ISLAMABAD: India has recently released a list of upcoming Group 20 (G-20) meetings it will host in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) as this year’s president of the Group in an attempt to show fake normalcy in the Valley.
“However, by other measures, little has changed. In the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, public anger with New Delhi remains rife. The region remains heavily militarized, with continuing crackdowns on the right to protest and freedom of speech,” writes Michael Kugelman, in Foreign Policy’s weekly South Asia Brief.
Kugelman is a writer and a director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington.
He said that one Kashmiri contact, who requested anonymity out of concern for their safety, said that India’s G-20 meeting in Srinagar was just an “attempt to fake normalcy.”
Press restrictions in Indian-administered Kashmir were especially draconian. The space for media has “drastically eroded” since 2019, the writer said, quoting a Kashmiri journalist. Newspapers are reduced to ‘extensions of the government’s PR department, the author said.
A source confirmed that last Thursday marked the beginning of the trial of journalist Fahad Shah, editor of the Kashmir Walla and a previous Foreign Policy contributor.
Shah was arrested on terrorism charges in February 2022 for publishing what police described as “anti-national” material and faced potential life imprisonment if convicted.
Kugelman further said that Kashmiris were also grappling with electoral uncertainty. Jammu and Kashmir hasn’t had elections since 2014.
The G-20 meeting will mark the first international event in the disputed region since August 2019, when India revoked IIOJK’s special autonomous status, he added.
The writer further opined that contrary to the facts, New Delhi also probably wanted to signal that IIOJK was stable, peaceful, and ready to engage with the world after the 2019 decision.
He further regretted the lack of the world’s focus on the serious issues in IIOJK by saying “When it does, it’s increasingly seen through a lens of opportunity.”