NEW DELHI — On 5 August, 2019, the Narendra Modi government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s semi autonomous status guaranteed under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, demoted India’s only Muslim majority state to a Union Territory, and placed it under a months-long lockdown without any internet. Thousands including activists, lawyers and minors, were arrested. In the year that has passed since then, the Modi government has made it possible for all Indians to acquire rights to vote and buy land in J&K, initiated an exercise to redraw parliamentary and assembly constituencies that could tilt the balance of power to the Hindu-majority Jammu Division, and withdrawn an order that made it mandatory for Indian security forces to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) before acquiring land in the region. Losses to the J&K economy since 5 August are estimated at Rs 40,000 crores.
In August, 2019, Kashmiri political activist Shehla Rashid took to Twitter to allege that the Indian Army had tortured Kashmiris amid the communication blackout. At the time, Rashid told HuffPost India that with the media paralysed, she believed she did not have any other choice but to raise the grave allegation on social media. A Supreme Court lawyer filed a complaint against her over her tweets. The Delhi Police registered an FIR under which she is currently being investigated.
Rashid, who has a large online following and is a vocal critic of the Modi government, shot into the limelight when she was Vice President of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union and led the protests against the arrests of JNU students Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya in 2016. In March, 2019, Rashid joined a political party launched by a fellow Kashmiri and former IAS officer Shah Faesal who was placed under house arrest on 14 August, 2019.
In this interview, Rashid looks back at the year since the abrogation, the allegations she made and the toll it took, and what...