A team of five women who visited Kashmir from September 17-21 brought out a fact-finding report Women’s Voice. The team comprising of Annie Raja, Kawaljit Kaur and Pankhuri Zaheer from National federation of Indian Women, Poonam Kaushik of Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan Delhi and Syeda Hameed of Muslim Women’s Forum visited 17 villages all across Kashmir to bring out the ground realities of the state after the Centre’s decision of abrogating Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution.
While releasing the report at a press conference at Press Club of India, Delhi, Annie Raja said that the team had interacted with all the sections of Kashmiris including students, teachers, professors, income tax officers, doctors, farmers, house wives, young girls, fisherfolk, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) workers, Jammu and Kashmir police force and even few army men.
The team reached the valley on the 43th day of the siege; seven more days have passed since then. Shops, hotels, schools, colleges, institutions and universities were closed. “Human life there is in tragedy,” Annie said.
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“Abrogation has united the people of Kashmir, and every one of them feel that this is the last blow on them,” said Annie Raja.
“Every woman we met had a sorry story to tell. Their boys are being picked up by the army. When they approach the police to know about them, they are asked to go to the headquarters to see the list and then they could see the names of ‘stone pelters’ who have been lodged in different jails including Agra, Jodhpur, Ambedkar, Jhajjar,” she added.
“It is Indian variant of genocide and army cannot remain as a holy cow anymore,” said Raja. The team estimates that around 13,000 young boys were lifted since the lockdown.
“Army pounces on young boys; it seems they hate their very sight. When fathers go to rescue their children, they are made to deposit money, anywhere between 20,000 to 60,000” reads the report.
“When the army knocks on the door, the eldest one in the family opens the door and they hope that seeing an old person would keep the army cool,” Poonam Kaushik narrated the fear of people.
“The people in Kashmir usually store rice for 3-4 months. The army comes and pours kerosene on it,” Raja explained how the State tortures its citizens. No political party other than Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is allowed to hold any meetings or gatherings, she further explained.
The report also portrays several cases of non-availability of timely medication which led to medical complications. A senior doctor from Bandipora hospital told the team that there are more cases of mental disorders, heart attacks etc than he could ever recall seeing. An orthopaedic doctor from Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) was stopped at an army-imposed blockade when he was going for duty and he has been held for seven days.
“High Court Bar Association office is locked and advocates have been arrested under Public Safety Act. According to the advocates whom we interacted with, the laws are silent and the judiciary is being paralysed,” said Poonam Kaushik.
Syeda Hameed, herself a Kashmiri, said that Kashmir rank high up in many development indices when compared to other parts of the country. The team was also told by the women who met at Gurudwaras that they have always felt secure in Kashmir. Young women complained that they were now being harassed by army, including removal of their niqab.
“People are living in uncertainty and they don't know what their future would be. The life is at a standstill,” said Kawaljit Kaur.
In the report, the team puts forward a set of demands including:
For normalcy- withdraw the Army and Parliamentary forces with immediate effect
For confidence building- immediate cancel all cases/ FIRs and release all those, especially the youth who are under custody and in jail since the abrogation of Article 370
For ensuring justice- conduct inquiry on the widespread violence and tortures unleashed by the army and other security personnel and free treatment to all those victims of torture
Compensation to all those families whose loved ones lost lives because of non-availability of transportation and absence of communication.
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