A Team of Concerned Citizens came to Jammu and Kashmir on a fact-finding mission from 4th to 13th October 2008 and visited various parts of the state. The team comprised of Prof. Amit Bhattacharyya (Jadavpur University, Kolkata), S. A. R. Geelani, (Delhi University), Prof. A. Marx (Chennai), G.Sugumaran (Pondicherry), Prof. Pranab Nayak (Kolkata), V. M. Ibrahim (Executive Editor, Madhyamam, Kerala), Rona Wilson (Research Scholar, JNU), Raja Sarkhel (Kolkata), Sitangshu Chakraborty (Film maker, Kolkata), Maitreyee Nayak (Student, Rabindra Bharati University,Kolkata).
In the face of the mounting propaganda of the Indian State against the rising tide of people’s assertion in Jammu & Kashmir to create an atmosphere of hatred among the people of India, this team decided to visit this land in order to get a first hand account of the ground reality. In this process, we met cross-sections of the people, various people’s organizations and forums, intellectuals, lawyers, traders, doctors, students and also those who have been the targets of state brutality.
The Fascist face of the Indian State
The facade of the claim of India as the largest democracy in the world had fallen flat as this team had to face the ire of the Indian State. On the 4th October, SAR Geelani, Prof Amit Bhattacharyya, Prof. Pranab Nayak and Maitreyee Nayak were detained the moment they landed at the Srinagar Airport around 3 PM by Jetlite S2 165 flight from New Delhi. From there they were taken in a police jeep to Humhama PS and detained illegally for several hours.They had to wait till late night to be shifted to the hotel where they had planned to stay. The copies of the bulletin of Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), The Arrested, was seized from S. A. R. Geelani at the airport. This bulletin which calls for the unconditional release of all political prisoners incarcerated by the Indian state in the subcontinent also raises its voice for the thousands of Kashmiri Muslim prisoners who are put in various prisons in India. The rest of the team which had reached Srinagar by road along with the four members initially detained were for the next two days not allowed to move out of the hotel as the army, police and the paramilitary had laid seige to the entire Kashmir valley not allowing the people to join the chalo lal chowk call given by the Coordination Committee. The hotel in which the 10 member team had stayed was locked from outside with the police and the Intelligence keeping a round the clock vigil.
The team strongly condemns the outright fascist character of the Indian state. Despite the two day curfew the team could meet and talk to a cross section of the people of Kashmir. And the message from the people was clear. No power can stop the will of the people. We briefly summarise our findings. The brief summary will soon be followed up with a detailed report.
The People of Jammu & Kashmir are determined in their resolve for Azaadi
Whether it is the worker, student, academic, lawyer, trader, peasant, women or children-the people of Jammu & Kashmir are unequivocal in their demand for Azaadi. They say that by brutally beating up the people in the streets, firing at their peaceful demonstrations championing freedom, the Indian State is giving up yet another chance of peacefully resolving the Right to Self-Determination of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. They say that when more than a million people came to the streets demanding Azaadi, India, which claims to be the largest democracy in the world, cannot simply ignore or shy away from the overwhelming aspirations of the Kashmiri people to be independent. The impression that we got by studying the ground reality in the prevailing diffficult situation is that it is a broad-based people’s movement in which people belonging not only to the majority community, but also at least some of those belonging to the minority communities played their supportive roles.
Shooting to Kill
The accounts from the doctors of Baramullah district hospital as well as the testimonies from the injured about the recent incidents clearly shows that the army/paramilitary/police fired on the peacefully demonstrating people on the upper parts of the body–above the abdomen, chest or the head. This shows a clear intention of shooting to kill. The tear gas shells that were used ostensibly to disperse the rallyists were the ones that were used in times of war. Almost all the testimonies of the injured proves this beyond doubt. The most glaring incident was the one that happened on the 10th October after the Friday prayers when a group of youth hooted at the CRPF patrol that was passing by Gojwara in down town Srinagar. The response of the CRPF was fatal firing in which one died on the spot and the other succumbed to his injury in the hospital.
Siege of the Valley through economic blockade
Visiting the medical stores in the valley proved beyond doubt the impact of the economic blockade and the total failure of the government to provide relief to the people. The Government of India’s effort to deny in a belated manner the enforcement of any economic blockade only brought to the fore the silent sanction of the establishment for such an inhuman act. Life saving drugs, baby food and other drugs were in terrible shortage. Despite the letter written by the Divisional Commisioner Multinational Pharmaceutical Companies such as Cipla, Cadillo, Glaxo, FDC, Emcure have stopped their operations. The Sun Pharmaceuticals, despite repeated pleas from the Chemists in the Valley, has refused to supply the medicines. All these companies are asking the druggists in the Valley to buy through Jammu. The same situation was there in the case of the supply of baby food.
