How 2019 changed the Kashmir dispute forever

On a sunny afternoon in July, Ghulam Muhammad Bhat walked to the mosque in his village in Indian-administered Kashmir’s Kupwara district to seek forgiveness from his neighbours and friends.

He told them he is likely to be detained by the Indian security forces, who were rounding up all the political leaders, activists and lawyers in the disputed region in advance of New Delhi’s plans to revoke Kashmir’s special status.

It was the last time 65-year-old Bhat walked in his village. He was arrested on July 17 under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) – a law that allows detention for two years without bail – and jailed in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

Weeks later, Bhat was transferred to a jail hundreds of miles away from his home, like hundreds of other Kashmiris imprisoned after India scrapped the region’s special status on August 5.

On December 20, Bhat died inside a prison in Uttar Pradesh state’s Prayagraj city – his death capping off one of the most turbulent years in the disputed Himalayan region.

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