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“Situation in Kashmir and Way Forward”

11 August, 2010

Press Release

A Panel Discussion and Press Conference “Situation in Kashmir and Way Forward” was organized by ANHAD on August 10 at Press Club of India in New Delhi. It was chaired by eminent Historian Uma Chakravarty with Panel comprising of Prof Siddiq Wahid (Vice Chancellor, Islamic University of Science and Technology, Avantipora, Kashmir), Anuradha Bhasin (Executive Editor, Kashmir Times) Sayeed Mallik (Senior Journalist), Tanveer Hussain Khan (Youth Activist, Anhad) and Vrinda Grover (Human Rights Lawyer). Expressing grave concern over the political inaction of Government of India in holding the situation Siddiq Wahid said, “Kashmir is a dispute that challenges the definition of sovereignty between Kashmir and the rest of the India. This is the high time and opportunity before the Civil society of India that believes in democratic ideals but unfortunately having cursory understanding of the situation in Kashmir owing to the biased reporting by main stream media, to connect cords with the people of Kashmir.” People are tired of the words and speeches that had never been followed with correct political actions. There is so much anger in them against India. “All the democratic institutions including Judiciary have failed to deliver. The gross human rights violations by the state and security agencies was never even questioned or objected by the Government of India. Entire generation has been born and brought up in the stifled environment of rapes, random arrests, blatant shooting outs, nocturnal raids, disappearances, encounters etc, and they have always witnessed ugly face of Indian democracy”, said Anuradha Bhasin. Taking a dig at Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh’s much touted willingness to resolve the issue of Kashmir, senior Journalist Sayeed Malik said that his motivation lies in the silence he has worn in the last 60 days by not responding to the deaths of 51 civilians comprising mainly of teenagers and youth. He also said that People of Kashmir are constantly living under the shadow of fear for the last 20 years, earlier it was the Militancy and now Indian State responsible for that fear. Tanveer Hussain Khan, a young activist from Kashmir expressed the rationale behind the anger of the young Kashmir who have been consistently denied any political dialogue and have been targeted with tear gas shellings or bullets at point blank range. He quoted, “All the ATM banks were fixed with the maximum withdrawal limit of Rs. 1000/- on the day of relaxation on August 8, 2010 in the curfew after 7 days” an incident stating the ugly and mean level of oppression of Indian State. “People in the rest of India cannot imagine what it is to live in an occupied territory filled heavily with Army, Security Agencies, Paramilitary forces and so on” , said Vrinda Grover. She also said that, “Government of India had been bluffing with the people of Kashmir for so many years, running away from its responsibility by denying the right to Justice to the people and the civil society of India is complicit in the crimes of Indian State by keeping silence”. A collective voice from the platform emerged that there is a dire need to break the cycle of breach of trust of 62 years, as it is going to be now or never situation.

51 persons including children and women have been killed in the Kashmir Valley, locked out by hartals and curfews, in the last two months. On June 11 Tufail Ahmed Mattoo a 17 year old student died, while returning home from tuition in Srinagar’s downtown, due to an injury caused by tear-gas shell. This incident triggered protests and anger began spilling on the streets with stone pelting youth engaging armed policemen and CRPF. The stone pelting initially limited to some pockets of Srinagar and a few rural areas was met with disproportionate force like targeted tear-gas, lathi-charge, random arrests, raids and even lethal firing. Several youth were injured. Within a week, two people were shot dead by the security forces, one while he was attending another victim’s funeral procession. Three deaths in quick succession multiplied the rage across the Valley.

The protests, peaceful or with stone pelting, have only grown in size and fury. Over these last two months, more security troops have arrived in the highly militarized state of Kashmir, the army has held flag marches and public protests responded to by unrestrained and disproportionate firing and teargas shelling. The human toll as it stands today is 51 dead and hundreds injured many of them with bullet wounds and tear gas shells inflicted above the waist. Many of those killed and injured have been innocent bystanders, including 2 nine-year-old children. It is quite evident that the Jammu and Kashmir state police and the CRPF are not working in accordance with established standards of crowd control, which makes it obligatory for them to respect the right to life of the protestors.

Both the Jammu and Kashmir government and the Government of India are responsible for precipitating the crisis. The state government abandoned its people and took no measures to rein in the police and security forces. The Central government caused greater provocation by labeling the protests as engineered by cross border terrorist outfits and branding the angry youth and those slain as ‘paid miscreants’.

The women and men protesting in the streets of Kashmir valley understand this callous and undemocratic approach of the state and central governments against a background of twenty years of unrelenting violation of basic human rights. Fake encounter killings, torture, rapes, arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions and enforced disappearances and a denial of justice each time has contributed to the deep sense of alienation and anger.

The refusal of the Central Government, in New Delhi, to address the political conflict in Kashmir and to repeatedly talk about the morale of the security forces rather than the right of the Kashmiris to justice, lies at the heart of this uncontrollable rage.

We call upon the Government of India and the state government to take the following measures immediately:

To ensure restraint by all security forces and respect for right to life in responding to protests. Zero tolerance for any disproportionate or targeted use of force by the security forces.

The repeal and withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act, which grant impunity to the security forces

Immediate and time bound measures to initiate criminal prosecutions, legal proceedings, grant of sanction for prosecution against all security personnel indicted for human rights violations including enforced disappearances, extra judicial killings, and rape.

Constitute a credible commission to enquire into the complaints of human rights violations including the killing of civilians in the recent public protests.

These measures will have to be followed up with systematic reduction of troops from Kashmir and a sustained and meaningful dialogue with Kashmiris.

23, Canning lane, New Delhi