Guest Post by Greeshma Aruna Rai, with Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) & Karnataka for Kashmir Forum.
Police has revoked the permission which they had given yesterday to hold a democratic protest in solidarity with Kashmiris in Bangalore by concerned citizens and activists. This is another way in which the State shows its true colours to all Indian citizens who are against State repression and State colonialism in Kashmir.
Permission for today’s protest condemning atrocities on the people of Kashmir has been revoked by the Karnataka State Police. They have threatened us with legal action if we proceed.
As organisers we have been bombarded by the police, demanding that we withdraw this demonstration.
As we publish this message, the 11th day of curfew continues and valley remains awash with the blood of Kashmiris.
Today’s protest is postponed. We, however, refuse to be stifled by the very same state that is ravaging Kashmir. We have resolved to move against the actions of the Police. We’ll be releasing a Press Note shortly while discussing other options to challenge this.
[ Shortly after this post was uploaded, the organizers of the protest held a press conference where they released the following statement.]
Bangalore, July 16, 2016
We condemn the Bangalore Police for denying permission to hold a peaceful protest
· Need for solidarity with people of Kashmir, facing violence
· 42 people dead and thousands grievously injured
Several progressive organisations in Bangalore had called for a peaceful protest today, i.e Saturday, July 16th at Mysore Bank Circle, 4 pm to stand in solidarity with the people of Kashmir and against the violence being committed against them. The police had given permission in writing yesterday, stating that they had no objection to our holding this protest.
However, this morning, there have been numerous calls made by various police officers to the main organisers demanding that we stop the protest and threatening legal action, including arrest, if we go ahead. The Circle Inspector has met the organizers and given a letter stating the withdrawal of permission. The police have posted on our Facebook event page and tweeted that permission has been revoked. A similar withdrawal of permission to protest at Town Hall was given to the Kashmiri Association, Bangalore, yesterday. The police have refused to state any reason for the same, and have again threatened action if the protest is held.
The manner in which permission has been unilaterally revoked, without any reason, displays a blatant disregard for our fundamental democratic right to hold a peaceful demonstration and the freedom of speech and expression, a right which the Courts have repeatedly upheld. Similar peaceful protests have been held across the country, including Delhi and Kolkata. The high-handed oppression of the police can only be viewed as an attack on democratic rights.
In Re: Ramlila Maidan, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held that “The people of a democratic country like ours have a right to raise their voice against the decisions and actions of the Government or even to express their resentment over the actions of the Government on any subject of social or national importance. The Government has to respect and in fact encourage exercise of such rights. It is the abundant duty of the state to aid the exercise of right to freedom of speech as understood in its comprehensive sense and not to throttle or frustrate exercise of such rights by exercising its executive or legislative powers and passing orders or taking action in that direction in the name of reasonable restrictions.”
As we are faced with this clamping down of our voices, the violence in Kashmir goes on unabated. Forty three people have died in Kashmir as of today, and countless people, including children, have been grievously injured, and have lost their eyesight because of the excessive use of pellet guns. The number of people dead, and the spiralling violence that is taking place would only result in deaths of more civilians. A resolution cannot be achieved through violence, but by listening to the people of Kashmir. There has been a black-out of the media and internet and phone networks have been cut off. It is our duty to stand up against the use of excessive violence against people of Kashmir as it is done in our names. The revocation of permission by the police is just one instance, where we are unable to even speak out against horrific instances of state repression.
The brutal attack on people and their basic rights is not justifiable in any context. Kashmiri people are being killed, blinded, maimed, bludgeoned, and humiliated. If we don’t condemn this unequivocally, we would be displaying the same moral bankruptcy as the agents of the state.
At this juncture, it would be important to look at the Order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court dated 8th July, 2016 in Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association vs Union of India where the Hon’ble Court has held that the use of excessive force or retaliatory force is not permissible even in areas declared as disturbed areas. It further states that “We must not forget that the alleged enemy is a citizen of our country, entitled to all fundamental rights including Article 21 of the constitution.”
Though the Kashmiri struggle for freedom is precisely against this imposed citizenship by the Indian state, it is significant that even the judiciary, which has let down the people of Kashmir time and again by failing to deliver justice, has condemned excessive use of violence in “disturbed areas”. The army attack on hospitals and ambulances is a gross violation of all international humanitarian laws. A team of doctors who visited Kashmir from AIIMS hospital have stated that what they saw there was a situation that can only be described as war-like.
We would also like to point out three journalists have been arrested in Srinagar yesterday after the Greater Kashmir newspaper office was vandalised. The black out of media, cutting off of internet and phone networks in Kashmir continues. This is a very dangerous situation where violence continues and reporters are being arrested, and people who wish to raise their voices against it are not permitted to do the same.
We condemn the actions of the police in not permitting us to peacefully demonstrate against the violence taking place in Kashmir, and we unequivocally condemn the violence being perpetrated on the brave people of Kashmir.
Karnataka for Kashmir Forum, Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression, and People’s Union for Civil Liberties – Karnataka