At a recently held public meeting, intellectuals and activists opined that economic blockade of the Valley and the complicity of the Indian state in failing to protect the rights of Kashmiris, was an act of war against the people of the Valley.
“REAL DEMOCRACY in India, Includes Freedom for Kashmiris,” was the topic of a discussion at a public meeting at Rajendra Bhawan on September 9, 2008, organised by Janahastakshep, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and Dr Rajendra Prasad Academy. It was attended by intellectuals, students, human rights activists, political activists and working class leaders. The presidium consisted of Gautam Navlakha (PUDR), George Matthews (PUCL) and Pankaj Singh (Janhastakshep).
Noted columnist Prem Shankar Jha insisted that the economic blockade of the Valley and complicity of the Indian state in failing to protect the rights of Kashmiris, was an act of war against the people of the Valley. Former chief justice of Delhi High Court and former president of PUCL, Rajendra Sachar insisted that there have been repeated human rights violations in the Valley and the only solution to the Kashmir issue is allowing the Kashmiri people to handle their own affairs. Dr Aparna (secretary, Delhi Committee CPI (ML) New Democracy) held that Indian rulers have refused to uphold the commitment given by Nehru government for a referendum to settle the future of J &K.
GN Saibaba of Revolutionary Democratic Movement (RDF) talked about the historicity of the Kashmiri struggle and the need to support and respect it as a national liberation struggle away from the discourse of ’autonomy’ or ’terrorism’. Filmmaker Sanjay Kak lamented the absence of any serious consistent media coverage of the Valley and he decried the layers of censorship being imposed by those in power and by those who control the media.
Writer Arundhati Roy, spoke about the blatant genocide being committed in Valley while the government and Human Rights activists quibble about what constitutes a ’genocide’. Academician SAR Geelani spoke against the systematic disinformation campaign against Kashmir, which has been spread by the government in collusion with the media; that Kashmir is an integral part of India, which it never was, while calling the movement for ’azadi’ a separatist movement.
This meeting was held against the background of over two month-long agitation and counter agitation in Kashmir and Jammu, which brought home the Indian state’s precarious hold over J&K. In just four days from August 11 till August14, Indian security forces shot dead 32 people in Kashmir valley. The Valley saw lakhs of people coming out on the street to protest against the blockade and for their inalienable right to exercise the right of self-determination. The people of the state groaned under draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Disturbed Areas Act, Public Safety Act (PSA) etc and unarmed people were fired upon. Despite the unprecedented violence against the protesters in Kashmir, their quest for ‘azadi’ from Indian union remained non-violent.
The speakers unanimously exposed the agitation in Jammu, spearheaded by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, which conducted an essentially anti-Muslim protest while the two leading parties competed with each other in harnessing majority Hindu chauvinism. Their top leaders in Jammu participated in blockade while the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government went into a denial mode on the fact of blockade despite extensive proof of the same. The economic blockade, which severely affected life in the Valley imperiled the right to life of people in the Valley and the message conveyed was that the Indian state was unmindful of even the physical well-being of the people in Kashmir.
The speakers also held that the agreement reached between the Jammu-based agitation and the Indian government, through its governor, is an appeasement of the Hindutva forces. This appeasement was compounded by blood-letting in the Valley, resulting in death of 50 and injuring more than 2,000 persons. Moreover, repression is back in vogue and security forces are singling out local leaders in the villages with arrests, beating, booking some under PDA of J&K, Public Safety Act and filing of more than 250 cases. In contrast, as part of the agreement with the agitators in Jammu, persons charged with various violent acts have been allowed to go scot free and may in fact, as part of the deal struck, be provided with compensation. The speakers condemned the Indian state’s approach of military suppression accompanied by politics of manipulation and empty promises or through an election process, which severely lacks credibility.
The speakers stressed that erosion of Article 370 along with India and Pakistan backtracking from their commitment to refer the matter to the people of J&K has been a major reason for the irresolution of the dispute for over 61 years. They also opined that massive and peaceful outpouring on the streets of Srinagar and elsewhere in Kashmir ought to be met with meaningful political dialogue. For this dialogue to be meaningful, it ought to revolve around the right to self-determination of the people of J&K. The meeting unanimously passed a resolution holding that respecting the democratic aspirations of the people of J&K, including their right to self-determination is the only way forward.