Press Release – Webinar on “IOK: Caught Between Curfew and Covid-19”

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Press Release

Webinar “IOK: Caught Between Curfew and Covid-19”
May 11, 2020

India Study Centre (ISC), Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad hosted a webinar titled IOK: Caught between Curfew and COVID-19on May 11, 2020.  Ambassador Arif Kamal, Dr. Amna Mahmood, Professor, Department of Politics and International Relations, International Islamic University, Islamabad and Mr. Altaf Hussain Wani, Chairman, Kashmir Institute of International Relations were the main speakers at the occasion. The webinar was attended by senior academics, researchers, media, diplomats and members of the civil society. The session was moderated by Mr. Najam Rafique, Director Research, Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad.

In his keynote address, Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Director General Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad raised four fundamental questions. What is happening? Why is it happening? Where is it heading? And, what can we do about it? Elaborating on the questions, he added that the Modi government has come down hard on the journalists as well who have covered the situation in IOK. The happenings in IOK are a reflection of the Hindutva ideology adopted by the Modi government and it is heading towards a Muslim bloodbath.

Introducing the subject of the webinar, Dr. Saif Malik, Director, India Study Centre highlighted the objective of the webinar and its significance in view of the prevailing situation in IOK. He said that instead of focusing on prevention measures to combat the pandemic, the Indian government has found this to be another opportunity to further its aim of instituting demographic changes in IOK and the new domicile law has made it abundantly clear that the BJP government has no intentions of abiding by international laws.

Mr. Asad Ullah Khan, Research Fellow at ISC, ISSI, highlighted the poor state of health infrastructure amid the COVID-19 pandemic in IOK, including communication blackout and the deteriorating socio-economic situation and its implications.

Addressing the webinar, Amb. Arif Kamal pointed out that the psychological impact of the curfew on the Kashmiri community is beyond measure. It is a loss of identity and future, and a position of a framework that sets condition for their future existence. It is the deprivation of livelihood of a whole community which for the past nine months has neither been able to work nor earn a living. They are suffering and continue to suffer with defiance that should not escape the world attention. There is no doubt left as to the Indian objectives and what they intend to do in the days to come.

Prof. Dr. Amna Mahmood in her presentation amplified that right now we are all working on awareness and enlightening the world on the miseries faced by the people of Kashmir. In this era of COVID-19, the world now knows what a lockdown means and which the Kashmiris have been facing since August 2019. Pakistan should continue supporting the just cause of Kashmir at the international diplomatic arena and shape the public opinion of the world. Pakistan should also urge OIC to continue exhibiting Muslim solidarity on Kashmir and use this forum as a wakeup call for India.

Mr. Altaf Hussain Wani articulated that there is no doubt that the pandemic is more likely to benefit the Modi government as it has successfully distracted the attention of the domestic as well as the  international media from many of its globally disliked decisions made recently. The people of Jammu and Kashmir are already facing a very stressful and repressive environment and now this pandemic has given another chance to Indian authorities to turn Kashmir into a “Ghost Town”.

Following a thorough question and answer session, Chairman BOG, ISSI, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood in his closing remarks summed up the important proposals on the subject matter and appreciated the outcomes of the webinar while projecting the political, legal and humanitarian dimensions of the crises faced by the people of IOK. He said that it is not merely a case of lockdown on IOK, but a continuum of inhuman situation of Kashmiri people that they continue to suffer due to the illegal Indian occupation. Now, through its recent actions, India is bent on stripping the Kashmiris of their identities and change the demographics of the state in its favor.