Co-Written by Dr. P.S. Sahni & Shobha Aggarwal
In solidarity with the locked up Kashmiris not one, but two protests were held simultaneously from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the 10th of September, 2019.The organizers and participants of the first protest were Kashmiri students and professionals based in Delhi or outside Delhi who decided to come together at JantarMantar on the day of Muharram. Speakers explained that Imam Hussein, grandson of Prophet Muhammad was beheaded in 680 CE at the battle of Karbala; the mourning/remembrance/observance of Muharram includes deriving messages from Hussein’s sacrifice and includes story telling. Iman Hussein’s family members and companions accompanying him were killed or subjected to humiliation. Muharram being the first month of the Islamic calendar its tenth day known as Ashura symbolizes struggle against oppression.
The analogy of Muharram was used to depict the plight of entire population of Kashmir to be under oppression and facing a near death; yet struggle against oppression was to continue. In fact people of religions other than Islam also take part in and observe the Muharram activities in India.
The placards prepared by the Kashmiri students had messages addressed to people of India primarily:
- Stand up; Speak up
- We are people too
- We have mothers too; We have fathers too; We have brothers too
- You voted for fascism once, not again
- Your silence is seen as consent; Speak up for Kashmir
- Caged in our own home; Do not be complicit in crime
- I stand with Kashmir
- Ink your finger red for Kashmir
- Forced marriages are not made in heaven
- Who killed Asrar???
There was no slogan shouting at this protest. At one corner lay the ‘corpse’ of democracy covered in white sheet and a garland of marigold flowers. Some mourners sat in vigil near the ‘corpse’. The banner at the protest site had a map of Kashmir in bloody red colour; it also symbolizes their Karbala as Kashmir has been under 36 days of military seize the protesters were mourning the death of democracy at JantarMantar not as citizens but as prisoners of Kashmir. The word ‘citizens’ stands cancelled on the banner.
The Kashmiri students listed legal professionals, RTI activists and politicians who are under arrest. It was pointed out that if this protest at JantarMantar had taken place in Kashmir all the students would have been arrested. A lady doctor related her experience of how stressed people in Kashmir are and have become victims of Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression. She asked three questions:
- Why are Indians silent?
- Of what are Indians afraid?
- Can this India be really termed as a democratic country?
She said that either India is normal or Kashmir is normal. She started and ended her speech with Urdu poetry which was actually sung at the end. A student from Lucknow raised the question:
- Which narrative is one to believe in that of the Indian state or the lived experience of Kashmiris?
Another Kashmiri student said that this is a solidarity demonstration and praised the courage of the participants who had come to attend. To non-Kashmiris the message was:
- What has happened in J & K will happen to whole of India one day
- This monster – loss of Constitution and democracy in Kashmir – will come for you in India
A speaker disclosed that there were death threats to them back in Kashmir.
The Second Protest
In the second protest the participants included women’s groups – National Federation of Indian Women, Purogami Mahila Sangathan, All India Democratic Women’s Association,Pragatisheel MahilaS angathan;senior activists like Tapan Bose, documentary film maker; residents from slums, resettlement colonies & workers from industrial areas participated in the protest demonstration. Leaflets in Hindi and English were distributed by Purogami Mahila Sangathan. The protesters carried placards with messages in Hindi and English:
- Down with lockdown
- Freedom is our fundamental right
- We dare because we care
- People of Kashmir you are not alone; We are with you
- Restore democratic rights of Kashmiri women
- If there is heaven on earth it is here; it is here, it is here; now where is that heaven; where is it?
Speakers stressed the following points:
- In the name of Indians,don’t oppress Kashmiris
- We oppose the Government’s oppression in Kashmir
- Remove the telecommunications blocked for over 35 days
- The role of army should be confined to protecting the borders
- We oppose the establishment of Hindu Rashtra in India
- The statement of right wing leaders of Haryanaabout north-Indian men to now easily marryKashmiri girls is highly deplorable
- Hindu workers in Kashmir feel safe working for decades in the valley
- An appeal to all Indians to strengthen this movement in support of Kashmir
The following slogans were raised:
- Stop atrocities on Kashmiri people
- Long live our unity and solidarity with people of Kashmir
A poem was read out in support of Kashmiri people; shayari (Urdu poetry) was used in abundance by several speakers capturing their concern and expressing solidarity with the oppressed people of Kashmir.
At the end of this protest at about 2 p.m. the protesters marched in a rally towards the police barricade and shouted slogans in support of the people of Kashmir. Finally they stood in support with the Kashmiri students.
(Dr. P.S. Sahni & Shobha Aggarwal are members of PIL Watch Group. Email: [email protected])
Courtesy: Counter Current