Several hundred people from all walks of life (Civil Rights Activists, Labour Activists, Peace Activists, Feminists, Queer Activists, Advocates, Students, Workers, Artists, Writers, Academics, Filmmakers,Independent Left Activists, and unaffiliated individuals across generations, from Jammu & Kashmir, from Delhi, and from other parts of India) gathered this afternoon (July 13, 2016) for a silent protest march and meeting at Jantar Mantar, to protest against the last three days of brutal assault by police, paramilitaries and armed forces in the Kashmir valley that have left 35 dead, several blinded (especially due to the indiscrimnate use of pellet guns) and scores of people critically injured over the last three days.
The protestors at Jantar Mantar wore black bands, and carried signs condemning the state’s violence. The protestors carried signs with the names of each of the thirty six individuals who have been identified as having died over the last three days. Each sign identified a deceased person by name, the town or village they were from, and asserted that they “will not be forgotten“. In this way, this corner of India’s capital bore witness to each person, man, woman or child killed by the Indian state since troops began firing into protests that began to mourn the extra-judicial assassination of Burhan Wani three days ago.
These citizens of Delhi, without qualification or hesitation, marched to say that they were with the people of Kashmir in this hour of their trials and grief. There was a brief attempt made by a motley group of right wing ‘nationalists’ to heckle and abuse the protestors, while shouting slogans in favour of the Indian Army’s conduct in Jammu & Kashmir. However, the handful of noisy, counter-protesting ‘Patriots’ who had assembled to gloat over the killings in Kashmir were outnumbered by the silent protestors. Their powerful silent resolve to stand their ground and refusal to be provoked by the hate filled and abusive sloganeering of the counter-protestors ensured that after a brief and noisy interregnum the apologists of state violence found it advisable to melt away into the humid afternoon heat of Jantar Mantar. The silent protest against the killings in Kashmir continued, unabated.
[ Here is an excellent video report made by Akhil Kumar of The Wire, in which he talks to several people who came to the protest. ]
At the conclusion of the silent protests, some of those who had come in solidarity with the people of Kashmir made brief statements. We are presenting abbreviated highlights from three of these statements – by Shabnam Hashmi, Kavita Krishnan and Shehla Rashid.
Shabnam Hashmi, an activist committed to peace between communities, spoke of the urgent need to put an end to the climate of impunity that makes the state become a murderer in Kashmir. She pointed out the contrast between the way in which violent, armed mobs have been dealt with in Haryana and Gujarat recently and the way in which troops open fire into unarmed protestors in Kashmir.
Kavita Krishnan, politburo member of CPI (ML-Liberation) and secretary, All India Progressive Women’s Association, spoke about the need to do away with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the urgent necessity to initiate dialogue without preconditions with all sections of society in Jammu and Kashmir. She stressed the need for all Indian citizens to come out and say that the Indian state cannot continue to butcher the people of Kashmir in their name.
Shehla Rashid, an activist of the All India Students’ Association and Vice-President of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union, who is from Kashmir, spoke about how the violence of the Indian State, it’s ongoing humiliation of the population, gives rise to a whole generation of young people that is completely alienated. She strongly condemned the way in which the mainstream media demonizes young Kashmiris whose every protest, even if peaceful or unarmed, is seen as support for ‘terrorism’ while choosing to ignore the hate-speech of those who take on the mantle of ‘nationalism’ and keep screaming ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.
She also said that no Indian soldier should have to die in Kashmir, and that this can be ensured by a comprehensive de-militarization of Jammu and Kashmir, which can be achieved only when all the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir can feel that really are the shapers of their destiny in a peaceful, just and democratic manner.
This meeting in Delhi sent out a strong signal to the suffering people of Kashmir that not every Indian citizen is brainwashed by the tired narrative of the state and the relentless propaganda about Kashmir by sections of the mainstream Indian media.
More protests are being planned in different cities, starting with one in Kolkata tomorrow. We at Kafila urge our readers and contributors to send in reports, photo-narratives,first person accounts of protests that they may be involved in as participants or organizers, whether in Kashmir, or in any Indian city, town, campus, settlement or workplace. Let’s work together to compel an end to the violence in Kashmir and to ensure that it does not carry on.
Not in our name!
In solidarity with the people of Jammu & Kashmir.
For More Kafila Posts on the Crisis in Kashmir as it Unfolded in the Last Few Days – See –
Kashmir – Cry My Beloved Country by Gautam Navlakha
The Killings in Kashmir by Kavita Krishnan
Kashmir Burns Again by Shuddhabrata Sengupta
Kashmir Under a State of Emergency by Jammu & Kashmir Coalition for Civil Society (JKCCS)