Calgary

Calgary Kashmiris fear for loved ones as India strips troubled region's autonomy

Calgarians with ties to Kashmir say they’re worried for friends and family living in the region.

Kashmir is now in lockdown with a communications and media blackout

Syed Arshid Hussain is planning a rally this week in Calgary in support of Kashmir. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Calgarians with ties to Kashmir say they're worried for friends and family living in the region.

India's government has revoked Kashmir's special status and long-standing autonomy, leaving the region facing uncertainty with concerns over human rights and the imposition of a total communications and media blackout.

Kashmir is claimed by both India and Pakistan, which each control parts of the disputed region and have gone to war over it in the past. A small portion on the region is also controlled by China.

The Indian government just scrapped Article 370 of its constitution to make Kashmir the same as the rest of India, integrating the two and removing autonomy from Jammu and Kashmir.

Tens of thousands of troops have been deployed to the region since the government's announcement Monday and tensions are at a 70-year high. 

"The worst is that we don't know what is going on," said Syed Arshid Hussain, originally from Kashmir. 

"There is no social media, no TV, no newspaper. You cannot call anybody," he said.

Hussain is worried about an escalation in violence if people there protest the move by the Indian government. 

Thousand of people have been killed over 30 years of insurgency and violence on the Indian side of Kashmir, and there are concerns more violence could result from the revoking of Article 370.

Supporters of the Pakistani religious party Jamaat-e-Islami demonstrate to protest India's policy on Kashmir, in Lahore on Tuesday. (K.M. Chaudhry/The Associated Press)

"One of my sister-in-laws is from Jammu and her brother just left two weeks ago and she was worried about him and her family, her parents and sisters they are back home in Jammu and they have no news about them," said Hussain.

"Revoking Article 370 and 35a, they violated United Nations regulations and their own constitution."

Hussain is organizing a protest in Calgary on Thursday.

"We are asking everybody, whoever believes in democracy and human rights to come, because this is not just Kashmir this is a violation of human rights," he said.

Since the move by India's Hindu nationalist government, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan says he will fight the decision, including taking action through the UN Security Council.

Khan says India is ignoring international law. He has even expressed concerns about the possibility of ethnic cleansing by Pakistan's neighbour as it looks to alter the region's unique Muslim-dominant make-up by allowing other groups to buy land and live there.

Shiraz Mir says the move by India’s BJP government wasn’t a surprise but has still come as a shock to many. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"I wasn't surprised," said Shiraz Mir, who is from Kashmir and now calls Calgary home. "This was in their election manifesto."

"There's a lot of people, especially from the Pakistani region of Kashmir, in Calgary. It's a cause for anxiety and it makes me anxious because my family is still there," said Mir.

"I can't communicate with my family there and they can't call me.

"The way things are moving it's not looking very good. I hate to be a pessimist but..." he said, trailing off.

Thursday's protest starts at 3 p.m. at Calgary City Hall.

About the Author

Dan McGarvey

Journalist

Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist focused on filing stories remotely for CBC Calgary’s web, radio, TV and social media platforms, only using an iPhone and mobile tech. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at: dan.mcgarvey@cbc.ca or tweet him @DanMcGarvey