The Platform

Sarbal, Kashmir. (Flickr)

The curtailment of human rights in Kashmir is only getting worse.

In August 2019, India stripped the contested region of Kashmir of its special status, tightening its administrative grip and effectively muting the voices that could speak out against it. The subsequent lockdown and communication blackout didn’t merely disrupt everyday life; it heralded a troubling erosion of human rights. Journalists, activists, and political figures find themselves ensnared in a Kafkaesque legal nightmare, detained indefinitely without trial under conditions that flirt dangerously with inhumane.

Not merely content with this, authorities have resorted to disproportionate force against peaceful protesters, escalating confrontations into casualties. In this constrained environment, the act of reporting human rights violations becomes an act of defiance, almost an impossibility given the clampdown on media and civil society organizations. This grim tableau prompted a chorus of foreign and local entities to pen an open letter to the G20 leaders, decrying the situation and demanding the immediate release of political prisoners in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Enter Khurram Parvez, a human rights advocate who has spent more than two decades documenting government abuses in Kashmir. In collaboration with an array of local and international NGOs, Parvez has turned the spotlight on instances of torture, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings, and disappearances. But in the eyes of the Indian government, this work is tantamount to terrorism. Arrested under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), Parvez finds himself in a legal limbo where access to legal counsel and family becomes a luxury.

His detention, sharply criticized by global human rights organizations and UN Special Advocates, is emblematic of a broader strategy to intimidate and silence human rights champions in the region. The same net has ensnared Irfan Mehraj, a journalist affiliated with the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). Accused of “promoting a separatist agenda,” Mehraj faces the grim reality of indefinite incarceration without trial, courtesy of the UAPA’s unyielding provisions.

In 2022 alone, Indian-administered Kashmir has seen over 49 instances where the Internet was suspended—more than any other place globally. This digital strangulation complements the arbitrary revocation of passports and travel restrictions, methodically stifling the few remaining channels of free expression. As world leaders gathered for the recently concluded G20 summit in India, the Indian government appears to be weaponizing this global gathering to normalize what many describe as a military occupation.

The imperatives here are both ethical and urgent. The Indian government must cease its intimidation and release Parvez and Mehraj immediately. Further, it needs to create an environment where civil liberties aren’t the casualties of geopolitics. The international community, especially entities like the G20, must lend their voices to protect the vulnerable, ensuring that international civil society and human rights mechanisms have unobstructed access to a region under siege.

Without such measures, the story of Kashmir remains not just one of territorial contestation, but of a democracy disturbingly comfortable with muzzling its most vulnerable.

Abdul Mussawer Safi is an author at various platforms such as Modern Diplomacy, Kashmir Watch, and Eurasia Review. He is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in International Relations from National Defense University. He has a profound interest in world politics, especially in the regional dynamics of South Asia. His academic strengths are critical and SWOT analysis.