India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) revealed on Wednesday that it raided up to 10 locations in Indian occupied Kashmir, including offices and residences of journalists and activists. In a statement the Agency claimed to have searched the premises of Agence France-Presse’s Kashmir correspondent Parvaiz Bhukair, as well as the offices of rights activists Khurram Parvez and Parveena Ahanger. It also raided the office of the regions leading daily publication, Greater Kashmir, and seized “several incriminating documents and electronic devices.” This raises concerns about the Indian government’s crackdown on free press in the illegally occupied region.
The NIA claimed to be investigating “non-profit groups and charitable trusts” that were collecting funds to carry out “secessionist and separatist activities” in the disputed territory. According to reports, devices like telephones and laptops were confiscated from the journalists and activists. Khurram Parvez’s organization, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, has been actively reporting on police brutality by Indian troop in the occupied territory.
Mehbooba Mufti, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, commented on the incident in a tweet and termed it “another example of the Government of India’s vicious crackdown of freedom of expression and dissent.” Mufti was one of the major political leaders of the region who was detained by Indian authorities following the dissolution of occupied Kashmir’s autonomous special status in August 2019. She was released from house arrest last month.
These extensive raids by the NIA came a day after India introduced a new law to allow Kashmiri non-residents to buy property in the region. This is widely seen as a move to change the Muslim-majority demographic of the region to assimilate it within a Hindu state imagined by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s government.
The Indian government, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, has recently been increasing curbs on press freedom and public dissent within Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir. A period of increased repression on the Kashmiri people and Indian Muslims has been experienced since 5th August 2019, when Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian Constitution were abrogated. Since then, the region has been under heavily militarized siege.
27th October 2020 marked 73 years of Indian illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir, and the day was observed in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir as “Black day.” The recent land laws introduced in occupied Kashmir was also condemned by the Pakistan Foreign Office as “yet another clear violation of the UN Security Council resolutions, bilateral agreements between Pakistan and India, and international law.”