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29 Aug 2008

A Joint Appeal by Kashmir’s Civil Society Groups

We the conscientious people of Jammu and Kashmir believe and uphold that the human life and its dignity are sacrosanct and in this regard we feel deeply concerned and aggrieved over the news story carried by sections of Indian media on 28th August 2008, in which it is reported that the Indian Intelligence agency has expressed fears about the possible attacks on minorities in Kashmir.

Since 1989 there have been some massacres of minority communities under mysterious circumstances, which created an atmosphere of fear and mistrust amongst the communities. It is surprising that every time these killings take place, the people's movement of Kashmir is at a critical phase. The killings of Kashmiri Pandits in early 1990s or the massacre of 36 Sikhs at Chittisingpora in 2000 (during the visit of US President Bill Clinton) or killings of innocent Hindus at Kulhand and other places creates an aura of mystery around all these cold blooded killings. Investigations ordered by government to probe these killings have always been inconclusive. Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States in his foreword to Madeline Albright's book titled "Mighty and the Almighty" has clearly accused Hindu fanatics of massacring innocent Sikhs at Chittisingpora.

In the present scenario where the non-violent mass uprising for the attainment of right to self-determination of people of Jammu and Kashmir is resonating not just in India but also in the International media and institutions, the reported threat to minority communities whether Hindus or Sikhs is a serious concern for the civil society of Kashmir.

In view of the above mentioned concern, we urge upon the community leaders, religious leaders, political parties, militant leadership and government to ensure the utmost respect and tolerance for the minorities and refrain from any such act which makes the lives of minorities uncomfortable. The minorities should not be treated as the cannon fodder to carry out the agenda of vested interests in sabotaging the people's movement of Kashmir.

In the wake of present peaceful people's movement to realise the right of self-determination, the only democratic process for peace making, we urge upon the governments and the militant leadership to implement a comprehensive ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir. We the people of Jammu and Kashmir while welcoming the United Jihad Council's recently announced statement, in which they promised to halt their activities within civilian areas, request them to broaden the scope of their statement into a comprehensive ceasefire covering the entire Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir. This would also mean their respect and primacy to the people's movement.

We urge the government of India to halt the brutal use of force against the people and respect the people's right to assembly and freedom of expression both in Kashmir and Jammu. The arrests and the killings of anyone are unacceptable.

We consider this as the testing time for all of us as humans. We certainly have been victimised but the challenge for the conscientious people is always to be humane besides being politically correct.

In the present situation where the political leadership has been arrested, communications blocked, curfew imposed, there is every likelihood that situation may descend into chaos. It is therefore we urge international community to take cognizance of the situation where in the whole population of Kashmir is being pushed towards the wall. For international institutions it is the time to intervene for preventing the catastrophe and for the restoration of people's rights.

We take this opportunity to assure our Hindu and Sikh brethren who form the inseparable part of our cultural and political mosaic that they will find their Muslim brethren besides always. Whatever be the circumstances we have lived and suffered together and would continue to strive together for our political emancipation.

We also urge the community leaders, civil society actors, political parties of Jammu province to strive for the safety and security of Muslims and other minorities residing in Jammu.

Signed by:

Moulana Mufti Mohammad Bashiruddin Ahmed (Mufti Azam JK State and Incharge of religious affairs of Jammu and Kashmir),

Mirwaiz Molvi Riyaz Ahmed Hamdani,

Islamic Study Circle,

Aga Syed Hassan Al Moosvi – President - Anjuman Sharie Shiyaan,

Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society,

Chamber of Commerce and Industries Kashmir,

Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owner's Federation,

Valley Citizens Council,

Jan Mohammad Koul, Chairman Kashmir Traders Federation,

Noor Ahmed Bilal – President Kashmir University Teachers Association,

Naagar Nagar Coordination Committee,

Kashmir Thinker's Guild,

Dr. Altaf Hussain,

Arjimand Hussain Talib (Columnist),

Dr. Mubarik Ahmed (Social Activist),

Anwar Ashai (Social Activist),

Zareef Ahmed Zareef (Poet)

Adv. A. R. Hanjoora (Social Activist),

Hameeda Bano (Faculty of English, University of Kashmir),

Shaikh Showkat Hussain (Faculty of Law, University of Kashmir),

Noor Ahmed Baba (Dean Social Sciences, University of Kashmir),

Mohammad Azeem Tuman (House Boat Owners Association),

Himayat Trust,

JK People's Development Trust,

Ehsaas – A Developmental Organisation,

Mushtaaque Ali Ahmed Khan (Theatre Activist and Film Maker)

Senior Citizens Forum

Kashmir Urdu Academy

Jammu and Kashmir Cultural Society

Syed us Sadaat Trust, Islamabad, Kashmir

Hudood ullah Research Centre

Eco Concern, Islamabad, Kashmir