When we arrived in Srinagar on 9 August, we found the city silenced and desolated by curfew, and bristling with Indian military and paramilitary presence. The curfew was total, as it had been since 5th August. The streets of Srinagar were empty and all institutions and establishments were closed (shops, schools, libraries, petrol pumps, government offices, banks). Only some ATMs and chemists’ shops - and all police stations - were open. People were moving about in ones and twos here and there, but not in groups.
We travelled widely, inside and outside Srinagar – far beyond the small enclave (in the centre of Srinagar) where the Indian media operates. In that small enclave, a semblance of normalcy returns from time to time, and this has enabled the Indian media to claim that life in Kashmir is back to normal. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We spent five days moving around and talking to hundreds of ordinary people in Srinagar city, as well as villages and small towns of Kashmir. We spoke to women, school and college students, shopkeepers, journalists, people who run small businesses, daily wage labourers, workers and migrants from UP, West Bengal and other states. We spoke to Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs who live in the Valley, as well as Kashmiri Muslims.
Everywhere, we were cordially received, even by people who were very angry about the situation or sceptical of our purpose. Even as people expressed their pain, anger, and sense of betrayal against the Government of India, they extended warmth and unstinting hospitality to us. We are deeply moved by this.
Except for the BJP spokesperson on Kashmir Affairs, we did not meet a single person who supported the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Article 370. On the contrary, most people were extremely angry, both at the abrogation of Article 370 (and 35A) and at the manner in which it had been done.
Anger and fear were the dominant emotions we encountered everywhere. People expressed their anger freely in informal conversation, but no-one was willing to speak on camera. Anyone who speaks up is at risk of persecution from the government.
Many told us that they expected massive protests to erupt sooner or later (after restrictions were relaxed, after Eid, after 15 August, or even later), and anticipated violent repression even if the protests were peaceful.
A summary of our observations
• There is intense and virtually unanimous anger in Kashmir against the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A, and also about the way this has been done.
• To control this anger, the government has imposed curfew-like conditions in Kashmir. Except for some ATMs, chemists’ shops and police stations, most establishments are closed for now.
• The clampdown on public life and effective imposition of curfew have also crippled economic life in Kashmir, that too at a time of the BakrEid festival that is meant for abundance and celebration.
• People live in fear of harassment from the government, army or police. People expressed their anger freely in informal conversation, but no-one was willing to speak on camera.
• The Indian media’s claims of a rapid return to normalcy in Kashmir are grossly misleading. They are based on selective reports from a small enclave in the centre of Srinagar.
• As things stand, there is no space in Kashmir for any sort of protest, however peaceful. However, mass protests are likely to erupt sooner or later.
Reactions To The Government’s Treatment of J&K
• When our flight landed, and the airlines staff announced that passengers could switch on our mobiles, the entire flight (with mostly Kashmiris in it) burst into mocking laughter. “What a joke”, we could hear people say - since mobile and landline phones and internet have all been blocked since 5 August!
• As soon as we set foot in Srinagar, we came across a few small children playacting in a park. We could hear them say ‘Iblees Modi’. ‘Iblees’ means ‘Satan’.
• The words we heard over and over from people about the Government decisions on J&K were ‘zulm’ (oppression), ‘zyadti’ (excess/cruelty), and ‘dhokha’ (betrayal). As one man in Safakadal (downtown Srinagar) put it, “The Government has treated us Kashmiris like slaves, taking decisions about our lives and our future while we are captive. It’s like forcing something down our throats while keeping us bound and gagged, with a gun to our heads.”
• In every lane of Srinagar city, every town, every village, that we visited, we received an extensive schooling from ordinary people, including school kids, on the history of the Kashmir dispute. They were angry and appalled at the manner in which the Indian media was whitewashing this history. Many said: “Article 370 was the contract between Kashmir’s leadership and India’s. Had that contract not been signed, Kashmir would never have acceded to India. With Article 370 gone, India no longer has any basis for its claim over Kashmir.” One man in the Jahangir Chowk area near Lal Chowk, described Article 370 as a ‘mangalsutra’ (sacred necklace worn by married women) symbolising a contract (analogous to the marital contract) between Kashmir and India. (More on people’s reactions to the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A below)
• There is widespread anger against the Indian media. People are imprisoned in their homes, unable to communicate with each other, express themselves on social media, or make their voices heard in any way. In their homes, they watch Indian TV claim that Kashmir welcomes the Government decisions. They seethe with rage at the erasure of their voices. As one young man in Safakadal put it, “Kiski shaadi hai, aur kaun naach raha hai?! (It’s supposed to be our wedding, but it’s only others who are dancing!) If this move is supposed to be for our benefit and development, why not ask what we ourselves think about it?”
