Behind the scenes of the G20 meeting in Kashmir

By: Altaf Hussain Wani

As the date for G20’s working group meeting scheduled in Srinagar draws nearer, security in the Kashmir valley has been further beefed up. Alongside the enhancement of the intelligence grid and “invisible policing” for the G-20 meeting, New Delhi has rushed additional troops to Kashmir. Specialized forces and anti-drone technology from New Delhi have also been deployed in Srinagar and other tourist places where G20 delegates will visit.

Local administration under the direct supervision of lt. Governor Sinha has been hectically engaged to give the city a new look that may please the eyes of foreign dignitaries coming to attend the upcoming summit events. Rapid renovation and repair work on dilapidated roads has been going on for the past several months. Lamp posts on the roads leading to the conference hall have been illuminated in the green, white, and orange of the Indian national flag and billboards featuring India’s G-20 Lotus logo.

The capital city (Srinagar), which until yesterday presented the image of a desolate and devastated city, has got a glittering facelift, under a smart city project. Hundreds of military bunkers dotting the city’s main thoroughfare right from the Airport to Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) along the banks of Dal-lake, on which a cavalcade of foreign dignitaries are expected to pass, have been renovated/decorated with a view to hide the ground reality that belies the Indian government’s claim that everything is hunky dory in Kashmir.

While the cosmetic beautification campaign in Srinagar and other places goes under the full glare of the media, what is really happening behind the scenes in Kashmir is something that must be a cause of serious concern for all, especially the G-20 nations who have an enviable track record of being uncompromising custodians and promoters of human rights.

Since the Indian government started preparations for a forthcoming G20 meeting, disturbing reports of human rights violations continue to pour in from Northern and Southern parts of the valley and Muslim-majority areas adjacent to LoC (Line of Control), where the Indian army and its paramilitary forces have been conducting frequent raids and search operations. Innocent civilians, mostly young boys, are being abducted and shifted to unknown locations. People are being harassed, humiliated, and tortured during nocturnal raids, search operations and frisking being carried out, day in and day out.

Prisons and torture centers in Kashmir are full of innocent victims who have been  arrested by the Indian occupation forces since preparations for holding the G-20 event began in the territory. People are being summoned to police stations, where they are being manhandled, harassed, and humiliated.

A large number of people have been detained over the past couple of weeks from different areas. Of those, 600 have been arrested by the occupation forces during night raids in south Kashmir whereas 394 and 960 civilians have been picked up from different areas of Central & North Kashmir.

While on the other hand, a massive crackdown campaign against pro-freedom leaders and activists, social media users, and civil society members has been launched to ensure graveyard silence in the territory. The top social and political female leaders, Ms. Yasmeen Raja and Zumrdha Habib were called for questioning by NIA and then detained.

More checkpoints have been erected along the Srinagar-Jammu highway, vehicles are being checked and all movements are being monitored. Shopkeepers are being threatened of dire consequences if they do not keep their shops open on the occasion of the G20 conference. Sadly, these heart-wrenching reports received no coverage in India’s national media, which has become the mouthpiece of the BJP government.

As the region seethes in rage and anger, India’s apartheid regime has been remorselessly engaged in its attempts to dupe the world with fake normalcy. But despite India’s attempts to fake normalcy, the presence of over a million military and paramilitary personnel deployed in the length and breadth of the valley, lanes, and by-lanes of the caged city -Srinagar- dotted with military installations says it all and above all the huge bunkers with long barrels of automatic machine guns jetting out of them serve as an eerie remainder of the deadly conflict (Kashmir) that has consumed Kashmir’s three generations.

This is something the government of India (GoI) cannot hide. The GoI may delude itself or its own people, but what they need to realize is that in this age of social media, it cannot hide anything from the world.

The global community is aware of how the Indian state has cunningly been using its military might to crush the legitimate political voices in Kashmir. The world knows how India uses falsehood as a tool and the cover of “democracy” to pursue its objectives. The world is cognizant of the fact that how the Hindu nationalist regime led by Modi normalized bloodshed, violence, and violent suppression of democratic dissent in Kashmir.

The UN special rapporteur on minority issues , Mr. Fernand de Varennes’s recent statement on Kashmir is one such example that shows that India can no longer hoodwink the international community through its policy of deceit and deception.

Pertinently, the UN expert in his detailed statement issued to the press on 15th May, voiced grave concern over India’s decision to hold the G20 meeting in Srinagar and its implications on the human rights situation in the region. The UN expert rightly pointed out that holding a G20 meeting in Srinagar while massive human rights violations are ongoing is tantamount to lending support to attempts by India to normalize the brutal and repressive denial of democratic and other rights of Kashmiri Muslims and minorities.

The timely statement by the UN expert must serve as an eye-opener for the world, particularly the G-20 nations who have been invited by New Delhi to attend the event in a territory that it had occupied illegally against the will of the Kashmiri people.

It is quite encouraging that along with China, Turkey, a strong proponent of Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, has decided to skip the tourism working group meeting to be held in Srinagar next week. There are reports suggesting that other members of the group will maintain low-level participation in the event, being touted as a great achievement by India. Nonetheless, it is heartening that there are still people who have the conscience and the ability to see through the deception. What Indians need to realize is that they cannot deceive the world by something that is false and misleading.

It is imperative that the G20 countries must follow suit and foil India’s nefarious designs of using the highest forum to achieve its political objectives, thereby skipping the events taking place in the region. The member countries of the group having economic interests associated with India may perhaps not feel comfortable openly confronting India and its belligerent policy on Kashmir. However, there are subtle ways of showing resentment against India’s contentious move, which is largely seen as an attempt to legitimize its illegal occupation, lending support to its attempts to normalize the brutal & repressive denial of the Kashmiris’ democratic and political rights.

Staying silent on the issue would be tantamount to undermining the credibility of the UN and UN Security Council which have passed dozens of resolutions, which stand testimony to the fact that Kashmir, an international dispute pending on the UN agenda, is one of the outstanding issues awaiting final settlement.

It is, therefore, imperative that the G20 nations should come clear on the issue, pay heed to the clarion calls emanating from within and outside Kashmir, uphold the international human rights obligations, take a unified stand on the Kashmir dispute, denounce the human rights violations being committed by the Indian troops in the region and play their due role to the long-running dispute peacefully in accordance with the UNSC resolutions.

The writer is the Chairman Kashmir Institute of International Relations and vice chairman of Jammu Kashmir National Front and can be reached at;

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