MONITORING DESK: A 78-page citizens’ report titled ” Kashmir Civil Disobedience” seems to be the most authentic document that has emerged from within India since August 5, 2019.
The report indicates that the people in Kashmir (read as Indian Occupied Kashmir) are no longer interested in an interaction with the Indian state. Offering 17 recommendations, the report indicates that New Delhi has lost Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) forever and only subjugation is the only tool being used by India to keep IOK along with New Delhi.
The report is a work of human rights activists like Shabnam Hashmi, Anirudh Kala, Brinella D Souza, and Revati Laul.
Recommendations of Citizens’ Report
- Immediate restoration of Articles 370 and 35A and statehood.
- Restore landlines, mobile, internet, broadband services with immediate effect.
- Release all political leaders, social activists, youth, and children, withdraw all cases.
- Withdraw army and paramilitary forces.
- Remove restrictions on the movement of people
- Immediate steps to restore people’s faith in democracy.
- Government of India must work with all stakeholders to bring about peace and normalcy in the state and ensure that decisions regarding the political future of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) are made through a process of dialogue and consultation and after ascertaining the will of the people.
- Restore tourism and all other livelihood activities
- Provide mental health services in every district with immediate effect as mandated under the Mental Health Care Act, 2017.
- Digitize records – land records, hospital records, and jail records.
- Postpone block level elections until all political prisoners are released.
- Put in place confidence building and safety measures so that children and young people can go back to school and colleges without fear. Make every effort to mitigate the psycho social consequences of the conflict on children.
- Provide compensation to families of those who died because they weren’t able to access timely medical support due to the communication blockade and security clampdown.
- Undertake an assessment of the economic losses faced by orchardists, businesses, and traders due to communication and transport blockade, and provide appropriate compensation and relief.
- To look into allegations of excesses by the army and paramilitary forces, and undertake time-bound inquiries.
- Lift restrictions on movement of journalists so that there can be genuine on ground reporting. Refrain from monitoring, surveillance and intimidation of journalists.
- Judiciary should give an urgent patient hearing to the representations and restore the constitutional safeguards.
Other extracts from the report:
- “Now there is only room for either completely pro-India or pro-Pakistan people. The middle ground is gone.”
- “60% of the people in India have declared they are anti-Muslims. Had Pakistan not been there, we would have been massacred,” this man continued.
- The Indian government has spun the story that their clampdown on civil liberties in Kashmir with an increased military presence, summary arrests of all mainstream and separatist leaders and the communication blockade has made the unfolding of this new reality peaceful. But we found exactly the opposite. Kashmir is on an edge – humiliated, angry, disturbed and ‘disrobed’, as a journalist who spoke to us described it. It is an active and collective choice being exercised each day to observe a civil disobedience. In feeling rejected and betrayed by the Indian state, Kashmiris have chosen to respond back, through a largely non-violent protest.
- Firstly, it points to an internalizing of the trauma caused after the abrogation of Article 370 in a radically new way from the previous instances of state versus people. This time, there is no leader and no call to protest from anyone. So the decision to keep shops and businesses shut is one that individuals have taken across Kashmir, largely on their own.
- The people in Kashmir are no longer interested in an interaction with the Indian state. That space is now dead. From those who have been hardliners to separatists demanding a union with Pakistan or Azadi (Independence) to those siding with India – they have all reacted to the current political situation as a big, abominable trauma. The collective shock, fear of reprisal has however turned them into silent protestors. They say that this may well be the lull before the storm or the making of molten mass that is bound to erupt; but regardless of what comes next, these 60 days need to be recorded as a phenomenon in its own right.
- Finally, we have spoken to a spectrum of people from politicians (those who were not in jail), bureaucrats, homemakers, schoolteachers, traders, fruit-sellers, taxi unions, students, teachers, intellectuals, poets, writers, farmers, children, journalists, civil society workers, Pandits, Sikhs and Christians and even wedding caterers across five districts over eight days. From Srinagar to Baramulla to Anantnag to Badgam and even Jammu, all had one thing in common – every single interaction was an emotional outpouring.
- When Article 370 was struck down, the picture painted across much of the national media was that Jammu was celebrating. However, our initial research suggested that this was a completely untrue or at best a distorted picture.
- “Jammu university is hub of the RSS.” “After August 5, the RSS is organizing programmes openly within the university campus. About 20-25 professors are part of the RSS and they organize shakhas or the RSS group meetings on campus and play these out on loudspeakers. Some 4-5 professors have RSS programme posters in their rooms.”
- “The government constantly says that the abrogation of Article 370 has been done to develop Jammu and Kashmir. As compared with other states, J&K was always well developed. There are people from Bihar and other states who come here to work. Why would they if they didn’t make money? J&K is considered the Gulf for many. They should do some development in the cow-belt. And they should be candid enough to tell us that their real motive is to convert a Muslim-majority state to a Hindu majority state. Why aren’t they open about it?”
- There is often the risk with putting out the extreme end of an emotional graph in print. That it will either be distorted or used maliciously to paint an even more polarized picture than what is really out there in the firmament. So we are telling these stories as part of a long continuum of responsible storytelling where we find it imperative to show how deep the sense of hurt and anguish is in Jammu and Kashmir. And also know that sometimes, an outpouring has the effect of changing the space. In saying, in speaking out, in letting out all the unbridled emotion, the long withheld anger, it doesn’t stay where it is. At the same time, the anger is indicative of the political space and toxicity that is now in the mix, even more so after the abrogation of article 370.
- A butcher in an upmarket part of Srinagar said, “I hope Allah makes Imran Khan reach greater and greater heights, masha’llah. Let him be the harbinger of peace. We have Allah up in the heavens and Imran Khan on our side here on earth.” A senior journalist explained, “Imran Khan is the only leader right now because all the others are jailed. The abrogation of Article 370 has united various people.”
- “After 55 years, Kashmir is on the UN Security Council agenda. What have we done? We have undone everything. Trump for the 6th time is saying – resolve this. Have we achieved anything or have we gone back to 1965?” (He was referring here to the end of the Indo-Pak war of 1965 with a UN mediated ceasefire). Another journalist added that there is a difference between militancy, extremism and radicalization. Militancy came in historically on the back of a failed or rigged election in Kashmir and was sponsored by Pakistan. But in recent years, political extremism, the journalists explained is home grown.
- They said that when they heard propaganda in the mainstream media about plans afoot to construct 50,000 temples in Kashmir it put them in a state of collective shock and disbelief. “Where are our fundamental rights?” they remarked in unison.
- “Even in Hong Kong, the people are out protesting and their rights aren’t taken away. The right to assemble, the right to education, the right to information, where is all of that?”