Wahid Bhat | SRINAGAR
As Jammu and Kashmir ceased to a full-fledged state with its bifurcation, a fact-finding team on Thursday said the scrapping of special status to the state was the “proverbial last straw that eroded” the hope for a “peaceful and just resolution” and demanded withdrawal army and Para-military forces from civilian areas in the region.
The report ‘Imprisoned Resistance – 5th August and its Aftermath’ publicised by a 11-member team of activists, who visited Kashmir between September 28 and October 4, also claimed that the “freehand” given to the armed forces “by virtue of laws which allow for almost anything to do be done under the garb” of maintaining law and order has resulted in “absolute impunity”.
Report, said the team while releasing their findings in a report Imprisoned Resistance at New Delhi, was largely due to justify the Centre’s unilateral action of snatching the autonomy of the Kashmiri people.
“The Indian government and the mainstream media have consistently propagated normalcy by showing images of traffic flow in Srinagar that were created artificially to be later recorded by drone cameras,” reads the resultant report.
“People were clear that the political middle ground has been extinguished and that everyone was willing to face the might of the Indian State. This resolve has translated into the indefinite and complete people’s hartal. The hartal defines the political space of Kashmir today. The hartal represents people’s urge to take back control, the struggle for democracy and self-rule all in the face of the lockdown,” the report said.
The report further said that the Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation has suspended operations since August 5. Only those with private vehicles are able to travel, that too with much difficulty given the barbed wires at multiple locations. Though landline services were eventually restored, we learnt that very few houses actually have functioning landlines.
The report said the narrative that was presented by the government with the help of media was “far from the reality” and there has been a “determined, systematic effort” to portray a sense of normalcy in the valley to justify the “unilateral action of snatching the autonomy” the Kashmiri people had.
The degree of surveillance and control by the Army has unprecedentedly been on the rise since August 5. Armed forces now barge into houses at any time.
“Since August 5, 2019, armed forces have been conducting raids on villages and localities in the city almost every night, and most definitely if there is any protest or incident of dissent on the part of the people. Villagers are sleepless because of the night raids, harassment, humiliation and torture. People said that the forces barge into the village while screaming abuses and throwing stones at the houses,” reads the report.
“There are numerous cases of torture by the armed forces. In some instances, the tortures are made audible through loudspeakers so that other people can hear the victim’s screams. There have also been deaths due to tear gas shelling at protesters. What remains a big question in this situation is, when the armed forces and other bodies of the state are indulging in such violations, where is the innocent victim supposed to go for redressal?” states the report.
The report also suggested that the Modi government, in order to find a lasting and peaceful solution to the Kashmir issue, “Must recognise that a dispute exists between people of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian government; repeal the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990; withdraw all army and para-military forces from civilian areas of Jammu and Kashmir; and open a transparent unconditional dialogue with the people of Jammu and Kashmir and their representatives so as to address their aspirations to determine and define their own destinies through democratic means and to find a political solution that respects the democratic will of the people in accordance with human rights and international law.”