Reactions To The Abrogation Of Article 370 and 35A
• A man in Guree village (Anantnag district) said: “Hamara unse rishta Article 370 aur 35A se tha. Ab unhone apne hi paer par kulhadi mar di hai. In Articles ko khatm kar diya hai. Ab to ham azad ho gaye hain.” (Our relation with them (India) was through Article 370 and Article 35A. Now they have themselves committed the folly of dissolving these Articles. So now we are free.” The same man raised slogans of “We want freedom” followed by slogans of “Restore Articles 370 and 35A.”
• Many described Article 370 and 35A as Kashmir’s “pehchan” (identity). They felt that the abrogation of these Articles is a humiliating attack on Kashmir’s self-respect and identity.
• Not all demanded restoration of Article 370. Many said that it was only the parliamentary parties who had asked people to have faith that India would honour the contract that was Article 370. The abrogation of Article 370 only discredited those “pro-India parties”, and vindicated those who argued for Kashmir’s “azaadi" (independence) from India, they felt. One man in Batamaloo said: “Jo india ke geet gate hain, apne bande hain, ve bhi band hain! (Those who sang praises of India, India’s own agents, they too are imprisoned!” A Kashmiri journalist observed, “Many people are happy about the treatment the mainstream parties are getting. These parties batted for the Indian State and are being humiliated now.”
• “Modi has destroyed India's own law, its own Constitution” was another common refrain. Those who said this, felt that Article 370 was more important to India (to legitimise its claim to Kashmir) than it was to Kashmir. But the Modi Government had not only sought to destroy Kashmir, it had destroyed a law and Constitution that was India’s own.
• A hosiery businessman in Jahangir Chowk, Srinagar said, “Congress ne peeth mein choora bhonka tha, BJP ne saamne se choora bhonka hai.” (Congress had stabbed us from the back, BJP is stabbing us up front). He added, “They strangled their own Constitution. It's first step towards Hindu Rashtra.”
• In some ways, people were more concerned about the effects of the abrogation of 35A than that of 370. It is widely recognised that Article 370 retained only nominal, symbolic autonomy and had already been diluted. With 35A gone, though, people fear that “State land will be sold cheap to investors. Ambani, Patanjali etc can come in easily. Kashmir’s resources and land will be grabbed. In Kashmir as it stands now, education and employment levels are better than in the mainland. But tomorrow Kashmiris will have to compete for Government jobs with those from other states. After one generation, most Kashmiris won't have jobs or be forced to move to the mainland.”
“Normalcy” - Or “Peace Of The Graveyard”?
Is the situation in Kashmir “normal” and “peaceful”? The answer is an emphatic NO.
• One young man in Sopore said: “This is bandook ki khamoshi (the silence at gunpoint), kabristan ki khamoshi (the peace of the graveyard).”
• The newspaper Greater Kashmir had one (front) page of news and a sports page at the back: the two inside pages were full of cancellation announcements of weddings or receptions!
• Between 5-9 August, people had suffered for lack of food, milk, and basic needs. People had been prevented even from going to hospitals in case of sickness.
• The Government claim is that only Section 144 has been imposed, not “curfew”. But in reality, police vans keep patrolling Srinagar warning people to “stay safe at home and not venture out during the curfew”, and tell shops to close their shutters. They demand that people display “curfew passes” to be allowed to move about.
• All of Kashmir is under curfew. Even on Eid, the roads and bazaars were silent and desolate. All over Srinagar, mobility is restricted by concertina wires on streets, and massive paramilitary deployment. Even on Eid, this was the case. In many villages, azaan was prohibited by the paramilitary and people were forced to do namaaz prayers at home rather than collectively at the mosque as it usual on Eid.
