A Letter of support & protest, from Gujarat to Kashmir

From Gujarat to Kashmir – 250 activists express their solidarity and demand a lift on the communication blockade in an open letter

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‘If there is a heaven on earth, it’s here’ – Has India robbed Kashmir of the paradise it is said to be?

A group of 250 activists from Gujarat, and outside the state, including academics, students, artists and other concerned citizens have come together to express their solidarity with the people of Kashmir who have been held captive in their own land. Among the signatories are professor JS Bandukwala,  Vadodara, Mansi Shah, CEPT, Ahmedabad, Maya Ratnam, teacher,, Ahmedabad among so many others.

The letter is strong and poignant. It states:

“While the country celebrated another year of independence on August 15, Kashmir plunged into silence and darkness. On August 5, the government at the Centre, without any consultation with the J&K legislature, abrogated Article 370 and 35 A, revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s right to self-governance.

“With each passing day that this is allowed to continue, India inches closer to fascism, andfurther from democracy.
“While thousands protest outside the United Nations in New York, here in Ahmedabad the policerefuses permission to protest. Gujarat is where the very spirit of dissent has been crushed under the weight of a state actively and tacitly supported by the majority. The state has attempted to control the media narrative, shuttered places of protest, and stifled age-old democratic institutions like the Gujarat Vidyapith and the Mehdi Nawaz Jung Hall. The Sabarmati River front, touted as a monumental reclamation of public space, does not allow for public assembly and dissent.
“Despite this, we assert that there are still voices in Gujarat calling for change, voices that some have tried their best to quell, but that refuse to remain silent. Among civil society leaders, there is a sense of fear, uncertainty and helplessness. And yet, and still, there is dissent.

The Indian state has decided that the value of land is greater than that of human life. We cannot let this stand.
“We the undersigned stand in solidarity with Kashmiris, and demand thatKashmiri voices be heard.Now, more than ever, is the time to remember those who fought for our freedom, B.R.Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, MaulanaAbulKalam Azad, and Khan AbdulGhaffar Khan, among so many others. These freedom fighters had a dream for this country, apluralist democracy composed of states and peoples who willingly came together to preservethe idea of India. This dream of a free state did not and could not have included shutting anentire people out of the democratic process and imprisoning them.
“It is imperative today that we remember their vision of a state in which justice, equality and peace could reach everyone, and in their memory, fight for freedom once more, from those who wish to usurp the very idea of what this country stands for.
The entire letter may be read here:


The letter goes further. It talks about how the abrogation of Article 370 was “ followed by a completely unprecedented communications blackout, a terror that the Kashmiri’s have been suffering for over two months. The silence dispersed by the shutdown and the media blockade instilled into every Kashmiri an irrevocable sense of fear. That the government did not even consider having a dialogue with the people of the Kashmir about their future, showcases the intensity of the oppression the Kashmiris were subjected to. ”

While the Indian government has insisted that everything in Kashmir is ‘normal’, many journalists and activists have since documented the human rights abuses and healthcare and economic crises that have erupted in the State during this blockade.

With no access to medical facilities to children as young as ten being detained and beaten up, the Indian State has unleashed a full blown humanitarian crisis in Kashmir.

Even then, the people of Kashmir have decided to peacefully disobey the ‘everything is normal’ narrative, at the risk of being picked up by authorities.

This open letter coming from Gujarat is especially poignant because Gujarat has been the hotbed of dissent being crushed time and again. The State government in Gujarat has been complicit in the in the muzzling of protests by shutting down venues for peaceful public agitation and stifling democratic institutions like the Gujarat Vidyapith and Mehdi Nawaz Jung hall.

Yet, just like the Kashmiris who refuse to obey, the coming together of people in writing this open letter shows that the voices of dissent in Gujarat will never be silenced.

The letter implores the government to re-establish the pluralist democracy that the leaders who fought for our freedom envisioned. It urges the Indian government to demilitarise Kashmir, life the communication and media blockade, release political prisoners and involve the people of Kashmir in a meaningful dialogue to decide their future in the State.
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