J&K a virtual jail, citizens under siege, says team of activists on return from state

Economist Jean Dreze claimed BJP spokesperson on J&K affairs, Ashwani Kumar Churangoo ‘wagged a finger’ at him and threatened, ‘We won’t let anti-nationals like you do your work here’

J&K a virtual jail, citizens  under siege, says team of activists on return from state

NH Political Bureau

Ten days after the Narendra Modi government scrapped J&K’s special status and cut off the state from the rest of the world by shutting down all means of communication, a group of social activists, that has recently returned from the Valley, on Wednesday painted a grim picture of things in the state, comparing the Valley with an "open air jail" where citizens are living in perpetual fear under the shadow of millions of guns.

Addressing a press conference in Delhi on Wednesday, the team consisting of noted economist Jean Dreze, Kavita Krishnan, NAPM member Vimal Bhai and AIDWA leader Maimoona Mollah blamed the Modi government for the “sufferings” that the people of J&K are going through, and warned the government of “serious consequences”.

Below are some of the key points of the report released by the team:

  • There is intense and virtually unanimous anger in Kashmir against the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A, and also about the way this has been done.
  • To control this anger, the government has imposed curfew-like conditions in Kashmir. Except for some ATMs, chemist shops etc, most establishments are closed for now.
  • The clampdown on public life and effective imposition of curfew have also crippled economic life in Kashmir, that too around the festival of Bakrid which is meant for abundance and celebration.
  • People live in fear of harassment by the security forces. People expressed their anger freely in informal conversation, but no-one was willing to speak on camera.
  • The Indian media’s claims of a rapid return to normalcy in Kashmir are grossly misleading. They are based on selective reports from a small enclave in the centre of Srinagar.
  • As things stand, there is no space in Kashmir for any sort of protest, however peaceful. However, mass protests are likely to erupt sooner or later.

Based on a ground report, prepared by a group of rights activists, these findings stand in contrast with what is being told to us by the mainstream media.

Releasing a 10-page report “Kashmir caged”, the activists highlighted that “there is a sense of humiliation and imprisonment” in the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

CPI(ML) leader Kavita Krishnan told media that the people of Jammu and Kashmir feel “Article-370 that worked as a bridge between India and Kashmir has been destroyed by the Modi government”.

Terming abrogation of the Article as an attack on Kashmiriyat, member of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) Vimal Bhai said, “For the first time in last 17 years landlines have been cut by the administration” adding, people of Kashmir are fighting against the repression unleashed by the Indian state, not with the people of India.

Questioning Modi government’s intention behind the move, AIDWA leader Maimoona Mollah asserted that the abrogation of the Article-370 is another step towards making India a “Hindu Rashtra”. Demanding “restoration of democracy” in the erstwhile state, Mollah urged Modi government to not follow the footsteps of Israel.

Eminent economist Jean Dreze reiterated that Article-370 actually helped Jammu and Kashmiri in reducing poverty. Addressing media, Dreze said there are “misconceptions” about Jammu and Kashmir in mainland India. He said actual numbers of military deployment and paramilitary deployment are much higher than being reported.

“To every Kashmiri, there must be four CRPF personnel. The entire place is full of CRPF, everywhere. There is no single street in Kashmir that does not have CRPF,” he claimed. When asked about the Soura incident, Dreze told media that the police did not allow activists to reach.

Refuting government’s claims of not using pellet guns, Dreze narrated,“There were two people who were badly injured by pellet guns in their eyes and face and arms and body, and we were able to speak with them and their families in Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hosptal in Srinagar”.

Recalling his meeting with the BJP spokesperson on Jammu and Kashmir affairs, Ashwani Kumar Churangoo, Dreze told NH that the BJP leader “wagged a finger at him” and said, “We won’t let anti-nationals like you do your work here. I am warning you”.

Below are some of the key demands, raised by the activists :

  • Immediate restoration of Articles 370 and 35A.
  • Decision about the status or future of J&K should be taken without the will of its people.
  • Communications - including landline telephones, mobile phones and internet be restored with immediate effect.
  • Gags on the freedom of speech, expression and protest be lifted from J&K with immediate effect.
  • Gags on journalists in J&K be lifted immediately.

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Published: 14 Aug 2019, 5:02 PM