Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not being entirely truthful when he says the Indian government “has nothing to hide” as far as the unrest in Kashmir is concerned.
First, a little background: Kashmir, claimed by both India and Pakistan, has been a bone of contention between the two neighboring nations since 1947. To this day, neither country has tried to give the people of Kashmir the freedom they deserve and demand. Instead, both sides have been accused of resorting to violence in attempts to occupy the disputed territory.
In the latest bout of unrest in the conflicted region, Indian forces reportedly shot dead at least 45 people since July 9 after mass protests broke out following the killing of a popular 22-year-old rebel leader Burhan Wani, in a gunfight with the Indian army on July 8.
Here, it is important to mention that 43 of the 45 people killed were civilians — nearly 2,000 others suffered injuries. Many of those injured, included young men who sustained severe eye-wounds after being hit by pellets, small balls of iron or steel, were fired on by Indian forces. And of those with severed eye-wounds, around 100 may lose vision, according to local doctors.
Despite the fact that shots fired from pellet guns can cause serious injuries, especially if they come in contact with the eye, they are listed as non-lethal weapons. This, in turn, makes it all the more convenient for law-enforcement and armed forces to use them on their targets.
But it shouldn’t be this way because the wounds induced by pellets go beyond physical damage.
The emotional trauma and, in the case of Kashmiri protesters, financial hardships that come with the injuries most of the times have a lifelong impact on the victim.
Dr. Sudarshan K. Kumar, the leader of a team of three eye specialists sent to the city of Srinagar from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, a top Delhi hospital, told BBC the nature of the wounds being treated in Kashmir’s hospitals indicate a "war-like situation.”
And yet, Modi has not addressed the way his forces are (mis)handling protests in Kashmir.
When the opposition forces reminded the Indian PM that use of excessive force will not do any good in Kashmir, he simply replied by saying that India has “nothing to hide” over Kashmir.
Considering the damage upon Kashmiri civilians by the Indian army and police force, it certainly doesn’t come across as an appropriate answer from the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy.