‘We’re worried for their lives,’ Local couple urges action to help millions

Local News

Communication cut off to Bettendorf family's relatives in Kashmir amid region-wide blackout, military presence

Escalating tension in a country thousands of miles away has some families here on edge.

This week, India’s government scrapped a 70-year-old constitutional provision to take more control over the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Tens of thousands of troops are now roaming the streets and families have been placed under house arrest.

Kashmir is already one of the world’s most volatile regions, a nuclear flash point between India and Pakistan.

Millions in Jammu and Kashmir are also facing an internet blackout and disconnected phones.

“I tried to send messages to my cousins,” explains Muddasir Ashraf.

“I’m not receiving any messages back so I don’t know how they’re doing,” he says.

He and his wife, Rifat Beig, have lived in Bettendorf for nearly a decade.

On Sunday, they lost communication with their family.

Nyla Khan is a professor who is an expert on the region.

“Basically, we have lost statehood. Our special status which was guaranteed to us by the constitution of India 70 years ago has been unilaterally revoked,” Khan says.

This week, India’s prime minister decided to turn Kashmir from an autonomous state into a controlled territory.

It’s also personal for Khan, who hasn’t been able to speak to her parents for days.

“Lack of access to hospitals, educational institutions are completely shutdown, governmental and bureaucratic institutions are completely shutdown. Life is paralyzed,” Khan explains.

Khan says people here in the United States can help by pressuring lawmakers.

“Urge them to restore rule of law, right to life, right to dignity in Jammu and Kashmir,” Khan says.

“Act upon it and stand against it because I think if you are silent, you are complicit,” Beig says.

There’s another concern besides state autonomy, experts say India’s move also opens the door to change the demographic of Kashmir, which was the only Muslim-majority state in the Hindu nation.

There have been international condemnations but India has only doubled down on its decision.

If you’d like to help, you can sign a petition here.

Many people are also changing their profile pictures on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to red in order to raise awareness on the issue.

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