Authoritarianism & Lockdown Time in Occupied Kashmir and India

Bhan, Mona; Bose, Purnima
Date Written:  2020-07-21
Publisher:  Solidarity
Year Published:  2020
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX24106

Under the guise of crises, authoritarian governments can compress time, manipulating it in ways to render decisions that are long in the making seem like spur-of-the-moment measures taken to protect the public interest.

- Excerpt:

Since Prime Minister Modi ordered a lockdown of the entire country, the English-language press has laudably published a significant number of articles critiquing this move as an expression of his authoritarianism. These articles have emphasized his exploitation of the pandemic to further marginalize and rid the country of Muslims.

In their critiques, Indian commentators link Modi’s lockdown to the BJP’s actions in Kashmir last summer. For them, the BJP’s strategic experiments have perhaps revealed the illiberalism of India’s democracy. Many of these Indians subscribe to what we might call “liberal national time” and track the emergence of Hindu nationalism and the BJP to the 1980s.

However, the history of Hindu authoritarianism in Kashmir is much older. It dates back to 1846 when the British sold Kashmir to Hindu Dogra kings for 7.5 million dollars. In 1947 the Hindu King Hari Singh provisionally acceded the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir to India. Since then India has tried all means possible to deny Kashmiris their right to self-determination, granted to them through several United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Kashmiris realized long ago that India’s democratic experiment was from its inception a colossal failure. But the darkest phase of India’s rule in Kashmir was inaugurated on August 5, 2019, when India revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status.

The Indian COVID-19 lockdown was preceded by the longest ever known military lockdown and communications blackout in Kashmir. During this period people had no access to telephones or internet. They struggled to buy basic medical supplies and stay connected with their family and friends.

Hundreds of mainstream politicians were imprisoned and thousands of Kashmiris, often young boys, were tortured and illegally detained in prisons across India.

While India restored cellular phones and 2G internet connectivity on January 25, 2020, six months after the beginning of the clampdown, Kashmiris continue to be denied high-speed internet. This makes it difficult for medical professionals in Kashmir to tackle the pandemic.

For Kashmiris, in other words, India’s big lockdown is neither spectacular nor out of the ordinary; nor is it sudden nor immediate. This lockdown too, like the others preceding it, is experienced as a continuum that merges and fuses with previous moments of curfews and shutdowns.

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