• In Anantnag, Shopian and Pampore (South Kashmir) on the day of Eid, we only saw very small kids dressed in Eid finery. Everyone else was in mourning. “We feel like we’re in jail”, said a woman in Guree (Anantnag). Girls in Nagbal (Shopian) said, “With our brothers in police or army custody, how can we celebrate Eid?”
• On 11 August, on the eve of Eid, a woman at Sopore told us she had come to the bazaar during a brief respite in the curfew, to buy a few supplies for Eid. She said: “We were prisoners in our own homes for 7 days. Even today, shops are closed in my village Langet, so I came to Sopore town to shop for Eid and to check on my daughter who is a nursing student here.”
• “It’s Army rule not Modi rule. There are more soldiers here than people”, said a young baker at Watpura near Bandipora. His friend added, “We’re afraid, because the army camp nearby keeps imposing impossible rules. They insist we have to return within half an hour if we leave home. If my kid isn't well, and I have to take her to the hospital, it may take more than half an hour. If someone visits their daughter who lives in next village, they may take more than half hour to return. But if there’s any delay, they will harass us.” The CRPF paramilitary is everywhere, outside nearly every home in Kashmir. These are clearly not there to provide “security” to Kashmiris - on the contrary, their presence creates fear for the people.
• Sheep traders and herders could be seen with unsold sheep and goats. Animals they had been rearing all year long, would not be sold. This meant they would incur a huge loss. With people unable to earn, many could not afford to buy animals for the Eid sacrifice.
• A shopkeeper from Bijnore (UP) showed us the stacks of unsold sweets and delicacies going waste, since people could not buy them. Shops and bakeries wore a deserted look on the eve of Eid, with their perishable food items lying unsold.
• An asthmatic auto driver in Srinagar, showed us his last remaining dose of salbutamol and asthalin. He had been trying for the past several days to buy more - but the chemists’ shops and hospitals in his area had run out of stocks. He could go to other, bigger hospitals - but CRPF would prevent him. He showed us the empty, crushed cover of one asthalin inhaler - when he told a CRPF man he needed to go further to get the medicine, the man stamped on the cover with his boot. “Why stamp on it? He hates us, that’s why”, said the auto driver.
Protests, Repression, and Brutality
• Some 10,000 people protested in Soura (Srinagar) on 9 August. The forces responded with pellet gun fire, injuring several. We attempted to go to Soura on 10 August, but were stopped by a CRPF barricade. We did see young protestors on the road that day as well, blockading the road.
• We met two victims of pellet gun injuries in SMHS hospital in Srinagar. The two young men (Waqar Ahmad and Wahid) had faces, arms and torso full of pellets. Their eyes were bloodshot and blinded. Waqar had a catheter in which the urine, red with blood from internal bleeding, could be seen. Their family members, weeping with grief and rage, told us that the two men had not been pelting stones. They had been peacefully protesting.
• On 6 August, a graphic designer for the Rising Kashmir newspaper, Samir Ahmad, (in his early 20s) had remonstrated with a CRPF man near his home in the Manderbag area of Srinagar, asking him to allow an old man to pass. Later the same day, when Samir opened the door to his house, CRPF fired at him with a pellet gun, unprovoked. He got 172 pellets in his arm and face near the eyes, but his eyesight is safe. It is clear that the pellet guns are deliberately aimed at the face and eyes, and unarmed, peaceful civilians standing at their own front doors can be targets.
• At least 600 political leaders and civil society activists are under arrest. There is no clear information on what laws are invoked to arrest them, or where they are being held.
• A very large number of political leaders are under house arrest - it is impossible to ascertain how many. We tried to meet CPIM MLA Mohd Yusuf Tarigami - but were refused entry into his home in Srinagar, where he is being under house arrest.
• In every village we visited, as well as in downtown Srinagar, there were very young schoolboys and teenagers who had been arbitrarily picked up by police or army/paramilitary and held in illegal detention. We met a 11-year-old boy in Pampore who had been held in a police station between 5 August and 11 August. He had been beaten up, and he said there were boys even younger than him in custody, from nearby villages.
