Ever since the state government of Jammu & Kashmir collapsed after the Amarnath land transfer controversy, Kashmir has been on the boil. Read the latest news on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir here.
A paradise where peace has been lost . . .
It all started with the state government’s decision to transfer 0.4 square kilometres of land to the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB). After the People’s Democractic Party (PDP) decided to withdraw from the state government led by the Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad (of the Congress) over the issue, the land transfer order was revoked. However, the revocation order could not save the government and Ghulam Nabi Azad had to step down.
Mass protests erupted in the Jammu region (which is mainly Hindu with a Muslim minority, mainly belonging to the Gujjar community) against the revocation order. One person committed suicide and three were killed in firing incidents by troopers. The protestors in the Jammu region tried to enforce a blockade of the Kashmir Valley (which is mostly Muslim; the third region in J&K is Ladakh, which is largely Buddhist) by blocking the road link to the Kashmir Valley.
This led to a shortage of medicines, food, fuel and other essential commodities in the Kashmir Valley. Though the government maintains that it tried to keep the highway open and provide security to trucks plying on the route, mobs had virtually succeeded in enforcing a blockade of the entire Kashmir Valley. Mobs also attacked truckers from the Kashmir Valley and beat several of them severely and killed one trucker. Though many Gujjar Muslims supported the demands of the Jammu region, mobs also attacked the homes and properties of Muslims in the region.
Apart from the shortage of essential commodities in the Kashmir Valley, the region’s fruit crop could not be transported to their markets and they began to perish. The Kashmir Fruit Growers Association gave a call to march to Muzaffarabad (on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control) to market their produce as the Valley remained cut off from the rest of the country. Separatist leaders joined the fray and exhorted people to join the march to Muzaffarabad. Huge numbers of people from throughout the Kashmir Valley began a march to cross the Line of Control (LoC) despite a ban. Certain notorious elements across the border in Pakistan have sought to inflame passions on this issue and cause more trouble as well.
Fifteen people were killed in firing incidents on the protestors. Sheik Abdul Aziz, a separatist leader and a moderate, was among those killed. Following his death, separatist leaders in Kashmir gave calls to organise protests. More than fifteen people were killed and hundreds injured when police and paramilitary forces opened fire on the protestors. Apart from a few fringe elements who attacked the police and threw stones at them, the protestors, including women and children, were unarmed and peaceful. Hundreds more were injured in brutal beatings by the police and paramilitary forces. Shamefully, even ambulances were not allowed to operate during the protests and some were attacked. Some media personnel were not spared either. Notorious, heinous and disgusting laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Disturbed Areas Act that have no place in any society that calls itself civilised have been in force as they have always been in Kashmir and parts of the North-East.
Concerned that the peaceful protests were snowballing into an independence movement with calls for freedom and an end to Indian rule in Kashmir, the government decided to impose a curfew in all districts of Kashmir. Prohibitory orders have been in place for a week till now and eight more people were killed and many more beaten by the police and paramilitary forces. Newspapers have not been in circulation and the people of Kashmir are being subjected to extreme hardship because of the curfew.
The issue has been given a communal colour and it has brought out the divisions in Indian society. The sheer hatred that many people in different parts of India have for the Kashmir Valley and Kashmiris is evident on the internet on articles about this issue that allow comments. It is enough to disgust anyone who does not share the views of the hate-spewers.
Thankfully, not everyone in India has a sick, savage, regressive, backward and barbaric mindset that supports the repression of the people of the Kashmir Valley. There have been articles written by Indians like this one by Prem Shankar Jha that show that humanity and common sense are not dead in India.
There have been protests by truly patriotic people against the repression in the Kashmir Valley and in favour of finding a peaceful solution through dialogue:
Janahastakshep, PUCL and PUDR are holding a dharna on August 30 at jantar mantar from 11am to 1pm in protest against the crackdown on non violent people demanding ‘azadi’. IT is clear that only way in which Indian state restore its authority is by using coercive means. It is a form of collective punishment of the people that indefinite and unrelenting curfew has been imposed. Already reeling under economic blockade the imposition of curfew is making it worse with even hospitals not being allowed to function fully and attacks on ambulances and injured. Food is in short supply. Water and electricity disrupted. No one is allowed to move about even with curfew passes and there are restrictions placed on media. For 18 years it was told by Indian state and Indian opinion makers that if only the movement sheds weapons talks can be held. When that happened and largely non violent protests began instead of heeding the voice of the people and reaching out to them through talks the Indian state has decided to show its iron fist. Right to life and right to live in dignity stands suspended. Are we going to sit silently when such harsh measures are adopted? Do we want guns to make their reappearance as the Indian state is provoking the people to do? IF we believe that unity of people and their aspirations are our major concern should we not come out in solidarity and support for their cause which they were carrying out peacefully?Please spread the word to gather at jantar mantar on saturday August 30 at 11 am to protest the severe repression let loose on the people.
WE intend to demand lifting of curfew. Restoration of civil liberties. Allowing non violent assembly. Talks with people at the highest level so that 61 years of denial, repression, charade of dialogue, manipulation is discarded and substantive progress is made to democratically and peacefully resolve the intractable problem.
Though such voices of moderation, peace and wisdom are in a minority, the important thing is that atleast some Indians have begun realising that strong arm tactics and brute force are not the way to find a solution to this issue and the larger Kashmir problem. Kashmiris have been alienated completely from the rest of India. This is the time to change policy and find a solution to the issue by putting an end to the repression in Kashmir and finding a solution that is acceptable to all by means of dialogue with the people of Kashmir. People who truly love our country should not let our voices get drowned by those of the hate-spewing scoundrels who are the curse of India and of humanity as well.