Will India’s lockdown in Kashmir ever end? | UpFront (Headliner)

Will India's lockdown in Kashmir ever end? | UpFront (Headliner)

Tensions in Indian-administered Kashmir remain high since the government stripped the region of its semi-autonomous status in August and placed it under lockdown. Tens of thousands of troops were sent to the region, internet and phones were cut, and a curfew imposed.

Critics have questioned whether the eight million residents of the majority-Muslim region are being denied basic human rights, and whether behind the crackdown is a Hindu-nationalist ideology steering the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Gaurav Bhatia, national spokesperson for the BJP, says there is broad support in India for the change of Kashmir’s status.

“The entire nation has applauded the historical decision taken by [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi,” he said.

According to Bhatia, restrictions placed on people are done in accordance with Indian law and are only temporary to ensure safety. “Life of a citizen definitely is far more important than the civil liberties,” he said.

Rights groups say thousands have been arrested and held in Kashmir since August, most without charge. When asked about Mehbooba Mufti, one of three detained chief ministers, Bhatia said Mufti’s arrest was due to a “highly inflammatory” statement she made that incited violence.

He said detentions like her’s are legal and are “for the greater good of the country and the state”.

Bhatia also hailed a Supreme Court ruling allowing the building of a Hindu temple on a site claimed by both Hindus and Muslims in the city of Ayodhya.

At the heart of the bitter dispute is the 16th-century Babri Mosque, which was torn down by Hindu mobs in 1992, triggering riots that killed nearly 2,000 people.

Hardliners among India’s Hindu majority believe that Lord Ram, the warrior god, was born at the site where the Babri Mosque existed.

Bhatia, who is also a senior advocate for the Supreme Court of India, said the verdict does “complete justice to all sides”.

“I think it was heartening to see that justice was also given to the members of the Muslim community and they were also provided an alternate site of five acres.”

This week’s Headliner is national spokesperson for India’s BJP government, Gaurav Bhatia.

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