• Hundreds of boys and teens are being picked up from their beds in midnight raids. The only purpose of these raids is to create fear. Women and girls told us of molestation by armed forces during these raids. Parents feared meeting us and telling us about the “arrests” (abductions) of their boys. They are afraid of Public Security Act cases being filed. The other fear is that the boys may be “disappeared” - i.e killed in custody and dumped in mass graves of which Kashmir has a grim history. As one neighbour of an arrested boy said, “There is no record of these arrests. It is illegal detention. So if the boy “disappears” - i.e is killed in custody - the police/army can just say they never had him in custody in the first place.”
• But the protests are not likely to stop. A young man at Sopore said: “Jitna zulm karenge, utna ham ubharenge” (The more you oppress us, the more we will rise up) A familiar refrain we heard at many places was: “Never mind if leaders are arrested. We don’t need leaders. As long as even a single Kashmiri baby is alive, we will struggle.”
The Gag On Media
• A journalist told us: “Newspapers are printing in spite of everything. Without the internet, we do not get any feed from agencies. We were reduced to reporting the J&K related developments in Parliament, from NDTV! This is undeclared censorship. If Govt is giving internet and phone connectivity to police but not to media houses what does it mean? We had some people come to our offices, speaking on behalf of Army and CRPF, asking “Why are you publishing photos of the curfew-affected streets?”
• Kashmiri TV channels are completely closed and unable to function.
• Kashmiri newspapers that carry the barest mention of protests (such as the one on Soura) are made to feel the heat from the authorities.
• Foreign press reporters told us that they are facing restrictions on their movement by the authorities. Also, because of the lack of internet, they are unable to communicate with their own main offices.
• When we visited Press Enclave in Srinagar on 13 August, we found the newspaper offices closed and the area deserted except for a few stray journalists, and some CID men. One of the journalists told us that papers could not be printed till at least 17 August, because they have run out of newsprint which comes from Delhi.
• As mentioned above, one graphic designer working with a newspaper suffered pellet gun injuries, during a completely unprovoked attack by CRPF
Does Kashmir Lack Development?
In an op-ed in the Times Of India (August 9, 2019), former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador Nirupama Rao wrote: “A young Kashmiri told this writer a few months ago her birthplace was in the “stone age”; that in terms of economic development, Kashmir was two hundred years behind the rest of India.”
We struggled to find this “backward”, “stone age” Kashmir anywhere at all.
• It is striking how in every Kashmiri village, we found young men and women who go to college or University; speak Kashmiri, Hindi and English fluently; and are able to argue points of Constitutional and international law in relation to the Kashmir conflict with factual accuracy and erudition. All four of the team members are familiar with villages in North Indian states. This high level of education is extremely rare in any village in, say, Bihar, UP, MP, or Jharkhand.
• The homes in rural Kashmir are all pucca constructions. We saw no shacks like the ones that are common in rural Bihar, UP, Jharkhand.
• There are poor people in Kashmir, certainly. But the levels of destitution, starvation and abject poverty seen in many North Indian states, is simply absent in rural Kashmir.
• We met migrant labourers from North India and West Bengal at many places. They told us that they feel safe and free from xenophobic violence that they face in, say, Maharashtra or Gujarat. Daily wage migrant labourers told us “Kashmir is our Dubai. We earn Rs 600 to Rs 800 per day here - that is three or four times what we earn in other states.”
• We found Kashmir refreshingly free of communal tension or mob lynchings. We met Kashmiri pandits who told us they felt safe in Kashmir, and that the Kashmiris always celebrate their festivals together. “We celebrate Eid, Holi, Diwali together. That is our Kashmiriyat. It is something different, special,” said one Kashmiri Pandit young man.
• The myth of the “backward” Kashmiri woman is perhaps the biggest lie. Kashmiri girls enjoy a high level of education. They are articulate and assertive. Of course, they face and resist patriarchy and gender discrimination in their societies. But does BJP, whose Haryana CM and Muzaffarnagar MLA speak of “getting Kashmiri brides” as though Kashmiri women are property to be looted, have any right to preach feminism to Kashmir? Kashmiri girls and women told us, “We are capable of fighting our own battles. We don’t want our oppressors to claim to liberate us!”
