From The Caravan: “How Indian Surveillance Disrupts Ordinary Life and Lives in Kashmir”
On 6 November 2014, two teenagers were killed by the armed forces while they were on their way to see a Muharram procession in central Kashmir’s Budgam district. The killings, that the military later stated were a “mistake” led to a series of clashes between the armed forces and civilians in the area. Among those who were protesting, was a 22-year-old student who is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Science in Kashmir. When I met him in Srinagar in February this year, the twenty-two-year-old science student recalled finding out about the killings and spending his entire day on the streets to participate in the agitations that took place. At around midnight, exhausted but restless after the events that transpired, he called a childhood friend—a student from Kashmir who was pursuing his higher studies in New Delhi—and began an eager narration of his triumphs and tribulations from the day. However, the exchange struck him as a little odd as his friend kept disconnecting the phone repeatedly. Once his initial confusion dissipated, the student realised that his friend was trying to avoid the omnipresent third entity in the conversation. The student felt increasingly exasperated with this presence once he registered the strange beeps and echoes during the phone call. In the next call he made, he defiantly mocked and swore at the “third person,” a covert listener. The two friends laughed.
The panopticon that has been encircling Kashmir is a construction of the Indian state, which has been intensifying its mass-surveillance architecture in the region for over a decade. Although surveillance has always been a vital constituent of the ruling apparatus in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), electronic snooping underwent a marked increase from 2008 to 2010, with a surge in mass civil uprisings (more…)