5th November 2019 marks the 3-month lockdown of Jammu and Kashmir after the BJP government abrogated the special status of the state under Article 370 and 35A. The BJP government at the centre is projecting the transition into the new set up as absolute “normalcy”. Fact findings conducted by various civil society groups point to a terrifying situation. The aim of the BJP government seems to be to supress Kashmiris into surrendering their demand for self-determination by suspending their political rights and putting their livelihoods and social life at stake. We bring attention to critical findings during the last three months that raise questions on this state of “normalcy”.
1. Illegal Mass Detentions and Disappearances: Over 4,000 people including political leaders of opposition parties, lawyers, ordinary people and at least 144 minors have been illegally detained, many under Public Safety Act, with no access to judicial recourse, all in the name of “national security”. Reports have emerged of children as young as 9 years old having been detained. Many of the local level leaders and prominent citizens have been illegally and secretly transferred outside J&K jails. Friends and families continue to have no informaiton on their whereabouts. Habeus corpus petitions, which under law demand immediate hearing as a fundamental right, even outside court hours if need be, have been deferred for two months or longer by the J&K High Court. In some cases people have been released on the execution of a “community bond”, that they will not participate in any activity or assembly or speak out in any way against the abrogation of Article 370.
2. Daily Harassment: People in Kashmir are forced to stay inside their houses and are harassed if found outside. Fact-finding teams have reported security forces’ frequent harassment of young women in the streets including pulling off their niquabs. Most of the schools even after their formal reopening are devoid of students, bearing witness to parents who fear for their children’s lives as pellet guns continue to be an everyday reality. Thousands of residents were evacuated from their homes and villages as retaliation against the attack on five Bengali migrant workers in Kulgam on 29th October. In order to hide its weakness instead of finding the truth behind the killing of migrant workers, the government is harassing local residents.
3. No Access to Information or Communication: With no internet, wi-fi and mobile phone services, people are unable to access various economic, social and health facilities. Only landline services and postpaid connections have been restored which covers a few thousand families. Most of the local newspapers and media houses within Jammu and Kashmir continue to be non-functional and the journalists can use the internet for a meagre 15 minutes in the government established media centres.
4. Breakdown of Economy: Two mainstays of Jammu and Kashmir’s economy have been tourism and apple cultivation and trade. The evacuation of tourists from Kashmir in early August and cancellation of the Amarnath yatra has caused a serious dent in revenues from tourism. The apple economy, which contribute to the 75% of India’s production, with an annual turnover of Rs. 1200 crores too has been severely hit. With markets shut down and communication restrictions, farmers, pickers, packers, traders, truckers have all suffered, particularly in major apple-producing districts such as Baramulla, Kupwara, Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama, cumulatively leading to a loss of over Rs.10,000 crores over the past three months.
‘Normalcy’ in J&K as being propagated by the BJP Government nothing but a sham disguising unprecedented crackdowns on civil liberties, disappearances, illegal detentions and sexual violence, a collapse of livelihood and movement, under conditions of enforced secrecy.
In this situation PUDR demands that:
- The statehood of Jammu and Kashmir be immediately restored and no decision on its status and future be taken outside the will of Kashmiri people.
- All political prisoners and all those detained under PSA be immediately released
- The communication blackout be ended immediately.
- The accountability of state functionaries be ensured, for continued violations of the civil liberties and human rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Shahana Bhattacharya and Deepika Tandon