The BJP Spokesperson’s “Warning”
We met BJP spokesperson on Kashmir affairs, Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo at the office of Rising Kashmir, a Kashmir newspaper. The conversation was initially cordial. He told us he had come to Kashmir from Jammu to persuade people to support the abrogation of Article 370. His main argument was that since the BJP had won a 46% vote share in J&K and had won an unprecedented majority in Parliament, they had not only a right but a duty to keep their promise of scrapping Article 370. “46% vote share - that’s a license”, he said.
He refused to acknowledge that this 46% vote share while winning only three Lok Sabha seats (Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh) was possible only because the voter turnout in the three other LS seats (Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramulla) was the lowest in the whole country.
Should a Government impose an unpopular decision on people of Kashmir who have not voted for that decision, at gunpoint? Chrungoo said, “In Bihar when Nitish Kumar imposed prohibition, he didn’t ask the alcoholics for their permission or consent. It’s the same here.” His contempt for the people of Kashmir was evident from this analogy.
Towards the end of the conversation, he became increasingly edgy when confronted by facts and arguments by us. He got up and wagged a finger at Jean Dreze, saying “We won’t let anti-nationals like you do your work here. I am warning you.”
The whole of Kashmir is, at the moment, a prison, under military control. The decisions taken by the Modi Government on J&K are immoral, unconstitutional and illegal. The means being adopted by the Modi Government to hold Kashmiris captive and suppress potential protests are also immoral, unconstitutional, and illegal.
• We demand the immediate restoration of Articles 370 and 35A.
• We assert that no decision about the status or future of J&K should be taken without the will of its people.
• We demand that communications - including landline telephones, mobile phones and internet be restored with immediate effect.
• We demand that the gags on the freedom of speech, expression and protest be lifted from J&K with immediate effect. The people of J&K are anguished - and they must be allowed to express their protest through media, social media, public gatherings and other peaceful means.
• We demand that the gags on journalists in J&K be lifted immediately.
Jean Drèze, economist
Kavita Krishnan, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and AIPWA
Maimoona Mollah, All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA)
Vimal Bhai, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM)
14 August 2019
A short "anonymous" video of survey of Kashmir by Jean Dreze, Kavita Krishnan and others. I understand the compulsions under which it was filmed. I hope they'll publish more in due course. The video fully supports their comprehensive statement posted below in the earlier post.
14 August 2019
Kavita Krishnan is a well-known political activist, leader of a political party. It is no wonder she is often seen in solidarity with struggling people.
Jean Dreze in contrast is that extremely rare top class academic who is fully immersed in real, no-profit, relentless grassroots activism. There used to be some like him many decades ago.
Those days are gone. Setting aside fake tall claims by JNU, CSDS, TISS, CSSS, and Jadavpur types, Jean Dreze is about the only surviving member of a near-extinct species. That is why the lean, ascetic, ever-smiling Jean is so dangerous. And so precious.
15 August 2019
Most promising. UN will discuss the other side of the Kashmir issue, as the people of Kashmir on this side continue in prison.
"In view of China’s letter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to discuss the Kashmir issue, experts and veteran diplomats are indicating that irrespective of the outcome, the discussion is a diplomatic landmark".
"the letter from Beijing was sent a day after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar returned from Beijing where he had met his counterpart Wang Yi and explained India’s official stance on the Kashmir issue".
"China had expressed unhappiness over the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir which led to the creation of a new Union Territory of Ladakh which hints at Indian claims over Aksai Chin that is part of the discussion on India-China Boundary Question".
16 August 2019
The most reflective, erudite, sensitive (and the saddest) piece on Kashmir so far by someone who is engaged with all dimensions of the Kashmir issue from the inside. Most importantly, Shah Faesal represents the prominent new disarming and civil face of Kashmir that was trying to replace decades of bloodshed, shrillness, corruption, opportunism and betrayal by virtually everyone else. He forms the most promising bridge between the anguished India and the strife-torn Kashmir.
By gagging and arresting him, Modi-Shah have offered the most helpful hand to the terrorist.
