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The National Alliance of People’s Movements organised its Delhi state convention in Gautampuri, New Delhi on 10th November 2019. The state convention was attended by the representatives of a number of people’s organisations from the state. The convention discussed various issues being faced by common people in Delhi and India, and how people’s organisations can work together to resolve them. The convention ended by electing a state coordination committee and its representative to the national committee.

The day-long convention was organised at Tikona Park in Gautampuri Phase 2, New Delhi. It was attended by around two hundred people, largely women, with a large representation from the National Domestic Workers Union Delhi and the Urban Women Workers Union. Other organisations represented were SatarkNagrikSangathan (SNS), Dalit Adivasi Shakti AdhikarManch (DASAM), Anhad and Delhi Forum

Victor Dissa spoke about the injustices that people of marginalized communities, especially Dalit and adivasi are facing in recent times. Anjali Bharadwaj of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) expressed the concern of increasing economic inequality in the country and the concentration of resources in the hands of just a few families which also have close funding ties to the ruling party. Ashok Verma spoke about the challenges being faced by people’s movements at the national level. He highlighted major instance of injustices from his home state of Jharkhand, and how groups there are resisting. He congratulated the Delhi unit of NAPM for keeping the struggle going in this part of the country and expressed solidarity from groups across the country. Evita Das of the National Coalition for Inclusive and Sustainable Urbanization spoke about the need to form an agenda for people’s welfare independently of political parties, and how the Coalition has been doing this in the case of the urban poor who face issues like eviction, lack of access and the denial of the right to livelihood.

The state committee elected by the convention is as follows:

  1. Anil Verghese
  2. Evita Das
  3. Anita Kapoor
  4. Sunita Rani
  5. Amrita Johri

The following members were elected to the national committee:

  1. Anjali Bhardwaj
  2. Sanjeev Kumar

“Adivasi hai toh jungle hai, Jungle hai toh adivasi hai!” Supreme Court of India issued an order to evict Adivasi and Traditional Forest Dwelling communities whose forest rights claims had been rejected as part of a long and very poorly implemented claim recognition process. This catastrophic decision will result in the displacement of over 25 lakhs Adivasi and Traditional Forest Dwellers. However, the continued activism of people’s movements from these oppressed communities, shortly resulted in the Supreme Court issuing a stay order on this eviction process. The silver lining of this absurd decision stemming from a decade old petition challenging the constitutional validity of the FRA – a petition that was filed by retired forest bureaucrat and corporate friendly conservation organizations has been that it has brought attention to a several decades of activism by adivasis, forest dependent people and traditional forest dwellers asserting their individual and community forest rights.

This Supreme Court Case has lent momentum to forest rights struggles across the country, which culminated in the Bhumi Adhikar Andolan organized Forest Rights Rally on November 21st, 2019.  However, the central issue of the rally is not just a protest against the legalization of dispossession of people from their ancestral lands through the legal case to overturn the Forest Rights Act, a rare progressive legislation that sought to redress the historic injustices meted out to forest dwelling communities over centuries, but to preserve and effectively implement the Forest Rights Act. 

The rally witnessed the exuberant participation of at least 5000 people from Kashmir in the North to Kanyakumari in the South to Kamrup in the East to Kotra in West. Women, who are often at the receiving end of state sanctioned violence perpetuated by forest departments, have unsurprisingly been at the forefront of the forest rights struggle. Consequently, the rally’s participants comprised heavily of women from these oppressed communities. In the absence of the Union Govt. refusing to defend its own law, many applications for interventions have been filed by activists and academics. This effort includes All India Kisan Sabha, AIUFWP, Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch and others. Nivada Rana of Dudhwa and Sokalo Gond of Sonbhadra district were too at the rally. KK Ragesh, Elamaram Karim and PR Natrajan; they all came to the programme to address solidarity and given a notice in parliament to discuss in the parliament.  When the speaker refused them to discuss about the issue in hand then they staged a walked out. After which they came support for today’s protest programme showed solidarity.Speakers at the rally representing the various people’s movements across the country highlighted the absolute destruction of Adivasi lives, lifestyles and livelihoods stemming from the increasing corporatization and militarization of forests. The corporatization of forest resources, as well as the un-chequered displacement of Adivasi and traditional forest dwelling people from their land for the sake of development has been the consistent move of successive governments. More recently the Trojan horse of conservation has been used to justify the dispossession of the rightful guardians of the forest and bludgeon their collective ownership and autonomy over the forestland that constitutes over one fourth of the country’s geographic area.

