Jammu & Kashmir

Disintegration at Gunpoint: Kashmir Reading Room’s yearly report looks at ‘siege laid in Kashmir’

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Marking one year of ‘siege that was laid in Kashmir’ in August 2019, Kashmir Reading Room (KRR)— a collective of lawyers, doctors, academicians, researchers, activists, and journalists on Tuesday released its report titled ‘Dis-Integration at Gunpoint,’ that covers the changes that took place in Kashmir’s political, legal, and economic sphere in last one year.

The report documents the developments that took place from August 2019—the month that saw the abrogation of Article 370, bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories, and the effective ‘annexation’ of J&K, to August 2020.

The launch event was hosted yesterday on August 4, by Amrit Wilson of South Asia Solidarity Group in London.

The panel included Prof. Hameeda Nayeem, Independent filmmaker Sanjay Kak, and Kashmiri Human Rights lawyer Parvez Imroz.

The report comments on recent changes made in the Domicile law, amendments of laws affecting the transfer of state land to non-state subjects and corporate entities, and mining rights.

It also covers developments in Constitutional Courts concerning the amendments to Article 370, treatment of PSA petitions, Habeas Corpus litigation, and media petitions in the last year. The report also includes perspectives from minorities and voices from – Ladakh, Jammu, and Kashmir valley.

Additionally, the report provides an overview of the human rights violations, curbs on freedom of the press, repression of Kashmiri journalists, and disenfranchisement of Kashmiris that is still underway. To generate regional and international awareness and dialogue on these concerning developments, KRR has engaged with political representatives through regular interactions, reports, letters, and statements.

Prof. Hameeda Nayeem, Head of Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies, said, “it is the first draft of the history of the last one year but it goes much beyond that. It will be of great value not only for a common person but for researchers as well.”

Illustrating the horrors she faced whilst the hasty clampdown imposed last year, she recalled how there was massive deployment of the armed forces on “streets, lanes, by-lanes and doorsteps.”

“Planes and drones make perpetual surveillance of each and every individual in Kashmir,” Hammeda Nayeem added.

“Our resources are plundered and given to mainlanders; we feel disposed and thrown out of Kashmir,” she said.

“There’s a deluge around us, wherein they are raping and mutilating our motherland,” she added.

“And entire generation is dying,” Hammeda remarked while speaking about the plight of education pointing out how young generation was affected post communication blockade. “While the elderly were already killed, they attacked a new generation again deliberately.” Children learn from interaction, she said, and remarked that the young need to be ‘revived through education’ and given ‘ample rights.’

The plight of maternity healthcare in far-flung areas, according to Prof Hammeda has been ‘unimaginable’.

“Pregnant women lost their to-be-born children, without access to proper healthcare pertaining to the blockade”.

As she held back her tears, she concluded by saying, “Nowhere in the world does incremental genocide, subjugation, harassment in the garb of being the largest democracy in the world [occur]”

Sanjay Kak, noted author and filmmaker, emphasized heavily on how ‘geopolitics is affected by how well an argument is framed’ and said that struggle needs to be ‘given a scholarly colour’.

“They describe the control mechanism by which they (the Indian Government) control; all of it— habeas corpus, use of constitutional rights, etc; essentially well argued scholarly approach, so it travels to international communities,” he said.

Elaborating on the contents of the report, he said, “there is an excellent chapter on minorities in Kashmir which most people don’t talk about, moving beyond Kashmiri Pandits, also speaking about Kashmiri Sikhs and Shias.”

When asked about the question of Kashmiri Pandits, he said, “it’s not only Kashmir that needs to ensure the safety of Kashmiri Pandits but also Kashmiri Pandits who need to ensure the safety of Kashmir. It can’t be an adversarial relationship – benefiting only one party. Minorities don’t have to presume they will be taken care of; sometimes even minorities can aid the majority. I can’t be prescriptive, but it cuts both ways. Everybody has to learn how to take care of each other.”

Parvez Imroz, a Human Rights Lawyer and the winner of 11th Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize, while commenting on the Kashmir conflict said that, “truth is a major casualty in any conflict area.” He added “How long will India control the people of Kashmir? Ultimately there is a Newton’s law. There will be a reaction.”

Further, commenting on  Indian Judiciary’s approach to Kashmir, Imroz said, “Judiciary is complicit by their omissions in not taking measures to protect human rights. They have failed, except a few who had the audacity to confront the state.”

He spoke of how ‘even the pro-India conscience’ was ‘shabbily treated’, when narrating the instance of a Congress legislator who was found shouting over the wall from his place of detainment.

Speaking of ‘heavy economical brunt’ that India bears in order to function Kashmir, he said “Occupation isn’t economical. There should be a debate over the cost. 60,000 Crore is spent annually on Kashmir, when there’s so much poverty in India.”

He applauded the efforts of KRR, and especially of the Kashmiri youth diaspora for “finally speaking up and breaking the culture of not documenting institutionalized history.”

“The challenge is now is how we widen the conscience. If they can position Palestine and Africa, why can’t we extend our voices to the world?” Imroz said.

Kashmir Reading Room (KRR) was set up in 2014, with an objective to promote free political thought, adopt mechanisms of active and comprehensive dialogue to generate international awareness on the conflict in J&K.


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