“real consequences of this step will be known when the curfew is lifted. Once it starts sinking in and people start to face the consequences of these drastic steps, day to day incidents of indignation start happening and people feel their land, their identity have actually been taken away from them, I think it is then when the real consequences of this government’s decision would be known. I am scared that Kashmir might enter a new phase of conflict, which we have never imagined.”
16 August 2019
Just saw another 'timely' and timid petition by the usual bunch of south asian NRI academics and some others requesting the govt. to bring peace, democracy etc. and engage in dialogue. No demand for reinstating article 370, 35A, return to statehood, withdrawal of military, renewed dialogue on autonomy. Modi-Shah will be damn pleased, if they care to scroll down.
If only just 50 of them will emulate Jean Dreze, who is a far better scholar than any of these pompous NRIs, and march in the streets of delhi or assemble at Srinagar airport. But then it's summer time, travel time, lecture time, network time. Where's the time for Jantar Mantar?
17 August 2019
In Kashmir, Modi-Shah are implementing the logical culmination of a project that was initiated by Congress 30 years ago, and refined by 'leftist' JNU professors and students in February 2016.
JNU left must be grateful to Modi-Shah for picking up the right signals on how to treat the people of Kashmir.
Three years ago I wrote why Kashmir is a big problem even for the otherwise credible left, not to mention quasi-bhakts like Guha and Mehta. The know-all left-liberals totally ignored it, but Modi-Shah could not have missed the vulnerability of left-liberals on this issue. The rest is history.
"the mainstream left as a whole never gave any definite support either to the Kashmiri freedom struggle or to protest on the ‘great miscarriage of justice’ (as A. G. Noorani put it) regarding Afzal Guru. This is because, within a statist framework, each of these causes tests the idea of democratic dissent at the extremities of the framework. These causes challenge the otherwise progressive left to face two sharp issues:
(a) Do the people of Kashmir have a right to self-determination even if the Indian parliament had unanimously resolved in favour of inclusion of Kashmir within the union of India?
(b) Is it legitimate to protest the judgment of the Supreme Court of India after all legal avenues have been duly exhausted and the President of India had given his seal of approval?
The dilemma is glaring. While affirmative answers to these questions appear to challenge the supremacy of the parliament and the Apex Court, negative answers appear to curtail the fundamental right of democratic dissent. Dilemmas often induce silence."
This brings out the total bankruptcy of the idea of democracy entertained by the left-liberal forces.
17 August 2019
Thus speaks a quasi-bhakt.
As the international pressure on the Kashmir issue mounts and the influential NRI south asianists sign another petition, domestic intellectuals are wriggling in discomfort. How do they keep to statist emoluments while venting 'democratic' frustration? The 'political scientist' Pratap Mehta comes up with the following strategy.
First declare that article 370 is 'debatable'. If it is debatable, then abrogating it becomes one of the valid options. Modi-Shah will be pleased. Having assured safety, he creates a dense word-cloud about democracy: 'alarming casualness', 'lack of empathetic imagination', 'weakening commitment to freedom', 'untrammelled executive power writ large', etc. etc. Each of these apply to every regime across the world, nothing specially sinister about Modi-Shah and Kashmir. Business as usual. No real complaint about Modi-Shah.
Having done his bit on democracy, he shifts attention to the courts of law for about 4/5th of the piece. He complains about 'Indian legal system abdicating its responsibility' in protecting liberty, the record is 'spotty'. It has been happening with 'alarming' regularity. '“liberty” cases' should have been the 'top priority'. He shows his scholarship by citing the Maneka Gandhi case. This is followed by a series of citations from renowned judges and advocates on protection of liberty: justice Chandrachud, Justice A. N. Roy, H M Seervai, historian Rohit De, Sir Maurice Gwyer. The liberal scholarship will be thrilled.
Yes, he agrees, there are some long-pending problems that need to be discussed. The legal system needs to be more sensitive. Modi will agree. But then, "Admittedly, there are security exigencies in Kashmir, and the state has an interest in preventing violence." This time, Shah will applaud.
Abject misery forced on millions of people, rights of Kashmiris, brutal subjugation of a population by an occupation army--do not find a mention.
17 August 2019
NDTV reports from Kashmir that in order to maintain 'law and order', military rulers of Kashmir have come up with four Ms that need to be controlled: Movers (politicians), Monsters (stone pelters), Militants (terrorists), Moulvis (Imams).
