The number of unarmed civilians killed in instances of firing by the armed forces, police and paramilitaries enforcing the occupation of Kashmir by the Indian state in the latest wave of violence has crossed fifty. Many more have been blinded by pellet guns. Hundreds have been injured and hospitalized. Reports of protests are coming not only from the Kashmir valley, Kargil, Drass and Jammu, but also from many cities in India. From Delhi (where there has been a public protest at Jantar Mantar, a press conference at Gandhi Peace Foundation and a student protest at Jawaharlal Nehru University), from Kolkata, which saw a massive turn out in a public march, from Chennai, from Patna, and from Kochi and Tricky in Kerala.
On Friday 22nd July, I went to a night protest march and public gathering by students at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. The march was called by Shehla Rashid, Vice President, JNUSU and Rama Naga, General Secretary, JNUSU (Both AISA activists) There were perhaps two hundred students gathered peacefully. The march began around 10:00 pm, made its way around the university campus and the protest continued well past midnight. Several student organizations, AISA, BASO, Hundred Flowers, Collective, DSU and individual students participated in the march. Shehla Rashid, Vice President, JNUSU and an AISA student activist, addressed the gathering before the march began, stating clearly, that this was going to be a peaceful expression of the democratic right to protest against the atrocities being enacted by the Indian state on the people of the part of Kashmir that is under Indian occupation. She asked the students to be vigilant in case any disruptive slogans were raised by planted agent-provocateurs. The entire march, and the protest meeting was documented by the students, so as to ensure that no ‘doctored videos’ would raise their ugly digital heads in the days to come. The students raised the demand for freedom for the people of Kashmir, and for people in all parts of South Asia. The slogans connected the realties of the people of Kashmir, the North East, Bastar, Jharkhand, with the experiences of Dalits, Workers, Peasants, Women, Students and Minorities. Slogans were raised against the killings and blindings by pellet guns in Kashmir. against torture, again rape, against draconian acts like AFSPA and PSA. The march made its way through the entire campus and culminated outside Chandrabhaga Hostel, where a meeting was held on the steps. The meeting lasted over two hours, was completely peaceful,and more than two hundred students listened to the speakers with close attention.
Police officers and campus security guards were present, and recorded everything. The students also recorded everything. And the indefatigable Shamim Asghor Ali made video recordings of several speeches, and uploaded them on to youtube, which we are lucky to be able to share here. We are also grateful for the still images uploaded by V. Arun, several others also took pictures and videos, which are now being shared on Facebook.
Shehla Rashid, who herself hails from Kashmir, said that the most important thing was that the silence about Kashmir had been broken, and that a new, substantive conversation had begun again in the JNU Campus. She reminded the students that the people of Kashmir had stood in solidarity with the students of JNU after the 9th February incident earlier this year, and that by standing with the suffering people of Kashmir, the JNU students were only living up to the traditions of solidarity that the campus is known for. Shehla also spoke about the fact that it is not only the people of Kashmir who are suffering, but that the common Indian soldier, or CRPF trooper, who is sent by the Indian political establishment to enforce a militarized occupation in Kashmir, is also being killed or injured. She insisted that it is imperative that the occupation be dismantled, and that Indian troops leave, so that no Indian soldier or trooper need to sacrifice his life for the maintenance of an unjust status-quo.
[ Images from the March, courtesy, V. Arun]
Towards the end of the meeting, Umar Khalid, representing the Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Student Organization (BASO) spoke eloquently about the need for ensuring that all Indian citizens rise up against genocidial violence that is being perpetrated in their name by the armed might of the Indian state.
I was invited to speak, as was Engineer Rashid, an independent MLA, a lone voice who does not speak the language of the occupation in the J&K assembly, representing the Handwara assembly constituency. Engineer Rashid in his eloquent, moving, and often sharply ironic and funny speech, delivered in a rich rustic idiom insisted that he was speaking as a friend of the Indian people, and that he believed that India’s best interests lie in letting the people of Kashmir determine their own future.
Here are four video recordings made by Samim Asgor Ali of the statements made by Shehla Rashid, me and MLA Engineer Rashid.