This deeply flawed ecological justification that projects grassroots environmentalists as  encroachers, while setting up extractive mining industries, big dams, monoculture plantations through public private partnership of forests is as farcical as it is terrifying as it would result in devastating ecological and biodiversity  loss, degradation of the air, soil and water table and escalated human-animal conflict. Volunteers from Extinction Rebellion were there at the rally to express support and challenge this duplicitous logic of top down conservation and full stomached environmentalism. Speakers at the rally too highlighted the importance of indigenous rights and their powerful potential in combating climate change.

This expression of collective solidarity by forest dwellers and forest workers is only a precursor of the struggles that Adivasi and forest dwelling communities will undertake, often at great personal cost, for safeguarding their ancestral homes, and by virtue the ecological health and sovereignty of India’s heterogeneous forest ecosystems. The struggle for democracy in the woods is also a struggle for preserving democratic spaces and the constitutional morality of the entire country. The recent attempt to amend the Indian Forest Act (1927) has been temporarily shelved by the BJP led union government of India, fearing backlash in the upcoming of Jarkhand elections.

However, given the constant attempt to circumvent progressive forestry legislation and deny communities their rightful forest rights through constant contradicting policies passed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, this may well be a mere eyewash in light of the approaching Jharkhand Elections, a state with a majority indigenous population.

The next date for the Supreme hearing case against the Forest Rights Act is scheduled for November 26th, 2019, that also coincides with the country’s Constitution day.   We call upon the Court to listen to the will of the people and regard the spirit of the Constitution by not only recognizing the constitutional validity of the FRA, but enforcing it in full.

Bhumi Adhikar Andolan; Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch; Jan Ekta Jan Adhikar Andolan; National Alliance of People’s Movements; All India Union of Forest Working People; All India Kisan Sabha (Ajay Bhavan); Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha (Canning Lane); All India Kisan Khet Mazdoor Sangathan; All India Agricultural Workers Union; All India Agragami Kisan Sabha; Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Mahasabha; Lok Sangharsh Morcha; Jan Sangharsh Coordination Committee; Van Panchayat Sangarsh Morcha, Nanital; Save Chhattisgarh Movement; All India Kisan Mahasabha; All India Agricultural Laborers Union; Kisan Sangharsh Samiti; Samyukta Kisan Sangharsh Samiti; INSAF; Delhi Solidarity Group; Kisan Manch; Bharatiya Kisan Union; Mines Mineral and People; Campaign for Survival and Dignity; Janmukti Sangharsh Vahini, Lok Sangharsh Morcha, Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Madhya Pradesh; All India Gujjar Mahasabha – Chamba, Himachal Pradesh; Spiti Civil Society, Lahaul-Spiti, Himachal Pradesh; Sirmaur Van Adhikar Manch, Himachal Pradesh; Himdhara Paryavaran Samuh, Himachal Pradesh; Himachal Van Adhikar Manch, and others.

100 days of Repression #SolidarityWithJammu&Kashmir.

5th of August 2019 will be regarded as one among of the darkest day’s for the Indian Union. This day will be remembered in history as a day when the present Indian state at gun-point under the leadership of a 56 inch hyper-masculine man denounced the ethos of Indian constitution. India’s Prime Minister a well groomed politician, trained in the sakhas of a voluntary association (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) executed a program to emulate Nazi Germany style concentrated camps in Jammu and Kashmir, seizing the citizenship rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

On the 13th November, a protest programme was held against the abrogation of article 370 and 35A. The protest was against the unconstitutional, undemocratic and totalitarian decision to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its statehood and its bifurcation into union territories without taking into confidence its citizens, legislative assembly, political parties and groups. The communication blockade, suspension of human rights, and the arrest of civil society leaders and youth was condemned during the protest programme.