Here is an example of the category of Monsters. The one holding a basketball in her left hand is particularly cute. She won't part with it. Children will be children.
18 August 2019
Apparently, Ram Guha has written a piece lamenting that democracy has not taken roots in the country. I hope a look in the mirror started off the reflections.
I also hope that he is enough of a historian to include the entire left liberal fraternity as the object of his lament (with a few, very few, outstanding exceptions like Jean Dreze). Not just the Modi-Shah gang, that'd be easy.
Kashmir always provides a view of the hamaam.
18 August 2019
In Full Solidarity with Kavita Krishnan.
Some Sanghis are trolling the brave activist Ms. Kavita Krishnan for spreading the word about the human rights situation in Kashmir. She has every right to organise distinguished citizen's teams to visit Kashmir and make first-hand eye-witness reports on the condition there.
She herself, along with Prof. Jean Dreze, was part of such a terrific team that has opened the view of Kashmir for the rest of the world. This is an absolutely essential democratic practice in view of the persistent lies by the militaristic state.
All democratic citizen's must stand by Ms. Kavita Krishnan
for this salutary effort. And join her in her courageous effort to stand by the people of Kashmir.
18 August 2019
More details from citizen's visit to Kashmir. Children are picked up from their families in the night and kept under indefinite detention. Women are molested during the process. Hospitals are full of people with pellet injuries. There are paramilitary people at every nook and corner.
Young men are picked up and tortured in front of mics so that their screams can be heard over loudspeakers.
I withdraw my earlier ascription of Kashmir as Gaza. With all the violence hanging over it, Gaza still has an active civil life. Kashmir is more like Guantanamo Bay, except that it is a vast region of the Himalayas.
18 August 2019
As news fatigue is beginning to bother the audiences of television and social media, Kashmir is disappearing from view. With tall assurances from the govt. and the rains washing down all the sins of the state, Kashmir might look like coming back to normalcy. Since no news is good news, here's the news:
1. Even after two weeks, Kashmir is under near-total military shutdown.
2. Between 4000-6000 persons have been arrested since the clampdown on top of the thousands already in prison.
3. Since local prisons are filled to the brim, prisoners are flown outside Kashmir in military aircraft.
4. The moment curfew was lifted in some parts of Srinagar, dozens of protests broke out. Curfew is back as hospitals are filling up with injuries due to clashes.
5. Only some primary schools are likely to open only in some parts of Srinagar.
Add to this the atrocities already covered in the last post.
19 August 2019
People keep referring to Ambedkar, Nehru, Patel, even Hari Singh and his dogra forefathers, origins of Kashmiri Sufism etc. to deliberate on the current Kashmir issue. These are topics for writing JNU theses; what else can they work on?
However, as I have pointed out many times, all this 'scholarly' reference to history is totally irrelevant. All that matters is what Kashmiris demand NOW. Otherwise, we will still be debating whether India should be a buddhist state because Emperor Ashoka wanted it that way, while he was killing off 18000 ajivika Jains.
20 August 2019
Glass is not even half-full.
First CPM protested about their comrade in Kashmir being detained, then Congress complained about its leaders. Now DMK goes a step further and demands release of political leaders.
For the common people, the entire valley is under virtual curfew. Over 4000 Kashmiris are detained. Prisons are overflowing. Military is firing bullets and pellets at unarmed protesters. Even primary school children are not attending school.
Yet CPM, Congress, DMK etc. are only concerned about the useless leaders in the valley. No wonder Modi-Shah-Bisht are dominating the politics.
20 August 2019
Over a fortnight has passed since the direct military clampdown on Kashmir, virtually imprisoning nearly 10 million people, double the population of Palestine. Just a few parties--divided Congress, DMK, non-existent CPM, non-existent CPI, reluctant TMC etc.--opposed the move.
After the clampdown, only CPIML(LIB)/AISA has held a very small token rally in Delhi. Deafening silence from the rest of the so-called secular democratic forces: Congress, CPI, CPM etc. except for timid, non-committal TV bytes.