Foisting false cases on the people who have participated in the rallies
In almost all the areas where the team visited people had similar stories to narrate. Most of the people who were actively participating in the peaceful rallies and demonstrations have been specifically targetted by the forces. False cases have been framed against many of them. Most of them have been booked under the PSA. The draconian laws such as the PSA, DAA, the AFSPA have been used in the most arbitrary manner, so much so that even when someone who has been charged under PSA gets that quashed in the court, then he/she is charged afresh under the same act again. Even those acquitted off PSA charges will have to endure an unending wait for the security forces to release them.
Hundreds of Kashmiri Muslims behind bars
Hundreds of Kashmiri Muslims have been put behind bars charged with false allegations. The present phase of unflinching political assertion of the people of Jammu & Kashmir have further aggravated the situation with more and more being picked up. The leaders of the movement are also being targetted. Many of them who are staying in the Valley have been asked to appear before the Jammu Court. Many of the leaders have been charged under PSA.
Transporters becoming the target of State’s wrath
The truck and bus drivers in the valley have become the targets of the ire of the State as they provided the transport facility that was needed for the people to them to the rallies. The army have specifically targetted the trucks and buses inflicting heavy damage on them. The tyres are deflated, seats are destroyed. Many a time, the army took away the private Sumo vehicles for purposes of security operations. Thus the Sumo drivers became human shields. In all these cases the Sumo hiring charges are not paid.
The most disturbing sight in the whole fact finding mission was the over-bearing presence of the army-paramilitary-police and the SOG. This has become part and parcel of the everyday life of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. Thousands of crores of rupees are being spent daily for their maintainence. The blanket powers given to the army-paramilitary-SOG-police under the garb of fighting militancy / terrorism / extremism has only increased the cruelty and brutality of the state forces perpetrated on the people to an extent that beggars description. The naked display of this power is visible in the way the forces have been dealing with the recent rallies for freedom by the people of Jammu & Kashmir. Brutal force has been used with impunity to break down the will of the people.
The recent encounter that happened on the Shahbad area in Tral on the day of Eid is an example of the lawless nature of the Indian security forces. After evacuating the villagers from the area, hundreds of army personnel encircled the house where the alleged Jaish-e-Mohammad commander was camping. The army blasted the house using mines and mortar shells; as a result, nearby houses got badly damaged. Later they decamped with all the valuables in the nearby houses, destroyed whatever was left there. Along with this is the resurgence of the terror operations of surrendered militants with the backing of the army and paramilitary forces.
Most shocking was the statement of the Prime Minister of India Mr. Manmohan Singh when during his recent visit to Jammu & Kashmir he justified the need to use such force by the security forces.
Besides this, the army has occupied large chunks of prime land throughout the length and breadth of Jammu & Kashmir running into lakhs of hectares. Under the garb of maintaining security, the Indian army and paramilitary forces have virtually become an occupation army eating into the veins of the Kashmiri social, economic and political life.
The presence of one armed personnel at a distance of 50 to 100 metres on the road and his staring at the passers-by and the car passengers undoubtedly creates psychological trauma not only in the minds of the of people of Kashmir, but also in the minds of the visitors. Needless to say, it creates tension, a sense of persecution and a feeling that anyone can become the victim of state terror any day. The occupying forces have successfully created suspicion among the various communities so as to pit one against the other. Despite this, the majority of the people in Jammu & Kashmir have refused to become fodder to the politcs of communal hatred.
The immediate demands that we would place are:
1. Repeal all the draconian laws such as ULPA, AFSPA, DAA, PSA that are in force in Jammu & Kashmir.
2. Immediately ensure that life saving drugs, baby food and other medicines are supplied to the chemists in the Valley.
3. The right to assemble peacefully is a fundamental right. Stop the use of military might on the peaceful demonstrations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir.
4. Withdraw the Indian Army, Paramilitary, SOG.
5. Stop all efforts to foment communal hatred against the people of Jammu & Kashmir…
6. Release all political prisoners unconditionally.
7. The Right to Self-Determination of the people of Kashmir is an inalienable right. Immediately initiate steps to address this issue as per the norms set by the UN and other International bodies to which India is also a signatory.