At Jantar Mantar a collective of more than 20 organisations protested against the seize of liberty, equality and justice from the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. The protest programme was chaired by Professor Anand Kumar and was moderated by Dr. Suneelam and Maimoona Mollah. It was addressed by Mr. Sharad Yadav (Loktantrik Janata Dal), Subhashini Ali (AIDWA), Prof. Rajkumar Jain, Prof. Anand Kumar, Vijay Pratap (Samajwadi Samagam), Manju Mohan (Socialist Party India), Tapan Bose (PIPFPD), Ritu Kaushik (AIMSS), Sucharita (PMS), Nandita Narayan (Citizen Against War), Priyadarshini (DSG), Ani Raja (NFIW), Sanjeev Kumar (DASAM), Bhoopendra Rawat (NAPM), Dr. A.K Arun (B.B.P.P.F), Jaishankar Gupt (Member of Press Council of India), Atul Anjan (C.P.I), Yadav Reddy (Former M.L.A), Niraj Kumar, Vandana Pandey (Samajwadi Yuvjan Sabha), Sunita (Rashtriya Gharelu Kamgaar Union), Ambarish Singh (Forward Block), N.D Pancholi (CSD), Kavita Srivastav (PUCL), Vikram Singh (CPIM), Rushda (NFIW), Anil Thakur (Nagrik Manch), P.J Joshi (Indian solidarity committee for freedom democracy and human rights – INSOCO), Purushottam Sharma (AIKMS), Anil (Delhi Solidarity Group). Kamla Bhasin, Harsh Mander, Anil Choudhary, Sunita Dhar, and various other leaders of civil society and human rights groups were present.

The protest programme at Jantar Mantar was an united voice against the muzzling of democratic legacy of independent India. Sajjad Hussain hailing from Kargil, spoke about the current economic situation of apple farmers in Kargil. Due to heavy presence of military personnel in Kargil; transportation, mobility and day to day lives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been affected. In a fact-finding report, it was mentioned that, ‘A girl from Kashmir narrated about what had happened to her brother and father when she lit a lamp at night to study for her upcoming exam. Her brother and father were picked up by forces and have not returned home for many days. Nobody knows where they went. Since then out of fear the entire village kept all lights off at night.

Maimoona Mollah flagged the issues of livelihood for the people of Jammu and Kashmir during the upcoming cold winter. He voiced his concerns; “Hitler made gas chambers to kill millions. Today what is happening in Kashmir is worst. Today Indian politicians of the BJP led government are celebrating communalism”. Nandita Narayan spoke with flare about the situation on hand in Jammu and Kashmir. She highlighted the about the pellet injuries and detention of 13,000 of children in Jammu and Kashmir. She asked why many pro-India ex-chief ministers are under house arrest? She stated that, “its ecstasy of hate which is in practice in Jammu and Kashmir”. Ambarish from All India Forward Bloc mentioned about the fact that how many parliamentarians of the ruling political party provides political shelter to rape accused.

Tapan Bose founder and current chairperson of Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) threw light on the historic conditions under which the creation of article 370 and 35A took place. He had emphasised about the conditions which resulted India to seek UN Security Council’s intervention in 1948 war against the Afridi tribes backed by the Pakistani military who had infiltrated the princely state Jammu and Kashmir. Indian military chiefs advised ministry of defence during that time to take UN’s assistance for a ceasefire. Due to geographic and topographic advantage Afridi tribes backed by Pakistani Military had enjoyed. It was becoming very difficult for the Indian Military to push the infiltrating forces back from the land they already had occupied. Seeking UNSC’s intervention by India was a military and strategic decision. But the present government blatantly lies about that history. Whatever has happened on 5th of August 2019 is a clear betrayal to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. Subhashini Ali emphasised about the fact that most Indians talk about Jammu and Kashmir from a territorial perspective. According to her, people in India are less sensitive towards people of Jammu and Kashmir. The humanitarian aspect is always forgotten; many people are killed by Indian army personnel and many women were victims of rape in Jammu and Kashmir. She stressed on the fact heavy military presence is creating a situation of anxiety and stress, which is leading to a mental health crisis.

Atul Anjan of CPI said that the Modi government sent members of European parties subscribing to the ideology of Mussolini and Hitler to Kashmir but restricts Indian parliamentarians. This is a direct assault to India’s parliament and the constitution. He said that history shows us that guns cannot silence ideas. At present the ruling party is not running government of India according to the constitution. They are running the government in incognito mode and being remote controlled by a voluntary association. At present the voluntary association with an estimated 6 million members preaches ‘Hindutva‘ which demands for an exclusive Hindu ‘Rashtra‘ (nation). A nation where there will be hegemony of the ‘Hindus’ and the ‘Hindu way of life’. The ‘Hindu way of life’ in Hindu ‘Rashtra‘ according to the voluntary association RSS; states that people from all other religious beliefs apart from Hindu’s should happily accept subordinate status to Hinduism or convert as a Hindu. If anyone resist and dissent such a political discourse than they all become anti-nationals, sedition cases will be slapped on them and will be abused with communal slurs such as ‘Babur ki aulaad‘ (sons of Babur), and katua (one who is circumcised) or threatened of deportation to Pakistan or Bangladesh.

