Kashmiri people caged, anguished, feeling betrayed: Report

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Aug 14, 2019
New Delhi: There is widespread resentment in the Kashmir valley over the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, especially the way it was implemented, says a report released by a fact finding team.

The report has been written by economist Jean Drèze; Kavita Krishnan of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and All India Progressive Women’s Association; Maimoona Mollah from the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) and Vimal Bhai from the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) who have just returned from an extensive tour of the valley from August 9.

They said that contrary to the Government claim that all was well in the valley and people were unhappy over the new developments.

They said the national mainstream media has completely failed the people and the nation by not reporting the ground reality which tells a different story from what the government calims.

The report titled ‘Caged Kashmir’ was released at the Press Club of India, but the team was not allowed to screen a video film with the same title that they had shot in the valley, Kavita Krishnan said, ” “The press club told us we cannot use the projector. Privately we were told by them that there is surveillance here and they were under pressure. But the question is if we cannot show what’s happening in the Press Club, then where can we show it?”

Economist Jean Drèze; Kavita Krishnan of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and All India Progressive Women’s Association; Maimoona Mollah from the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) and Vimal Bhai from the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) addresssing the press conference.

The activists said the government has imposed curfew-like conditions in Kashmir. Except for some ATMs, chemists’ shops and police stations, most establishments are closed for now.

The clampdown on public life and effective imposition of curfew have also crippled economic life in Kashmir, that too at a time of the BakrEid festival that is meant for abundance and celebration.

They said people were living in fear of harassment from the government, army or police. People expressed their anger freely in informal conversation, but no-one was willing to speak on camera.

According to the report, very large number of political leaders are under house arrest – it is impossible to ascertain how many.

” We tried to meet CPIM MLA Mohd Yusuf Tarigami – but were refused entry into his home in Srinagar, where he is being under house arrest.In every village we visited, as well as in downtown Srinagar, there were very young schoolboys and teenagers who had been arbitrarily picked up by police or army/paramilitary and held in illegal detention. We met a 11-year-old boy in
Pampore who had been held in a police station between 5 August and 11 August. He had been beaten up, and he said there were boys even younger than him in custody, from nearby villages.”

The Indian media was presenting a very misleading picture by claiming that normalcy was returning in Kashmir as these claims were based on a selective reports from a small enclave in the centre of Srinagar.

”As things stand, there is no space in Kashmir for any sort of protest, however peaceful. However, mass protests are likely to erupt sooner or later,” the report said.

Except for the BJP spokesperson on Kashmir Affairs, we did not meet a single person who supported the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Article 370, they said.

”The words we heard over and over from people about the Government decisions on J&K were ‘zulm’ (oppression), ‘zyadti’ (excess/cruelty), and ‘dhokha’ (betrayal). As one man in Safakadal (downtown Srinagar) put it, “The Government has
treated us Kashmiris like slaves, taking decisions about our lives and our future while we are captive. It’s like forcing something down our throats while keeping us bound and gagged, with a gun to our heads.”

”In every lane of Srinagar city, every town, every village, that we visited, we received an extensive schooling from ordinary people, including school kids, on the history of the Kashmir dispute. They were angry and appalled at the manner in which the Indian media was whitewashing this history. Many said: “Article 370 was the contract between Kashmir’s leadership and India’s. Had that contract not been signed, Kashmir would never have acceded to India. With Article 370 gone,

India no longer has any basis for its claim over Kashmir.” One man in the Jahangir Chowk area near Lal Chowk, described Article 370 as a ‘mangalsutra’ (sacred necklace worn by married women) symbolising a contract (analogous to themarital contract) between Kashmir and India.”

The abrogation of Article 370 only discredited those “pro-India parties”, and vindicated those who argued for Kashmir’s “azaadi” (independence) from India, they felt. One man in Batamaloo said: “Jo india ke geet gate hain, apne bande hain, ve bhi band hain! (Those who sang praises of India, India’s own agents, they too are imprisoned!” A Kashmiri journalist observed, “Many people are happy about the treatment the mainstream parties are getting. These parties batted for the Indian State and are being humiliated now.”

They also felt that Article 370 was more important to India (to legitimise its claim to Kashmir) than it was to Kashmir.

The actvists demanded immediate restoration of Articles 370 and 35A, asserting that no decision about the status or future of J&K should be taken without the will of its people.

They also demanded communications – including landline telephones, mobile phones and internet be resred with immediate effect and the gags on the freedom of speech, expression and protest be lifted from J&K with immediate effect.

”The people of J&K are anguished – and they must be allowed to express their protest through media, social media, public
gatherings and other peaceful means,” the report said.

—Indian News Stream