Government narrative of Kashmir situation far from reality, says assessment team
Illegal detention of minors, torture broadcast via loudspeakers, and denial of healthcare feature front and centre in the first fact-finding report since the abrogation of Article 370.
As Jammu and Kashmir lost its statehood on Thursday and was reorganised into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh — a ground report from the region was released by an 11-member fact-finding team.
The team was in Jammu and Kashmir from September 28 to October 4 to assess the situation in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370. "As lawyers, activists and doctors, we felt it important out of a sense of solidarity for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, but also out of a sense of responsibility to understand the situation first hand on the ground, in order to advance the true spirit of a democratic society and hold our elected government and the institutions of democracy accountable for their actions," states the 168-page report titled 'Imprisoned Resistance'.
The report, compiled by professionals from across the nation, states that the armed forces have been conducting raids on villages and localities in the city almost every night since August 5, when 30,000 additional troops were deployed by the Indian government in Kashmir. The team members also encountered, numerous cases of illegal detentions of minors and adults including cases of torture by the armed forces.
The report suggested that the government needed to recognise that a dispute exists in order to find a lasting solution. Pic/AFP
Besides the massive militarisation, the surveillance and control by the army is "unprecedented," the report stated. According to the report, there has been a "determined and systematic effort" on the part of the Indian State to portray a "sense of normalcy" in the Valley in order to justify its unilateral action of abrogating Article 370. It (the report) stated that the Indian government and the mainstream media have "consistently propagated" a farce of normalcy.
Press freedom lost
The situation in Kashmir has also led to a complete loss of press freedom, stated the report. "A journalist we met informed us that there was constant surveillance and policing at the only Media Centre in Srinagar and at the Srinagar Press Club, creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in which journalists could not possibly function with any semblance of independence."
Healthcare in shambles
The report found that Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in Jammu and Kashmir are barely working. A child psychiatrist from the team did the rounds of the mental health services in Srinagar in early October where he noticed "blatant abuse of power, violent aggression and extreme forms of abuse" unleashed on the people. "Not only has it caused extreme suffering and a plethora of mental health disorders of unprecedented proportions, it has also manifested in the seething anger, acute polarisation and paranoia, a complete lack of trust and hardening of attitude towards the Indian state."
In order to find a lasting and peaceful solution to the Jammu and Kashmir crisis, the report suggested that the Government of India must recognise that a dispute exists, repeal the Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978 and the Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990. It must also withdraw all army and para-military forces from civilian areas and open up a transparent unconditional dialogue with people's representatives.
No. of additional troops deployed in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5
What has happened?
Between August 5 and 6, two presidential orders were issued that had the effect of abrogating Article 370 and Article 35A, and effectively dismantled the limited protection accorded to Jammu and Kashmir in self-governance, territorial integrity and the collective rights to land and livelihood. The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 was passed by both the houses of Parliament on August 6, bifurcating Jammu and Kashmir state into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir (union territory with state legislature), Ladakh (union territory without state legislature).
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