In India, where the father of the nation is Mahatma Gandhi; Sovereign Socialist Democratic Republic of India does celebrate peace, forget-forgive and inclusivity. In such spaces RSS as a voluntary association has existed politically. There are many volunteers who are part of the socio-political economic growth of RSS. Nathuram Godse, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Dattatreya Krishnarao Deoras are few volunteers associated with RSS. Their everyday politics in practice advocated about use of violence as means to achieve the desired objective, Manusmṛiti as a practice to treat Dalits inhumanely and mobilize youths with communal hatred. All such practices celebrated by RSS are against ethos of India’s national anthem and India’s constitution. The constitution and India’s national anthem celebrates in “Unity in Diversity” whereas “Hindutva” celebrates in exclusivity and divisiveness.

Former Union Minister, leader of LJD, Sharad Yadav said that in the previous elections in Kashmir, there was 74 % voting, but after the BJP government the people of Jammu and Kashmir have lost their trust in India. This government has taken away their statehood. The leaders of Kashmir who advocated staying with India, Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mufti Mohammad and other party people, were put under arrest. NRC is the new issue which is playing divide and rule politics over India. Santosh Kumar discussed how the state is behaving like a terrorist organisation, where it doesn’t respect the integrity and dignity of the citizens of this country, after which Jaishankar Gupt highlighted the hidden motives of the BJP government behind the move of abrogation of article 370 and 35A. He said; “The dream of buying land in Kashmir is such a lie. We cannot buy vegetables in Delhi due to price rise how does abrogation of article 370 and 35A will help poor and middle classes of India to buy land. The abrogation was done only for Adani’s and Ambani’s.  

Professor Rajkumar Jain mentioned that at present, it is our duty to go for an all-out fight. We should be ready to be in jails in Tihar if not in Kashmir. The colonial legacy of British India of partition should be removed by bringing Indo-Pakistan Bangladesh Unity. All the people of the sub-continent share common language and similar culture. Vikram Singh of AIKS said that the abrogation of article 370 and 35A is not a decision of the masses; it’s a decision of the BJP led government. Asha Sharma highlighted that this is an ideological fight. This government has made it into a communal identity politics. Amit Shah and Narender Modi have no understanding of the history of the hard-earned freedom and independence. But we will fight against such oppressive politics of BJP. United, we willfight against the destruction of our constitution. We will fight for freedom and justice.

Dr. Suneelam, executive chairman of the Bangladesh Bharat Pakistan People’s Forum said that today, events for solidarity with Kashmir are being organised across more than 100 venues to let the people of Kashmir know that even if the central government is against them, the progressive civil society groups and socialist leftists stand with them. He informed that Bangladesh Bharat Pakistan People’s Forum will organise a Kashmir solidarity march from Jammu to Kashmir between 26th November to 2nd December.

It was eventually concluded from the protest programme that citizens need to voice about injustices which are taking place in Jammu and Kashmir under heavy military presence.

Inquilab Zindabaad!

We spent five days (9-13 August 2019) traveling extensively in Kashmir. Our visit began on 9 August 2019 – four days after the Indian government abrogated Articles 370 and 35A, dissolved the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated it into two Union Territories.

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.”

Conclusion

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)

Various civil societies, organisations, unions and women and men of diverse communities took to the streets on 4thApril to demand a change in the direction the country is heading towards. With the upcoming general elections looming over the country, the nation’s women took it upon themselves to renounce the saffron forces that have steered our country towards destruction, divisiveness, misogyny, casteist and communal politics. Over 1500 women marched from Mandi house to Jantar Mantar, chanting slogans of Azaadi!Inquilab Zindabad! Halla Bol! 

At Jantar Mantar, RAAG, a women’s group that sings and composes revolutionary songs took to the stage. They opened the day’s gathering by rallying for women’s rights, freedom of speech and equality. They followed it by a few songs that questioned and critiqued the anti-people and anti-women stance of the current government.

