The surge in Indian atrocities in Kashmir has been compounded by the lock down, communication blockade and coronavirus pandemic. The weak and insufficient Indian health system, lack of government’s will and anti-Muslim sentiments of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have created a dangerous environment for a medical catastrophe in Kashmir. The international community must take notice of the sufferings of the population of Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJK).
With the spread of COVID-19 IOJK, the fear of disease has seeped in the community. Health community is asking for mass testing in order to identify asymptomatic cases to save the region from any catastrophe as the infected cases are surging with each passing day. “So far less than 5% of people tested for the infection, according to medical experts”. Official data mentions that “60,000 people have been kept under observation and in quarantine. But only 2,100 tests have been conducted, in which 184 people have tested positive, in the region home to around 8 million people”. While talking to Anadolu Agency, health workers battling the pandemic said “there has been a constant increase in the number of people kept under observation. But the number of actual testing is very low”.
The President of the Doctors Association of Kashmir, Suhail Naik complains that “while government and private healthcare facilities are working together elsewhere in India, no such system is in place in the region”. He said that “private labs in the region are required to send samples collected from the human body to the central laboratory in the Indian capital New Delhi, which is impossible due to the absence of transportation. Currently, just four government-owned laboratories are operating for testing samples related to COVID-19”. “A few dozens of tests are taking place right now per day which will not help. We need more laboratories, machines and testing kits. It is just testing, testing and testing, that will save people,” said Dr. Naik.
Experts are worried because the cases of COVID-19 in the Valley are increasing, even in those who does not have a travel history. Dr. Nisar-ul-Hassan, a professor of medicine at Srinagar-based government medical college said “it was imperative to go for rapid mass testing, as there are enough indicators that the virus has arrived in the community”. “If at this point, we do not take healthcare measures be it fast testing, mass sampling and segregation of infected people- it will bring a disaster for the region,” he said.
Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) President Sardar Masood Khan termed the current situation in IOJK ‘a twin lockdown on Kashmiris’. Making the situation worse, Indian soldiers are not quenching Kashmiris dissent under the cover of COIVD. “Under the cover of Covid-19, Indian soldiers hunt down young boys and kill them in fake encounters. Posthumously, they are dubbed as militants supported by Pakistan. They do not release their bodies to families for fear of large funerals and instead bury them in unmarked graves,” he said. Moreover, India has surged use of heavy weaponry to divert attention from its atrocities in IOJK. Only this year, India has violated the ceasefire more than 850 times.
It has been since ages that Kashmiris are suffering under India inhumane lockdown. Though international opinion leaders and decision-makers has been reached out by Kashmiris as well as Pakistan, but it does not have any effects on Indian actions. With the arrival of COVID in the Valley, India has gotten the opportunity to remove IOJK from global attentions. In this regards, international community together with corporate leaders, entrepreneurs and investors should boycott against India, until human rights abuses do not stop against Muslims in IOJK as well as with India.
It is likely that the space for Kashmiris will further shrink in post-coronavirus as the “world will be volatile where powerful nations will be pitted against one another and there would be a sharp rise in ethnic and religious nationalism and Islamophobia, trade wars, and stiff competition on new technologies,” President Masood said. However, the People of IOJK are not going to capitulate their freedom struggle until they attain their promised self-determination. With increasing Indian atrocities, anxiety and frustration is increasing in IOJK that will result in huge catastrophe in the near future, if not taken seriously.