After such a massive attack on the people, Gandhi's land would have expected waves and waves of massive rallies in solidarity. They could march repeatedly for the benign arrest of 3 JNU students. They cannot march when a million people are caged and starving.
The people of Kashmir are watching and thinking, watching and thinking, from behind the bars.
21 August 2019
As Kashmir disappears from TV and social media, and as the wily Chidambaram hogs the attention of the nation, let us listen to the real voice of the people.
It is amazing to see how the voice of resistance is able to gather strength the moment the monstrous clampdown allows a tiny crack. Nothing beats the wonder of resistance against all odds.
22 August 2019
Kashmir fighting back.
It is becoming clear that, even with all channels of communication blocked, people of Kashmir have devised a two-pronged Gandhian strategy to resist the mighty Indian state.
1. As my earlier post showed, the moment the state is compelled to allow some tiny relaxation of its grip, the people immediately come out onto the streets and start vigorous peaceful protest rallies. For how long can the state enforce the grip as the international concern is widening?
2. From the opposite direction, even if the state tries to 'normalize' things for photo-ops by opening schools, markets, banks, petrol stations etc., people refuse to come out and use the facilities. They deprive themselves with their guts to deprive the state of photo-ups. Let the state 'normalize' things for itself.
These are classic examples of what Gandhi called ASAHAYOG, Non-Cooperation. If the oppressor is even minimally civilized, he will have to retreat, as the British rule found out.
23 August 2019
Kashmir is a chance for the Left.
It is abundantly clear by now that the Indian Left has failed in its 'mainstream' electoral politics. In the process, it has lost touch with its real base in the basic masses. Left simply does not have the resources to reactivate its moribund electoral politics.
Its only chance of revival lies in active, persistent, visible and militant organisation of and support to people's causes which are basically set aside by 'mainstream' politics for fear of losing this vote or that vote, including the backlash by corporate media (Look how even NDTV is now covering Kashmir). It must join people's struggles regardless of whether the reactionary middle classes approve of it, or whether it has the clearance from the parliament etc.
KASHMIR IS SUCH AN ISSUE.
No doubt, it'll be strongly 'trolled' by the state with its poilce etc. egged on by the corporate media under the shrill voice of Goswamis and Chaubeys. The reactionary neoliberal-addicted crowd will also cry wolf in social media.
But the currently rudderless, routeless basic masses will watch and listen. Not only in Kashmir, but also in the rest of the subaltern India. That resolute act of solidarity might win back its power in electoral politics, as in the past.
Yes, the left must join the freedom struggle in Kashmir. The flags of CPM, CPI, CPIML, RSP, FB must be seen in the street protests in Kashmir.
23 August 2019
Tail between the legs?
Correct me if I am wrong, but to my knowledge so far not a single country, except perhaps Bhutan, has supported India's unilateral decision to divide J&K, abrogation of articles 370 and 35A, and demotion to UT status. NO ONE has said that these are India's internal matters. Only India says this. So, Congress' Adhir Chowdhury was right in the parliament.
Everyone, including big beneficiaries of the Modi regime US and France, and 'close friend' Putin's Russia, view this as a bilateral issue to be addressed by India AND Pakistan. Everyone directs India to enter into dialogue with Pakistan and maintain peace. There goes the false boast about POK and re-consideration of no first use policy.
And there is growing concern and pressure about detentions, prolonged curfew, use of violence by the state, and violation of human rights. Last but not the least, Kashmiri people just won't bend.
With economy in doldrums, Kashmir is beginning to backfire.
26 August 2019
Time of the cowards.
So, Yechury and Raja, allegedly leaders of two 'communist' parties, went to Srinagar, not allowed entry, came back. Then Ghulam Navi Azad, a fomer Congress CM of J&K, did the same. Now, Rahul Gandhi, accompanied by 'communists', and other leaders, followed suit.
Rahul is a leader of the party of MK Gandhi, who terrified the world with satyagraha, ahimsa and asahayog,
No one dared to sit down in the Srinagar airport itself on a dharna. Or, if forced into an airplane, sit on dharna in Delhi airport.
Bapu would have started a fast unto death in solidarity with people of Kashmir, and as a penance for the massive sins of the Indian state. On 5 August itself.