Various activists, journalists, women leaders of various Unions, students groups and even children performed and spoke on issues ranging from weakly implemented schemes of the current government, the communal nature of their politics, women’s education, propaganda that is encouraging communal violence, dalit and Adivasi rights, farmers’ issues and much more that plagues the nation.

The first speaker of the day was journalist Bhasha Singh. She said, “The upcoming elections are crucial, we need to vote out leaders who have destroyed the secular fabric of our country. we should be critical of the Prime Minister who has systematically flouted every Constitutional guideline, emotion and direction. Their aim is to divide us, but us women need to come together and weed them out this election.” She ended with the message that women of this country are not afraid anymore and that they will change the future for better.

An activist from Dalit Mahila Andolan spoke about how the government has failed Dalit and Adivasi women across the country. While talking about the Ujjwala scheme, “This scheme is a farce, the people it caters to cannot afford  to rely on such schemes” she said. Furthermore, she also talked about how healthcare in the country, especially under the current government. “The roads in rural India are still unfit for ambulances. Villagers die daily due to a lack of health care and hospitals. These regions are overwhelmingly dalit and Adivasi regions and if this isn’t hinting a massive scale of discrimination, then what is it?”

Haleema from Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan spoke about the alarming rates of drop outs in the country, especially amongst women from minority communities.  “Women of minority communities have been dropping out of schools at an alarming rate. Despite all the promises that the government has made to empower women, Beti Padhao Beti Bachaocampaigns and everything else has failed the women of the country.” She further added that the government is diverting attention from important issues, by talking about triple talaak and burqa ban and such, they are avoiding basic issues of illiteracy and unavailability of schools in the farthest corners of the country.

The Vice President of JNUSU, Sarika spoke about the need to be aware of the politics that has gripped the nation. “We women will not stand for the hatred that this government. We need to challenge the patriarchal nature of this government, we need to uproot its divisiveness in the upcoming elections. From the streets of the cities to the villages of our country side, women will come to the front with their political consciousness. This is our struggle not only to save the constitution but also to the strengthen the constitution.”

Suman of Satark Nagrik spoke about the women who reside in the bastis. “Our homes are being threatened. We want safety, we don’t need THE chowkidar, we want the police to side with the people of this nation. We want protection from the state since it doesn’t protect our people and our children.”

Arti of NNSW talked about the promises made by the government and how even after 5 years of their leadership none of them have been implemented. “The nature of the state is such that women have been wholly discriminated against. We will no longer believe their false promises, we women will not be fooled anymore. We will reject this government in the upcoming elections.”

Kunta from Kisan Mahila  (?) spoke about how women, even after working side to side with men, they still treated as secondary to men. “Women’s labor has not been properly recognized in the country. Women’s work goes unnoticed and ignored.”

Pavel, a transgender activist was the last speaker and ended on a very powerful note that resonates with the women of every community and background. “ We have been spoken about in history, we are present in our history, our culture and yet in 2019 we still aren’t treated equally. We know ourselves better than anyone else. Why does the government refuse to sit with us, communicate with us and then form Bills and Laws. We will not be spoken about, we will speak for ourselves.” She said.

Throughout the day various artists, groups including Maya Rao, RAAG, Dhaatin, Sanghwari Group, MC Freezak, Aman Birandari, other student groups, Manu Kohli, Sanjay Rajoura, Aisi Taisi Democracy, Rahul Ram took to the stage to sing songs of resistance, equality and freedom. The programme was concluded by a collective rendition of Auretain Uthi Nahi Toh. The march saw the presence of thousands of women belonging to rural India, urban cities, universities and every day women of the country.

Over 30 individuals had gathered today at Odisha Bhawan, to show solidarity and question the wrongful arrest of Adivasi activist Lingaraj Azad in Kalahandi, Odisha. They demanded to meet the Resident Commissioner of Odisha to submit the memorandum so that it could be given to the Chief Minister of the state. The gathering was a peaceful one where many civil society members spoke about Lingaraj Azad’s work, the current atmosphere in the Niyamgiri Hills regarding the dilution of Gram Sabha powers and a general fear of being displaced and the environment being degraded.

 

However, within half an hour of the gathering, Delhi Police had been called to detain the individuals. According to the officials, the area is under Sec 144 and thus our gathering was unlawful. The demonstrators objected to their forceful removal and the fact that no such intimation had been made public about the area being under Sec 144. Despite that, the police forced over 30 individuals into a waiting bus and took them to Mandir Marg Police Station where they were detained for almost 3 hours.

