CONDEMN THE ABROGATION OF ARTICLES 370 & 35A OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION, THE DISMEMBERMENT OF J&K & THE BRUTAL SUPPRESSION OF THE VOICES OF THE PEOPLE OF KASHMIR!
Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) unequivocally condemns the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A, the unilateral bifurcation and stripping of autonomy of the state of Jammu & Kashmir by the ruling NDA government on August 5th 2019, and the complete suppression of the right of the people to self-determination. By projecting the occupation as an “internal” matter, amidst a total and brutal gag on the voices of the people of J&K, the Indian state has assaulted their identity as a people, and ruptured the very foundation of their relationship with the Indian State.
The Presidential Order extending the Indian Constitution to the whole of J&K, the hurried passing of the J&K Reorganization Bill in Parliament without the consent of Kashmiri people, its elected representatives, or deliberations in the Parliament, is patently undemocratic. This was done by stealthily introducing the Bill to avoid wide public debate, and by clamping down J&K under a military siege. The move was orchestrated by spreading irresponsible rumours of cross-border terror attacks on Amarnath yatris, and false assurances by the Governor of the state who is currently administering President’s Rule under the control of the Central Government, all to serve a premeditated political purpose. Using the same Constitution that granted India freedom from colonial rule seventy three years ago, the Indian state today has completed its colonization of the people of J&K through a fraudulent usurpation of power, which is a betrayal of not just the people of J&K but the whole of India as well.
There is a muscular infusion of boots and steel on the ground, with an initial deployment of 35,000 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel on August 5th, and then another 8000 in the span of twenty four hours, disarming the state police, in one of the most militarised zones in the world takes the current count to about 7 lakh troops on the ground. Reports are emerging of political leaders, intellectuals, journalists, lawyers, grassroots activists, and young Kashmiri boys and youth, more than a thousand in number and counting, being secretly arrested, detained and/or transferred to prisons outside the state so that the government can project an image of “normalcy”. It is presently impossible to ascertain the whereabouts of many of these detenues, although it has recently emerged that several are being held at thanas, army camps, hotels (Centaur Hotel, Hari Niwas, among others), and even at their own homes. Kashmiri girls and women are being sexually assaulted in their homes as they continue to be raided indiscriminately by the forces. Streets remain deserted under conditions of an unending curfew, with constant patrolling by the army and paramilitary forces and vehicles, and checkpoints and barricades at small distances. It is remarkable that even on Eid, mosques and eidgahs were shut down to prevent assembly of people. A massive protest rally of over 10,000 people in Soura on August 9th against the abrogation of Article 370 was met with a military crackdown, pellet guns, tear gassing and indiscriminate arrests and detentions. It is by now clear that the BJP government’s claims of the move having been welcomed by the people, and under conditions of complete normalcy, are blatant lies.
The Kashmiri media is muzzled. With a complete shut down on all channels of communication, including landlines, mobile phones and internet, restrictions on movement, persistent harassment by the army, the attempt is to gag any information on the state of repression and anger in the Valley from reaching out. Despite now running out of newsprint, several local newspapers continue to struggle to bring out daily editions. In sharp contrast, when no such restrictions exist on large Indian media houses, they continue to peddle the official state narrative of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The Supreme Court of India again toed the line of the ruling government by refusing to act on four petitions for urgent hearing on August 13th. These separate petitions challenge: the unconstitutional abrogation of Article 370, the gag on Kashmiri media, and the curfew and clampdown on all forms of communication. The Supreme Court upheld the suspension of all democratic and fundamental rights of Kashmiris at least for a period of two weeks, based on the hypocritical stance of the government that the clampdown is necessary to restore “normalcy”.
The removal of Article 35A is the most visible proof of India’s colonial ambitions. The Article protects the rights of the residents of the state in matters pertaining to ownership and control of land. Its removal is intended to change the demographic composition of the land, and to open it up for corporate loot. Within a week of the abrogation, even as the gag on the people continues, Mukesh Ambani has enthusiastically responded to the call of the Prime Minister to flood the region with corporate investments, while a massive Investment Summit is planned for October 2019. Claims of the BJP government that this move paves the way for women to inherit land, without acknowledging that the military is already the largest landholder in J&K, is farcical at best. Kashmiri women themselves have assertively rejected this so-called “protection” by Indian men, whose chauvinistic rhetoric flooding social media targets the same women as instruments in this colonial project, to be acquired as ‘wives’ as a way to acquire land. This language of conquest is intended towards demographic changes in the region in a manner where the rights, identities and consent of Kashmiri women is entirely invisibilized.
This is not the first time that the bodies of Kashmiri women have been treated as sites of conquest, with a history of mass sexual violence perpetrated by the military and paramilitary forces with complete impunity. We have not forgotten the sexual violence perpetrated by the Indian Army in Kunan Poshpora and Shopian. We have not forgotten all the Kashmiris disappeared and buried in mass graves. We demand an end to this siege on the people of Jammu & Kashmir.
1. Revoke the abrogation of Article 370 and scrapping of Article 35A and demand their immediate reinstatement. Repeal the J&K Reorganization Bill. Any change in this must happen only with the consent of the people of Kashmir.
2. Reinstate democratic processes to ensure that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are consulted on any action that concerns them, their lives and their community.
3. Stop further militarisation of Kashmir and withdraw all troops.
4. Stop immediately all repressive measures like restrictions on movement and communications black-out that have seriously impacted on the daily lives of women and people of Kashmir.
5. Release all political prisoners.
Ye kis ka lahu hai kaun maraa, Ham than chuke hain ab jii mein,
Har zaalim se takraaenge, Tum samjhaute ki aas rakho,
Ham aage badte jaaenge, Ham manzilae azaadi ki kasam,
Har manzil pe dohraenge, Ye kis ka lahu hai kaun maraa…
– Sahir Ludhianvi (1946)