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Kashmir: The Indian government vs. the facts on the ground

Conflicting reports from Kashmir tell two accounts of the response to India’s decision on Aug. 5 revoking a constitutional provision that granted autonomous powers to Kashmir. The Indian government and Kashmir state police officials have said the region is calm, and they have denied any unrest or protests. But video from the ground and eyewitness reports suggest a different story.

Let’s take a look.

The Facts

Jammu and Kashmir, on the border of India and Pakistan, is a long-disputed territory between the two countries. In 1947, the Indian subcontinent, previously under British rule, split into two separate and independent states — Pakistan, which has a Muslim majority, and India, which has a Hindu majority. Kashmir initially chose to remain independent, but its Hindu ruler acceded the territory to India, and it has been fought over ever since. Pakistan and India both claim control of the region.

When the state agreed to join India, Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was created, which granted Kashmir autonomy to make its own laws. The Indian government’s recent move to overturn Article 370 undoes nearly seven decades of history. It removed Kashmir’s semiautonomous status, which had also prevented nonresidents from buying property in the region. The government stripped Kashmir of its statehood, turning it into a “union territory.”

In anticipation of backlash to the decision, the Indian government shut down all forms communication in Kashmir including the Internet, cable TV and landlines. Thousands of security forces patrol the streets at checkpoints, and many high-profile political leaders in Kashmir continue to remain in detention. While India eased restrictions on landlines in Kashmir after two weeks, authorities have refused to say when Internet access and mobile services will be restored.

The Indian government has said that things remain calm in Kashmir. But video, as well as media and eyewitness reports, dispute that claim.

A point of contention arose over whether there was a large-scale protest on Aug. 9 after Friday prayers. First, the Indian government denied the protest took place at all.

Verified video from that day shows protests did occur. Fact-checkers in India geo-located the protests to the Jenab Saeb mosque in Srinagar, Kashmir. And signs referring to Article 370 verify that these protests were in response to the recent decision, not old video that had resurfaced. The Indian government ultimately walked back its claim.

Kashmir state police then denied any “firing” took place.

Video published by the BBC has audio of firing and tear gas as protesters disperse. Officials later acknowledged pellets were fired and caused injuries. Their justification was that “firing” referred to live bullets, not pellets.

Protests continued Aug. 16 and into the weekend. Protesters started writing the date on their signs to prove when the event occurred, in response to reports that protests were fake or old.

Because of the communications shutdown, photos and video from the ground are hard to come by, but The Fact Checker team searched for video to re-create what happened Aug. 9 and illustrate what is really going on in Kashmir. While the government has denied protests have taken place and continues to maintain there is peace in the region, the visuals we found show that is not the case. Watch our video above to learn more and see for yourselves.

(The video above is part of a YouTube series from the Fact Checker. To catch up on past episodes, and not miss future ones, subscribe here.)

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