On Aug. 4, 2019, India placed Kashmir on a lockdown. Kashmiri political leaders were put on house arrest while Indian forces barricaded neighborhoods and cut off most phone and internet connections. The lockdown began to ease on Aug. 19 with schools opening and the reconnection of phone lines. Nationalism ricocheted for both Pakistan and India when thousands of troops were deployed from India’s military to Kashmir, a region already known for being one of the most heavily militarized states in the world.
Hindustan’s partition into India and Pakistan in 1947 by British colonial rule began a life-long struggle for the Kashmiri people of the Kashmir Valley. Since the partition, tens of thousands of lives have been lost. Previously under the British, Kashmir was a princely state. As of today, the region is split between various areas controlled by both India and Pakistan, with some parts held and claimed by neighboring China.
A total of two wars fought between India and Pakistan have occurred, as well as many global conflicts concerning the border between the two. As a majority Muslim state, rebels in Kashmir have fought against the majority Hindu state, India for independence or union with Pakistan. Before the recent lockdown beginning Aug. 4, Kashmir was its own state in India with special constitutional status, called Jammu and Kashmir. Article 370 drafted by the Indian Congress allowed for Kashmir to have more legislative autonomy and prevented outsiders from buying land without long-term leases.
On Aug. 5, the Hindu Nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi voted to dismiss Article 370, which in turn removed Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood, simultaneously splitting it into two federal territories: Jammu and Kashmir with the other being Ladakh. Modi argued that this split would prevent further terrorism and separatism while allowing better economic investment in the region.
Both Pakistan and China did not respond very well to this news. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan denounced Kashmir’s changed status as illegal and has expelled its diplomatic ties with India entirely, including the Indian ambassador as well as all trade and train services. The Pakistani government is also pushing for a meeting of the UN Security Council, stating that India’s revoked status of Kashmir threatens international peace between the two and could potentially lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide. China has also denounced Kashmir’s status and has pushed alongside Pakistan for a UN Security Council to further examine the issue.
Over a month since Kashmir has been put under lockdown, civilians are still suffering. Hospitals in the region are running out of resources for sick patients and doctors are unable to work due to blackout and strict rules on transportation.
Civilians like one 13-year-old named Mohamad Rafi have been unable to receive the treatment they need. Rafi has chronic kidney illness and needs regular dialysis every fifteen days.
“We don’t provide them any medicines. They have to buy them from retail stores outside the hospital and many of them come from far-flung areas, ” said a medical staff member of the state-run hospital who chose to remain anonymous when interviewed by Al Jazeera, a Qatar-based news channel.
Rafi has been admitted to a state-run hospital in the main city of Srinagar in Kashmir and has been unable to get the dialysis procedure done, due to all pharmacies being closed under the lockdown.
Until the lockdown ends, it is uncertain when Rafi will receive the critical dialysis treatment he needs. An ambulance driver at the hospital, Abdul Rashid states that he has never seen these circumstances in the fifteen years he had worked at the hospital, saying that he is afraid a patient may lose their life as a result of the harsh restrictions India had placed on Kashmir.
“It’s terrible living in these circumstances,” Rashid said.