Dissent

Vrinda Grover, Binayak Sen and Other Civil Society Activists Call For End of ‘Repression’ in Kashmir

Indian policemen stand next to a burning handcart set on fire by demonstrators during a protest in Srinagar against the recent killings in Kashmir, July 18, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Danish Ismail/Files

Policemen stand next to a burning handcart during a protest in Srinagar against the killings in Kashmir, July 18, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Danish Ismail/Files

In a statement, close to 200 activists, academics, lawyers and other members of civil society have called for the “end of repression in Kashmir”. They have called on all those reading their statement to “unequivocally condemn the siege of Kashmir” and demanded that the government lift curfew, open channels of political dialogue with all stakeholders and consider all possible options including a plebiscite, stop the crackdown on the media, drop charges against all those booked under the Public Safety Act, allow the UN human rights commissioner to investigate and work to demilitarise both sides of the line of control.

The statement has condemned the state’s actions in the wake of protests against Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s killing on July 8. “It is unconscionable on the part of the Indian state to exacerbate the situation by choking the lifeline of people in Kashmir. There are reports of vandalism and violence during raids by the police and security forces. As the pillars of a modern democracy are wrecked with the media gag, the abuse of the impunity accorded to the law enforcement agencies is bound to escalate. There have been instances of harassment, abuse and baseless arrests of Kashmiris working and studying, not only in Kashmir but also in different parts of India, for having voiced their political views,” the statement says.

The media, the statement continues, has played a role in perpetuating the way things are. “It is disturbing to witness the Indian media pumping up jingoistic fervor in the minds of people in India. The propagation and glorification of state aggression and war mongering by the government, media and almost every political party has led to a lethal form of pro-state fanaticism. The success of the state machinery in realizing this propaganda also highlights the failure of the Indian civil society.”

This scenario is unsustainable, the statement says, and not conducive to an amicable settlement of the issue. “The situation in India is increasingly becoming claustrophobic, making it difficult to have any political discussion on Kashmir. Voicing any opinion divergent from the popular ‘pro-state’ narrative is now a cause for slapping charges of sedition. In such an environment even a peaceful non-violent discussion to understand the nature of problems that Kashmir faces becomes impossible. Without such understanding any solution proposed would only be a repetition of the cycles seen over the last 70 years, which have not led to any tangible solutions. We urge the government to allow an open discussion so as to facilitate the understanding of the legitimate demands and concerns that the people of Kashmir have been raising over the course of last 70 years.”

Signatories of the statement include filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, activist Binayak Sen, activist and author Gautam Bhan, activist Harsh Mander, feminist researcher Kalyani Menon-Sen, founder of Greenpeace India Lalita Ramdas, writer and activist Meena Kandasamy, lawyer Vrinda Grover and numerous others.