Public Meeting on Kashmir

Public Meeting on Kashmir

Nearly three month long agitation and counter agitation in Jammu and Kashmir has brought home extremely serious situation in J&K. In two days on August 11 and 12 Indian security forces shot dead thirty two people in Kashmir valley. Unrelenting indefinite curfew ahs been imposed in the whole of the valley since the 24th of this month and at least eight people have been killed by the security forces during this period. Already reeling under economic blockade the imposition of curfew made it worse with even hospitals not being allowed to function fully and attacks on ambulances and injured people. Food is in short supply, water and electricity disrupted and no one was being allowed to move about even with curfew passes. There were restrictions placed on media. Sixteen media persons have been brutally thrashed by security forces.

The Kashmir Valley has seen massive outpouring of people against the blockade and for their democratic rights, aspirations and freedom. Braving police firings, curfew and brutalities, Kashmiris came out in huge numbers. The people of the state groan under black laws like AFSPA and Disturbed Areas Act, Public Security Act while unarmed people are fired upon even as they gather to only attend the funeral of their leader killed in firing by armed forces.

In contrast the agitation in Jammu, spearheaded by Hindu communal forces, chiefly led by Hindutva brigade of RSS-BJP and Congress, were conducting what was essentially an anti-Kashmir agitation. There was competition between these two leading parties of Indian ruling classes in harnessing majority Hindu chauvinism. Their top leaders in Jammu participated in blockade while the Congress led UPA went into a denial mode on the fact of blockade despite extensive proof of the same. Not only did the State side with the agitators, they failed to lift the economic blockade and protect victims of mob violence for more than a month. Reports suggest that drivers and passengers of Kashmiri origin had been dragged out and beaten on the highway, guarded ostensibly by the Indian army.

The present exacerbation came about after the Kashmiris protested against the transfer of land in Kashmir against the law of the state. It is instructive that the valley based Anti Land Transfer Committee leaders went and reassured yatris of their being honoured guests, organized langars for the yatris and they were provided free boarding in hotels and house boats. It is also worth remembering that during this entire agitation, the yatra carried on and yatris did not encounter threats of the kind faced by Kashmiris in Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur, the hindu majority districts.

The recent announcement of agreement with SASS for handing over control of the land in Kashmir without discussion with Kashmiris clearly shows that the Central Govt. cares little for either the law of the state and rights and aspirations of the people of Kashmir.
The economic blockade had severely affected the life in the valley over a month and a half. Thus the right to life of people in the valley was imperiled by it. The message being conveyed was that Indian State is unmindful of even the physical well-being of the people in Kashmir. The procession towards Muzzafarabad on August 11 was a consequence of this blockade imposed on the valley by the Jammu agitators. And paradoxically is in line with the Government of India’s own promise of opening the LOC for trade. While Central Govt. said it was not opposed to the opening, its armed forced killed 6 persons including a top leader of Hurriyat Conference.

All this makes it incumbent on us to take a fresh look at developments in Jammu and Kashmir in order to understand why mass of unarmed people have come out on the streets to demand ‘azadi’ from India. We need to know whether right of self-determination is the peaceful and democratic way out ? Or is there any other solution? We need to ponder over whether J&K is considered “an integral part of India” or actually it is considered a conquered Muslim majority territory won by India in war with Pakistan in 1947-48? We need to ask why if there are no more than 1200 militants Indian state maintains 700,000 strong security forces? Why did the issue of land become so explosive? Why did the Congress-PDP Government “divert” land to the Shrine Board which bars permanent transfers to non-state subjects? We need to familiarize ourselves with the report and recommendations of the Nitish Sengupta Committee (1996) on Amaranath yatra? Why did they recommend that the yatra be regulated, numbers of yatris restricted to 100,000 and the time period of the yatra to be thirty days. Was not the constitution of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, which not only transfers management to outsiders but stipulates that Indian State’s representative, the Governor, can become the Chairman of the Board only if he is a Hindu, a communal project? Is it not a fact that ex-Governor S K Sinha has a history of fomenting communal discord in his earlier posting?

We, Jan Hastakshep, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and Rajendra Prasad Academy are organizing a meeting on September 9, 2008 (Tuesday) from 4 P.M. at Rajendra Bhawan, Deendayal Upadhyay Marg, New Delhi to discuss all these aspects. We feel there is an urgent need for democrats, intellectuals and activists in the Capital to speak out for the just democratic rights and aspirations of the people of Kashmir.