Is Kashmir on edge and does it feels humiliated, angry, disturbed and disrobed after abrogation of the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution?
The answer is ‘yes’ if you go by a citizens’ report released in the national capital on Saturday evening.
A team of concerned citizens from different professional backgrounds travelled to Kashmir between September 25-30 and Jammu between October 6 &7 as part of a solidarity and fact finding mission to understand the impact of the abrogation of Article 370 and the subsequent security clampdown and communication blockade on the lives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The team included Anirudh Kala (psychiatrist and writer based in Ludhiana), Brinelle Dsouza (academic, activist and public health professional from Mumbai), Ms Revati Laul, (Delhi-based journalist and writer), and Ms Shabnam Hashmi (social activist).
“The fact that there has been no violence has to do with the resilience of the people. It is an active and collective choice being exercised each day, to observe a civil disobedience. In feeling rejected and betrayed by the Indian state, Kashmiris have chosen to respond back, through a largely non-violent protest, says the report.”
“Most people we met told us they were keeping their shops and offices closed not under any call by militants or separatists or political leaders but as an act of resistance against the Indian state. This time, there is no leader and no call to protest from anyone. So the decision to keep shops and businesses shut is one that individuals have taken across Kashmir, largely on their own,” according to the report.
This mode of protest sets these two months of lockdown apart from all others in the past.
“There has been a lot that is very substantial and worthy written on what has been going on in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A of the Indian Constitution on 5th of August 2019.”
“However, we did find ourselves looking at the big picture differently from those that have gone in and written reports so far. The Indian government has spun the story that their clampdown on civil liberties in Kashmir with an increased military presence, summary arrests of all mainstream and separatist leaders and the communication blockade has made the unfolding of this new reality peaceful.
“But we found exactly the opposite. Kashmir is on edge — humiliated, angry, disturbed and `disrobed,’ as a journalist who spoke to us described it. The fact that there has been no violence has to do with the resilience of the people. It is an active and collective choice being exercised each day, to observe a civil disobedience. In feeling rejected and betrayed by the Indian state, Kashmiris have chosen to respond back, through a largely non-violent protest,” it said.
It says that Kashmir is riddled with fear that spiral binds itself in sharp concertina wire around the valley. There are stories of torture, arrests, even of young boys detained under the draconian Public Safety Act. Despite this fear, people defied the odds and chose to keep their shops closed. Were they motivated by militants? We only picked up two or three instances where people said they had seen notices pasted possibly by militants, on a masjid wall, warning people against opening their shops.”
“Quite a lot, we discovered in no time. A transporter summed it up for us when he said, post the abrogation of 370 — Kashmir has had one eye taken out, Jammu has had both eyes removed,” the report said.
“We heard many more anecdotes about how the armed forces and para-military taken together were forcing people to keep their establishments open. These are people the Kashmiris are equally scared of. It is at their behest that people are being arrested. So the decision to defy them is significant and brazen. And yet, that is the choice most Kashmiris have made.”
“When 370 was struck down, the picture painted across much of the national media was that Jammu was celebrating. However, our initial research suggested that this was a completely untrue or at best a distorted picture. Unlike the Kashmir valley, Jammu was not in a lockdown. There was no civil disobedience. Landlines, mobile networks and Wifi connections were working. Shops were open. You could connect with people by and large.
Restaurants were open until 11pm. Malls were open. Tourists were of course absent. We were the only occupants at our hotel, which has 45 rooms, most are booked out at this time of the year, the staff informed us.
The team spoke to a spectrum of people from politicians ,bureaucrats, homemakers, schoolteachers, traders, fruit-sellers, taxi unions, students, teachers, intellectuals, poets, writers, farmers, children, journalists, civil society workers, Pandits, Sikhs and Christians and even wedding caterers across five districts over eight days. From Srinagar to Baramulla to Anantnag to Badgam and Jammu, all had one thing in common – every single interaction was an emotional outpouring.
In a nutshell, the 76-page report summarises that the people in Kashmir are no longer interested in an interaction with the Indian state. (UNI)