 

Not only was the group not allowed to submit the memorandum, no official from Odisha Niwas came out to speak to the gathered. This in itself shows the guilt and the agenda of the State to ignore the voices of dissent as they unlawfully silence those who are loud enough. Lingaraj Azad’s work and the work of many Adivasi social activists and community leaders is an obstacle to the State and the Centre’s growing appetite for “development”. Their agenda in this case is to silence the Adivasi voices, to suppress solidarity actions across the country and to do all of that, the police is used as a barrier between those who rule and the ones who are being ruled.

 

The Niyamgiri hills have been continuously targeted by corporates like Vedanta that want to mine it for its Bauxite. The region has witnessed decades of violence and disharmony and has witnessed the open flouting of human rights. Tribes residing in the hills have faced rampant oppression at the hands of the police who regularly harm innocent villagers in so called raids and search operations for Maoists. Lingaraj’s arrest comes at a time when the political environment of the country is highly unstable. By labelling him as a maoist and an anti-social element, the police is looking to deter any and all dissenting groups in the region. This pre-emptive targeting of community leaders right before the General Elections is an old strategy of ruling governments that are not pro-welfare. By instilling fear in the hearts of the communities, the ruling government will profit from them being forced into silence.

 

Please find attached the memorandum that was prepared by the group. The most important demand being the release of Lingaraj Azad and the quashing of the fabricated charges against him.

 

 

 

It is always the grass that suffers when two kings go to war
– Rabindranath Tagore
The great sage Vidur advised King Dhritarashtra in the Mahabharata that a ruler’s dharma was to abide by the truth, help farmers, promote knowledge, punish sinners and appoint capable Ministers.Today, on one side, there is the slogan of ‘sabka saath sabka vikas’, and, on the other, the beating ofthe drums of war. Is this the rule of dharma?
Before the 2014 elections, those who were vying for power at the Centre claimed they got no answers when they asked who benefitted from Aadhar, how secure was its privacy? But after they won, in2016, the same critics issued 100 crore Aadhar cards and 45% of the ration cards were linked toAadhar. News has now come that the data of over 13 crore cards has been leaked, and common citizens are harassed by a system that has become an obstacle to acquire even basic services.
Similarly, in 2016, demonetisation was ordered with the assurance that black money will be brought back, all poor citizens will get 15-20 lakh rupees in their bank accounts, terrorism will end, and the nation’s treasury will overflow. Now that the hoopla is over, the state of the national treasury remains the same, terrorism is still rampant, and the people have come to realise that there is no free lunch.
The long lines created by demonetisation had barely ended, when GST was launched – the same GST which had been dubbed a failure by chowkidar just three years earlier. Justifying his action now, he claimed that the economy had improved. But economists estimate that unemployment is at a record high, and the promise of 2 crore jobs for the youth flutters emptily in the air. The slogan of ending corruption is beginning to sound hollow as more than 9 lakh crore rupees stand as outstanding loans by the banks to companies. Modi and Choksi with 13,000 crores; Mallya 9,000 crores; Mehta another 7,000 crores; Sandesara 5,000 crores – and all have decamped abroad with the
loot. While the Rafale deal is tweaked to favour Ambani and rates changed and airports sold to benefit Adani. The man, who shed tears for the farmers in 2014, had then promised that the support price would increase two-and- a-half times; while incomes would double. Five years later he has now promised Rs 6000 to be given to farmers every year – will that measly amount save agriculture? The desperate farmers are marching again and again to the cities, hoping someone will listen and avert their crisis.
As for terrorism, 19 jawans died at Uri in 2016. At that time the government declared it would give a strong reply to terrorism; a surgical strike was carried out; there were rousing calls to bring Pakistan to trial. The Prime Minister also added, “India is ready to fight poverty. Both countries should compete over who can end poverty first.” Poverty has not reduced, but 40 more jawans have died at Pulwama.
As the elections draw near, people are demanding accountability: what happened to the promises? All the lies stand exposed; what way out remains? – communal violence or war? Every day of war costs both nations 1800 crore rupees. If the nuclear bomb is used 2 crore people will perish immediately. Is this the heritage we wish to leave our children? If we want peace and security we have to forge a wall that cannot be crossed. Are we ready for that?The sword of revolution is sharpened on the whetting stone of ideas

– Shaheed Bhagat Singh

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