Kashmir : Yesterday and Today

CDRO Statement

[Co-ordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO) recently issued a statement expressing their solidarity with the on-going people’s struggle in Kashmir. Following is a slightly shortened version of the said statement.]

Since 8th July 2016 when Burhan Muzzafar Wani was killed there have been widespread protests against his killing in Kashmir Valley. Since then the Government of India has launched a crackdown and the cycle of curfew and bandh has persisted for more than 100 days now and brute force has been used to smother the agitation.

Kashmir is the only place where Pellet Guns have been used. Nowhere else in the world or in India are they used. The very fact that even in Haryana where in February 2015 for five days hooligans indulged in physical attacks, loot, rape, molestation and arson and the BJP led state government did nothing, pellet guns were not used. Because, no civilized country either uses these, or supports their use. Yet, in Kashmir pellet guns have been justified just as Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) too is, by enemies of Democracy.

The Co-ordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO) blames Government of India for enabling Pakistan to interfere. Since October 27th, 1947 India and Pakistan have divided Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) and India has been in complete control of the territory where people have been agitating for a political resolution to their longstanding demand for bringing the dispute over J&K to a closure.

It is true that Pakistan is involved and has carried out attacks with the help of Lashkar-i-Tayabba and Jaish-i- Mohammed,in India. However, the area under Indian control has been in turmoil for very long and people have fought for their demand for right of self-determination by using all the peaceful means available to them including participating in elections. In all these 68 years, Indian Governments have not succeeded in ending the struggle of Kashmiris despite use of brutal force.

With no forward movement in reaching a political solution the demand for Azaadi gains legitimacy.

From the time Sheikh Abdullah was arrested in 1953, people have faced repression in the area under Indian control. Despite the settlement of 1975 when Sheikh Abdullah returned to power following the Parthasarthy-Afzal Baig agreement in 1975, the promise to restore the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir was never kept. Central Government continues to exercise complete control and the elected State Government cannot even prevent use of pellet guns, withdraw security forces, remove AFSPA, or release arrested persons without Central Government's approval.

In 1947 it was Sheikh Abdullan led National Conference (NC) which pushed for accession with India. In 1947 when entire India and Pakistan was engulfed in blood- letting and Hindus and Sikhs were being killed in Pakistan and Muslims in India it was remarkable that Kashmir remained peaceful. In fact in September 1947 in Jammu city Muslims on their way to Pakistan were given assurance of safe passage, but a massacre of Muslims took place. Even this did not provoke Kashmiris.

Indeed it is remarkable that in J&K once National Conference came to power in October 1947 they introduced the first ever radical land reform by ending Jagirdari system and distributing land to the tiller. Every tiller Muslim or Hindu benefited from this. Because under Dogra Maharajas all the land was owned by the King and people had no rights over land they cultivated.

So what made people who chose to be with India to change their minds later? It is this question one should ask. From 1953 onwards all elections in J&K were rigged and the Central government allowed this to happen because they chose the Chief Minister and not the State Assembly. Plus the memory of partition has been kept alive by India's communal organizations particularly the right wing parties who publicly cast suspicion on Muslims in India and always question their loyalty.

Like elsewhere in India, especially among the Adivasis and people in North East, land grab is also an issue in Kashmir. As in the North East so in J&K local people and their land and resources are supposed to be protected and just as elsewhere in India, in J&K too, Government encroaches on people's land to benefit the rich and the privileged. As elsewhere in India, people in J&K are resisting land acquisition and have been resisting land takeover.

Besides, unemployment is very high and up to 40% of educated are unemployed. Horticulture and orchards remain the mainstay of the J&K economy and land is scarce, and a lot of cultivable land is occupied by Security Forces. Most of the jobs being generated in the government sector is in the Armed Police, that too on contract where total wages are Rs 6000. For instance in August 2016 Narendra Modi Government announced that 10,000 persons would be employed in J&K Police.

Just as a comparison. Delhi has population of 1.6 crore people and a police force of 85,000 or 1 policeman for 1600 people in Delhi. None of citizens who live in Delhi feel safe with them because they mostly work for the Party in power at the Centre and ordinary people face tremendous obstruction from them if they go to file their complaints. Now imagine a place where the population is 1.3 crore with presence of more than 650,000 soldiers and police persons facing people, a ratio of 1 soldier for 20 civilians. Imagine also that the police and soldier enjoy legal immunity that protects them from any threat of prosecution for any crime they commit such as rape, murder, torture. They are all armed and under AFSPA the forces enjoy the power even to kill on mere suspicion. Imagine also that such conditions have been present for 27 years. Would anyone here in Delhi prefer that?

National Security Advisor in UPA government MK Narayanan recently said that the Kashmiri movement is indigenous and not a Pakistan sponsored movement. Surely, if even top security expert of India says that then it is time for people to shed abusing the Kashmiris for being puppets of Pakistan.

