The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society condemned the recent arrests of Kashmir Narrator assistant editor Aasif Sultan and human rights activist Gautam Navlakha among others in a statement.
“Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) condemns these arrests and hopes that people in India and institutions would rise to this occasion and express unconditional solidarity with these activists and all those who in a similar manner are being targeted by the ruling class for the work which is produced by them. This sustained stifling of the dissent has made India an absolute majoritarian and authoritarian regime,” the statement read.
It stated that ‘since last 7 decades, the Indian government has routinized the victimization of the voices of dissent in Jammu and Kashmir, either by arresting the political leaders, activists, journalists and also by imposing various kinds of restrictions’.
“Recently, a young journalist Aasif Sultan has been arrested for one of his stories. This obviously is not the first time Kashmiri journalists or activists have been targeted for their work. This reality in Jammu and Kashmir has been largely ignored or endorsed by the vast sections of opinion makers in India,” said the statement.
“The state successfully uses media to criminalize any kind of dissent, thus creating an atmosphere of fear for activists, journalists, poets, or artists. Emboldened by the lack of accountability of its conduct against voices of dissent in Jammu and Kashmir and also across India, the state apparatus has begun its crackdown even against the most prominent activists in India. Prominent human rights activists like Gautam Navlakha, Adv. Sudha Bhardawaj, Adv. Arun Feriera, Varvara Rao and Vernon Gonsalves have recently been arrested. Luckily for them, the judiciary has intervened, unlike for those who are living on the margins,” the statement added.
Talking about Gautam Navlakha, JKCCS stated that he, “had a very long history with people of Kashmir and with Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).”
“He has been visiting Kashmir consistently from 1990 and has been part of several reports and campaigns, which highlighted the ugly truth about the State violence in Jammu and Kashmir. Gautam was one of the first to visit Kashmir in 1990 as a part of a fact-finding team. In a zone of extensive surveillance, Gautam’s work has been public and widely known to civil society and the State,” it said.
“The present allegations are therefore clearly an attempt to malign a credible rights activist whose work has consistently been principled. Gautam is one of the most respected Indians in Kashmir, for being truthful and courageous. Gautam never minced his words to even criticize the role of non-state actors when they were involved in human rights violations,” it stated.
Earlier, after being arrested in a nocturnal raid at his Batamaloo residence on Monday, Aasif Sultan, Kashmir-based journalist, who is the Assistant Editor of the monthly magazine Kashmir Narrator has been languishing in police custody since a week now, his father said.
However, the cops have said that Aasif has been formally arrested and the case is being dealt by the Superintendent of Police (South).
While returning from Police Station Batmaloo, Mohammad Sultan, Aasif’s father informed FPK that his son, a “diligent journalist” was picked up by the forces at around 2 in the intervening night of August 26-27. He reckons that he is in trouble for a story that was published in the magazine.
Pune police teams earlier raided the houses of activists in Mumbai, Ranchi, Hyderabad, Delhi and Faridabad and arrested five in alleged connection to a Maoist plot, PTI reported.
Activist Sudha Bhardwaj from Faridabad, Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Gautam Navlakha from Delhi, Arun Pereira and Venon Gonsalves from Mumbai have been detained by the police.