Video Duration 26 minutes 01 seconds
From: UpFront

Kashmir lockdown: Is India denying basic freedoms?

We challenge a BJP government spokesperson on conditions in Kashmir, and debate removal of Bolivia’s Evo Morales.

In this episode of Upfront, we ask Gaurav Bhatia, national spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whether human rights are being denied in Indian-administered Kashmir.

And in the Arena, we debate the political turmoil in Bolivia following the resignation of President Evo Morales and ask, was it a coup d’etat?

Will India’s lockdown in Kashmir ever end?

Tensions in Indian-administered Kashmir remain high since the government stripped the region of its semi-autonomous status in August and placed it under lockdown. Tens of thousands of troops were sent to the region, internet and phones were cut, and a curfew imposed.

Critics have questioned whether the eight million residents of the majority-Muslim region are being denied basic human rights, and whether behind the crackdown is a Hindu-nationalist ideology steering the governing BJP.

Gaurav Bhatia, national spokesperson for the BJP, says there is broad support in India for the change of Kashmir’s status.

“The entire nation has applauded the historical decision taken by [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi,” he said.

According to Bhatia, restrictions placed on people are done in accordance with Indian law and are only temporary to ensure safety. “Life of a citizen definitely is far more important than the civil liberties,” he said.

Rights groups say thousands have been arrested and held in Kashmir since August, most without charge. When asked about Mehbooba Mufti, one of three detained chief ministers, Bhatia said Mufti’s arrest was due to a “highly inflammatory” statement she made that incited violence.

He said detentions like her’s are legal and are “for the greater good of the country and the state”.

Bhatia also hailed a Supreme Court ruling allowing the building of a Hindu temple on a site claimed by both Hindus and Muslims in the city of Ayodhya.

At the heart of the bitter dispute is the 16th-century Babri Mosque, which was torn down by Hindu mobs in 1992, triggering riots that killed nearly 2,000 people.

Hardliners among India’s Hindu-majority believe that Lord Ram, the warrior god, was born at the site where the Babri Mosque existed.

Bhatia, who is also a Senior Advocate for the Supreme Court of India, said the verdict does “complete justice to all sides”.

“I think it was heartening to see that justice was also given to the members of the Muslim community and they were also provided an alternate site of five acres.”

This week’s headliner is national spokesperson for India’s BJP government, Gaurav Bhatia.

Is Bolivia’s Evo Morales the victim of a coup?

Evo Morales made history in Bolivia when he became the country’s first indigenous president in 2006. He was hugely popular and introduced sweeping social reforms and economic growth.

But it all ended for the 60-year-old this week when he resigned and fled to Mexico, following weeks of protests and a request from the military for him to step down.

Morales and his supporters say he was the victim of a coup. Critics say he was forced out by his own people because of a fraudulent election.

Ian Vasquez, a Latin America expert at the Cato Institute, is adamant it was not a coup.

“This is the story of an authoritarian regime that people in Bolivia got sick of, and they did what they could to get their democracy back,” Vasquez said.

Mark Weisbrot, codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research who studies Bolivia, says Morales was clearly the victim of a coup because he was a democratically-elected president who was asked to resign by the military.

At the centre of the debate is the October election. The Organization of American States (OAS), which had observers on the ground, expressed concern over irregularities, manipulation and security flaws. That includes a nearly 24-hour pause in results, ending with a surge of votes for Morales, enough to avoid a runoff election.

Weisbrot rejects the claims that the election was fraudulent. He says results from pro-Morales regions simply took longer to come in than other areas. He also casts doubt on the OAS, saying they are not neutral actors.

“I think the OAS misrepresented it deliberately because they said it three times, they never offered any evidence of that story,” said Weisbrot.

In this week’s Arena, we debate the political crisis that led Bolivia’s President Evo Morales to resign.

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