Well, the migration of more than three lakh Kashmiri Pandits was a horrible thing to have happened. They have suffered being driven from their home and hearth and remain migrants who have not been able to return. While Kashmiri society bears blame for not making them feel secure and safe the greater blame is that of Governor Jagmohan and VP Singh Government in New Delhi which pushed the Kashmiri Pandits to migrate and by transporting them to Jammu and beyond rather than protecting them where they lived and worked. For 27 years in the name of 'national security' J&K has been reeling under dictatorship of the central government. And despite the enormous force at their command they have failed to enable return of the Kashmiri Pandits.

Also, long before the migration of Kashmiri Pandits the local Muslims have been suffering at the hands of the Indian Government. It was Government of India which violated the constitutional autonomy provided to J&K after 1953 and began to rule J&K from New Delhi. Besides just consider that 27 years have passed and yet there is no "normalcy" in J&K. Every few years people protest because there is no serious effort towards political solution. Even Indian Army has said that Kashmir or North East cannot be solved militarily but only politically. The military can only restore order. So why is it that after 27 years there is no "normalcy'"? India's Supreme Court asked the same question from Government of India recently when hearing arguments in a case related to 1528 fake encounters in Manipur. The Court said that if normalcy has not been restored (46 years in Manipur, 68 years in Nagaland and 27 years in J&K) then there is something wrong with the policy. And wrong there is because to have military rule under AFSPA for so many years is a cruel joke on the people whose democratic rights given by the Constitution are being denied for so many decades.

So when Kashmiris ask for Azaadi, they want Azaadi from oppression and for what is being denied to them.

What is happening in J&K is related and linked to what is happening in India. All the sufferings of the past have been aggravated due to coming to power of RSS-BJP in India as the ruling party. In the last 30 months the Saffron Brigade has unleashed its vicious campaign and targeted Dalits and Muslims and everyone else who challenges their politics. People have seen, "ghar wapsi", "love jehad", charges of being "anti-national"- anyone who questions the fanatic Hindutva campaign has been attacked, trolled, abused and maligned. In a sensitive area like J&K they have also unleashed a divisive campaign, cow vigilantes have lynched Kashmiri Muslim truck drivers. BJP MLAs have attacked fellow Muslim MLAs, they have used religious yatras to preach hatred of Muslims. This has created a sense of fear and insecurity among Muslims of J&K, especially when Indian military is controlled by the RSS-BJP Central Government. If people are made to feel insecure and live under fear of pellet guns, night raids, arrests, torture etc and no one in India speaks out against them, then people feel even more vulnerable and are alienated from India and Indians. Silence also sends the message that Indians do not care for them and only covet their beautiful land.

On the other hand, the hallmark of a fanatic is hatred of the ‘other’. Now it is remarkable that the much maligned Kashmiri militants have repeatedly welcomed Amarnath Yatris and even welcomed Kashmiri Pandits. It is "foreign militants" who have threatened and attacked the yatrirs in the past. But if in India presence of Hindutva in power at Centre has not turned all of India into supporters of RSS-BJP, then to dismiss entire Kashmiri people's struggle as of fanatic Muslims is even more wrong because they are not even in power, unlike Hindutva groups in India.

The formation of the current coalition government of BJP-PDP in J & K. has contributed to the present situation. PDP campaigned on the plank of keeping RSS-BJP out. But once they formed the government, in defiance of the mandate, the RSS-BJP only stepped up its rabidly communal agenda by appointing as a Minister a BJP person who is accused of lynching two persons in Kishtwar, by raking up issues such as abrogation of Article 370 and unleashing anti-Muslim campaigns. There have been killings of Kashmiri truck drivers, and even attacks on Kashmiri MLAs by BJP men inside the state Assembly for disagreeing with them. And since July 8, continuing into the present the same state and central governments have let loose the most vicious brutal campaign against unarmed civilians, by encouraging security forces to use pellet guns for blinding and injuring and to arrest old and young—men, women, boys and girls.

Day in and day out Indian Government propaganda says everything is due to Pakistan. But no one explains that if this part of J&K has been under Indian control since 1947 and people have again and again come out to vote, then how come Pakistan finds it so easy to stir up trouble? If after 68 years of Indian control, and 27 years of military suppression, the Government has still not brought "normalcy" in J&K, then it also means that Indian government is responsible for vitiating the conditions in J&K and this incompetence of theirs has allowed Pakistan to fish in "troubled waters". It also means that Government of India does not believe in any political solution.

By forcing Indian Army to bring "normalcy" the Indian Government is harming the Indian Army. Because any Army which is deployed against its own people, that too for over 27 years, means that the Government has failed.

Vol. 49, No.21, Nov 27 - Dec 3, 2016