Kashmir death toll reaches 66 as protests continue in August

Peaceful Assembly 

Large scale protests in Kashmir continued unabated in August after the police's deadly encounter with terrorist Burhan Wani. The state-wide curfew has entered its 42nd day and death toll of civilian casualties has reached 66. The government of India was severely criticised for the use of excessive force against protesters, prompting a delegation of Kashmiri politicians to meet with the Prime Minister to discuss the widespread unrest in the state.

In August, the caste system continued to cause social disunity across India.  Peaceful protests by the Dalit community in Gujarat spurred country-wide mobilisations in support of their calls for greater respect and recognition from society and the government of India. Triggered by atrocities and acts of vigilantism against the community, the Dalit community have started a groundswell of demonstrations to draw attention to the prejudice and intolerance the group still faces. The movement has seen the Dalit community demand justice for victims of vigilante attacks and pledges to reject the caste system. During the demonstrations, over 20 protesters attempted suicide, resulting in the death of one protester and a policeman.

A protest was also organised in Odisha, demanding compensation for the deaths of six tribal and Dalit villagers, including a two-year-old boy who was caught in the crossfire between security forces and Maoists. This is the third time that innocent bystanders have been killed by the authorities, prompting the state government to order a judicial probe whilst promising compensation to the victims.

Expression

A sedition case has been brought against  Amnesty International India for holding a conference on Kashmir that witnessed pro-freedom sloganeering by participants. The ‘Broken Families’ event was organised in Bengaluru to highlight the human rights violations in the state and was supplemented by a discussion with Kashmiri families who suffered personal setbacks and losses during years of conflict. The case against Amnesty International India was filed by  Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a nationalist student organisation closely affiliated to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Owing to the protests against Amnesty and a tirade of threats leveled by right wing groups, the human rights organisation had to close their offices in India for the safety of its employees. While Amnesty does not deny the controversial sloganeering, it has refuted any claim of engineering animosity against India, terming the allegations as unsubstantiated and politically motivated.