Civil Society’s Call to end Repression in Kashmir: 172 Individuals and 14 Organisations speak up for the Cause

Condemning the state’s role in the pandemonium created in Kashmir post the killing of Hizbul Mujahidin commander Burhan Wani, several activists, academicians, journalists and filmmakers call for an end to the violence in the Valley.

Kashmir Crisis

In a statement endorsed by 172 individuals and 14 organisations, attention has been called to the several issues including the gagging of media, mangling use of pellet guns, intense militarisation, draconian laws like Public safety Act (PSA) and illegal detentions – intending to muzzle the human rights voices from the valley.

This comes against the backdrop of the longest curfew imposed by the government in the valley, which has resulted in the unrest, claiming 100 lives and injuring thousands.

The statement puts forth several demands in order to put an end to the crisis,  including unfettered access to United Nations Human Rights Commission, revoking of media bans and draconian laws, demilitarisation of Kashmir and exploring possible solutions like complete autonomy or plebiscite.  

The statement has been endorsed by Anand Patwardhan, Medha Patkar, Meena Kandaswamy, Harsh Mander, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Admiral Ramdas, Zakia Soman, Anand Teltumbde, Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand among others.
Following is the full text of the statement.

We, the undersigned, are dismayed over the ongoing crisis in Kashmir. We have watched in horror and shock the repetitive cycle of state aggression leading to violence, deteriorating state of civil liberties, violation of fundamental rights and ever escalating loss of human life and dignity in Kashmir. In the last 80 days the death toll has reached 82 (as on September 19, 2016), more than 10000 civilians have been injured, thousands arrested as on September 6, 2016. Heavy use of pellet guns as ‘non-lethal’ weapons to control and silence the protests has left hundreds severely injured and blinded.
The immediate response of the Indian state to the recent uprising in Kashmir was the imposition of curfew, which is continuing till date. A media gag where newspaper offices were raided, copies confiscated and editors threatened with dire consequences, accompanied it. Journalists reporting the situation have been intimidated and threatened with violence by those supposedly responsible for protecting them. Most recently the government banned the publication of Kashmir Reader, a daily newspaper published from Srinagar.
Pursuant to this, a complete communication blockade was imposed and Internet services were cut down. Even voices outside Kashmir that spoke of the ongoing failure of state were targeted on social media, their posts deleted and accounts blocked. The means of communication and information flow from and into Kashmir are severely disrupted. Accompanying the communication blockade is an economic blockade in which the supply of food, medicines and other basic necessities are also being obstructed, standing crops being burnt and orchards damaged.
It is unconscionable on the part of the Indian state to thus exacerbate the situation by choking the lifeline of people in Kashmir.
As the pillars of a modern democracy are wrecked with the media gag, the abuse of the impunity accorded to the law enforcement agencies is bound to escalate. There have been instances of harassment, abuse and baseless arrests of Kashmiris working and studying, not only in Kashmir but also in different parts of India, for having voiced their political views.
A blockade on the channels of non-violent protest by the arrests of human rights defenders, legal activists and even volunteers supplying aid in hospitals on baseless grounds has resulted in the creation of spaces for violent protests. The wanton use of force along with the lack of accountability has contributed immensely to the crisis prevailing in Kashmir.
Laws such as Public Safety Act (PSA), Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), Disturbed Areas Act (DAA) etc., are draconian and are not conducive to contributing to a solution. Irrespective of what the situation is, whether we agree with what the Kashmiris are demanding or not, there is no law in India which allows the Indian armed forces to use their position to ransack people’s houses, decimate their food grains, crops and livestock. Intense militarization of the valley has left deep scars on the social, economic and psychological well being of every life in Kashmir.
It is disturbing to witness the Indian media pumping up jingoistic fervor in the minds of people in India. The propagation and glorification of state aggression and war mongering by the government, media and almost every political party has led to a lethal form of pro-state fanaticism. The success of the state machinery in realizing this propaganda also highlights the failure of the Indian civil society.
We therefore call on all readers and human rights organisations to unequivocally condemn the siege of Kashmir.
The situation in India is increasingly becoming claustrophobic, making it difficult to have any political discussion on Kashmir. Voicing any opinion divergent from the popular ‘pro-state’ narrative is now a cause for slapping charges of sedition. In such an environment even a peaceful non-violent discussion to understand the nature of problems that Kashmir faces becomes impossible. Without such understanding any solution proposed would only be a repetition of the cycles seen over the last 70 years, which have not led to any tangible solutions. We urge the government to allow an open discussion so as to facilitate the understanding the legitimate demands and concerns that the people of Kashmir have been raising over the course of last 70 years.
We believe that national integration at the cost of life and dignity of our own citizens would not amount to integration but colonialism. The political crisis in Kashmir cannot be resolved by being oblivious to the problem at the heart of the conflict, which is the demand for freedom. Any attempt to resolve the issue is bound to fail unless the state accepts the Kashmir conflict is a ‘political issue’ and not merely one pertaining to territory. The government must acknowledge Kashmiris as primary stakeholders in the dispute and consult them rather than considering it as a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.
Whatever the stand of the Government of India on the demand of Kashmiri people for independence, it is imperative to create an environment of understanding and openness and initiate a purposeful and sincere dialogue with all the stakeholders for an amicable settlement.
We therefore urge the government to:

  1. Immediately vacate the curfew and stop violence against civilians in Kashmir.
  2. Open channels for political dialogue in consultation with all stakeholders and explore every possible solution including – autonomy, pre-1953 position and even plebiscite. 
  3. Stop the crackdown on media and lift the ban on Kashmir Reader.
  4. Immediately drop all charges against the activists, human rights defenders, civilians booked under the PSA and release them. 
  5. Grant unfettered access to United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) to investigate allegations of Human Rights violations.
  6. Work forcefully to demilitarize both sides of the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. Further, to demilitarize all of Kashmir and immediately revoke impunity laws such as the AFSPA, PSA, and DAA etc. 
  7. Create credible mechanisms for accountability and justice, (such as an international criminal tribunal), for human rights abuses in Kashmir over the past three decades, including extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual and gendered violence, enforced disappearances and unknown and mass graves.


 Full list of the signatories can be viewed here.



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