Seven Decades of Kashmir, 1940-2010

Venue: Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University
Date: 21 September 2010
Time: 11.00 AM to 3.00 PM

It has been more than three months since Kashmir has erupted to protest against the murder of civilians by the Indian army. The current phase of protests started on June 11th, when a teenager was killed by a smoke shell fired by Indian security forces. People of Kashmir came out on the streets, en-masse, to demonstrate against this killing. Instead of punishing the culprits who were responsible for this murder, protesters were met with live bullets, tear gas shells, batons, curfew and scores of arrests. According to the Government’s own estimate eighty one people have died since June 11. This includes a numbers of teenagers and even an eight year old child. However, vicious repression unleashed by Indian forces, under impunity granted by the infamous Armed Forces Special Powers Act, has failed to intimidate the Kashmiri people; in fact every act of brutality has brought increasing number protesters on the streets. The latest stage of this decades-old
conflict between the people of Kashmir and the Indian state has only been escalating, with civilian deaths at the hands of the armed forces being reported almost daily.

Today Kashmir has forced us to think critically about Indian democracy. The erosion of democratic space won’t stop at the border of Kashmir; it will engulf us – if it has not done so already. At this crucial juncture it has become imperative for the entire civil society; particularly students to engage themselves with the debate on Kashmir and its future. However, we must remember that the recent protest and repression in Kashmir is not an isolated event, it has a long history of seventy years. If we fail to contextualise the issue then a debate today will be rendered useless. This is particularly important because the mainstream media houses, as usual, are doing their best to trivialise the issue by dissociating it from the historical background.

To start an informed debate on Kashmir and Indian democracy, we invite you to an EXHIBITION on the HISTORY OF KASHMIR.

A Few facts about Kashmir:

700,000 Indian troops are posted in the valley

One soldier for every 14 Kashmiri, biggest militarized non-war zone of the world

80,000 people have been killed, 81 in last three months

International People’s Tribunal found 2700 mass graves where victims of fake encounter killings were buried

Kashmir University Students’ Association has been banned, 15 students were arrested under UAPA for protesting against the recent killings.

Condemn the use of Capital Punishment against 3 Kashmiris

185/3, Fourth Floor, Zakir Nagar, New Delhi—25

Giving Death Sentence to 3 Kashmiris and rigorous life imprisonment to another in the Lajpat Nagar Blast Case vindicates the observation that “being a Kashmiri itself is a crime to be punished in India!

Strongly Condemn the use of Capital Punishment by the Government of India!

Abolish Capital Punishment!

After 14 long years, a Delhi Court has finally given death sentence to three Kashmiris—Mohd Naushad, Mohd Ali Bhatt and Mirza Nissar Hussain—in the 1996 Lajpat Nagar blast case while putting Javed Ahmed Khan under rigorous life imprisonment. While two others—Farooq Ahmed Khan and Farida Dar—were released as the court observed that the 14 years that they had spent in the prison would be considered as their punishment. Here there is a catch. A week before the court had acquitted 4 others as it had found them innocent, that too after 14 long years! So the question that arises to any discerning mind is that if two have been released as their 14 year incarceration is being taken as punishment by the Hon’ble Court for them, then why is it that the court silent on the same quantum of years spent by the acquitted four. Can the court give back their 14 long years? Can it compensate for the physical and mental injury along with the social stigma that these four and their kith and kin have gone through? Who should be held accountable for such travesty of justice?

It should be noted that the Court has rapped the police for shoddy evidence and irresponsible conduct which it has termed as lack of seriousness. How can such criminal lapse on the side of the investigating agencies make life miserable for people who can only get justice that too to be declared innocent after almost spending a life sentence! So when one of the persons who have been on trial was on record saying that “being a Kashmiri itself is a crime to be punished in India” the court sentence proved to be a grim reminder, a tragic replay of the gross injustice meted out to the people of Kashmir by the Indian judiciary.

We at the CRPP reiterate that every democratic mind should raise this question about the authorities who have falsely implicated them and fed all kinds of insinuating and incriminating stories in the media on their so-called involvement. Will they ever stand for trial? Or raising a question against them would affect the morale of the investigating agencies? Once again what comes to sharp focus is a continuing story of calculated assault on the lives of particular people who have been targeted for their political convictions. More than a case of showing how fair the system is—as it has acquitted the genuinely innocent and tried the ones for their “various roles”—this once again brings forth the ugly face of blatant violation of procedures and rights of the accused, let alone their right to represent themselves without being prejudiced against.

Despite shoddy evidence and irresponsible conduct from the side of the police, it did not stop the court to give death sentence to 3 Kashmiris which is a punishment that has been long given up by many civilised countries. India is yet to sign this International treaty to which many of the democracies in the world are signatory against a worst form of barbaric punishment that can only further criminalise the people and the system. We demand unequivocally to abolish Capital Punishment and demand the Indian Government to immediately sign the International Treaty abandoning death penalty as a form of punishment.

Given the way things are unfolding for the people of Kashmir all claims of the Government of India about a bill against torture or allegedly safeguards against that sounds like a cruel joke as many of such detention centres in Kashmir are illegal and secret.

Ever since the news of the sentencing of six people along with the acquittal of four of the 1996 Lajpat Nagar blast case the valley of Kashmir has witnessed series of protest demonstrations, and complete shutdown. This reflects the general apathy of a people who have been subjected to the worst kinds of human rights violations.

Illegal detentions, trumped up cases and imprisonment being a common way of life for the average Kashmiri, the question of the political prisoner and his/her status and safeguards against all forms of torture and intimidation becomes paramount. While this is being written there are several people who have been kept behind bars including leaders for protesting against the gross violations of the civil and political rights of the people of Kashmir. In fact this anger is evident in the complete shutdown of the valley and when the people and their leaders say that they are being targeted for their demand for the Right to Self-Determination.

In Solidarity,

Gurusharan Singh (President), Amit Bhattacharyya (Secretary General), SAR Geelani (Working President), Rona Wilson (Secretary Public Relations)