
“It’s like the occupation in Iraq and Palestine”
A solidarity team of political and social activists that visited Kashmir said that the situation is bad, with barbed wires and military forces all around the streets. The team was comprised of economist Jean Dreze, Vimalbhai of the National Alliance of People’s Movements, Kavita Krishnan of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and All India Progressive Women’s Association, and Maimoona Mollah of the All India Democratic Women’s Association.
“Children as young as 11 year old are being picked up by security forces and tortured,” said Jean Dreze. Kavita Krishnan said that the situation resembles that of the occupation in Palestine or Iraq.
They have demanded an immediate end to the military siege and communication lock-down, as well as restoration of Article 370 and Article 35(A).