April 2nd 2020
Increased impact of COVID19 because of the communications ban, lack of supplies, and overcrowded prisons.
ICU Beds in Kashmir Valley: 85
Doctor to Resident ratio 1:3886, WHO recommended ratio 1:1000
Ventilators in J&K: 180
The conditions of social and political repression imperil populations not only by depriving them of rights, but now by exposing them to a deadly disease. This is the case in Jammu & Kashmir where the Indian government's campaign to subjugate Kashmiris threatens to exponentially expand the destructive potential of COVID-19.
As we have learned in the first months of the global Corona Virus crisis, transparency and communication are key to getting the epidemic under control. Civilians need to access reliable information via the internet, seek telemedical services over the phone and the internet and communicate with one another regarding symptoms and treatment. All of these steps are impossible in J&K, where a continued blockade against 4G internet makes accessing videos or pursuing a teleconsultation with a doctor impossible. As Kashmiri journalist Majid Hyderi told Reporters Without Borders: ‘’(we) cannot even watch WHO video clips on coronavirus awareness.”
At the same time, political prisoners including children languish in overcrowded prisons where the disease will spread like wildfire. Many detainees have been in detention for over six months as a result of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, under which an individual can be detained and held for 2 years without trial. Reports indicate that those Kashmiris in detention were not receiving adequate medical attention even before the COVID-19 crisis. Prisons are major vectors for the spread of the disease, and even explicitly authoritarian governments like the regime in Iran have released political prisoners to help stem COVID-19's spread.
Finally, there are major shortfalls of medical expertise and equipment inside J&K. The World Health Organization recommends that any territory have about 1 doctor per thousand residents. In J&K, the ratio is 1 to 3,886. As both cases and deaths rise inside Kashmir, doctors, health officials and supplies will be desperately needed.
The situation in J&K was perilous for everyday Kashmiris before the world heard of Coronavirus. Now, the political crisis in Kashmir threatens to exponentially worsen a public health catastrophe in its early stages. The sooner India acts, returning 4G internet, releasing detainees and moving doctors into the region, the sooner Kashmir can flatten its own infection curve and avoid a deeper disaster.