Another Report Calls out Kashmir’s ‘Normalcy’ Narrative
Yet another fact-finding team comes back with shocking stories from J&K.
It has been 60 days since the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. Since the Government of India’s move, the state has been under lockdown with communication severed, movement hindered and political leaders put under house arrest.
A fact-finding team of four women from ‘Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression’ visited various parts of J&K recently, and discussed at a press conference that the situation in the state is a far cry from the ‘normal’ narrative being propounded by mainstream media.
Their detailed report, ‘Zulm, Zakhm, Azaadi ... The Voices of Kashmiri Women’ will release in a week’s time.
The team, from the collective ‘Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression’, had visited J&K from 23-28 September. They visited Srinagar, Shopian, Kupwara and Baramullah.
Their aim was to interact with the people, especially women and children, and listen to their voices and understand the present condition since the abrogation of Article 370 by the Government of India.
They were able to speak to people from various walks of life – young and old women stuck in their homes, school teachers, hospital functionaries, hawkers, scrap-dealers, roadside vendors, shopkeepers, orchard owners, taxi drivers, auto drivers, lawyers, journalists, activists and school and college students.
Here are some excerpts from the press conference:
“We visited villages and mohallas as well as schools, courts and hospitals. The visits were made at random and were not guided by anyone. We consider the views we share as being fully independent. The entire Valley is reeling under a silence that is anything but normal. Security forces stationed at every few meters ensure terror in people’s minds about who they can speak to, who can step outside the home etc. The risks of being picked up are real.”WWS Representatives
They even noted that the people were hesitant to speak about everyday realities to the media for fear of being visited in the evening either by the JK police or any of the security forces.
“Freedom of Speech has been severely curtailed. The Indian State and the Indian media refuse to acknowledge the pulse of the people as expressed in their demands and protests. Zulm (oppression), apne gharon mein qaid (jailed in our own homes), zakhm jinka koi marham nahi (wounds that are beyond healing) and azaadi (freedom) are the words on everyone’s lips, irrespective of age or gender.”WWS Representatives
The report also states that the people are ‘furious’ with the Indian media for disseminating wrong and misleading news about Kashmir.
“The broadcast of “return to normalcy” is seen as an outcome of the propaganda machinery of the Indian government. There is no formal gagging or censorship of media in Kashmir, but in actual terms, press freedom has been curtailed in many ways. There is strict surveillance on journalists and they get phone calls in their offices from the police/authorities if they write anything different from the line taken by the “mainstream” media.”WWS Representatives
According to the report, the people on ground feel that the repression of the 90s is returning.
“Today, there are already signs that the repression of the 90s is coming back and in the absence of protection from the four pillars of democracy, people could be pushed towards militancy. India needs to listen to what people have to say about the way forward. On one hand, ripping off Jammu and Kashmir from its statehood and converting into two union territories, bringing it into direct control of the Centre and on the other hand, ordering for panchayat elections and suggesting decentralisation, is a joke on the Kashmiri sentiment.”WWS Representatives
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