Support for self determination has grown in Kashmir, Indian activists chronicle in report

An alliance of civil society groups that visited Kashmir Valley amid the 2016 unrest has in a report urged the central government to address the Kashmir issue by initiating a “healthy dialogue” and discuss the demand for the “right to self-determination” by Kashmiris.

A “Citizen’s report on the violations of Democratic rights in the Kashmir valley in 2016” was released by prominent civil rights leaders, including veteran lawyer Indira Jaising, filmmaker Sanjay Kak, women’s rights activist Kavita Krishnan and trade unionist Gautam Mody at an event here on Thursday.

The report was based on the visit to Kashmir valley by 25 activists representing different rights organisations, civil society groups and trade unions last November. They went to the troubled valley to know “why the people in Kashmir are protesting?”.

The group stayed in the valley for 10 days and spoke to different people, including lawyers, trade unionists and business communities, state government employees, students, doctors and journalists.

The 58-page report stresses on the need to recognise the Kashmir conflict as a political issue and “find the democratic and political means to address it”.

“The movement in Kashmir has gone from what was initially merely a passive support for independence to an active demand for the right to self-determination,” Gautam Mody, who was also part of the group that visited Kashmir, said at the event.

Putting forward the demands of the citizen’s group, Mody said: “The release of prisoners, repealing AFSPA, withdrawal of the army, and the beginning of a democratic, open and accountable dialogue by the Indian government is needed.”

Filmmaker Kak, who was also part of the 25-member citizen’s delegation, stressed on the need for civil society groups in India to consider the Kashmir issue as an agenda and help resolve it.

He asserted the report was “too late” as Kashmiris were “consistently feeling betrayed by the Indian civil society”.

He however said the admission in the report of the word “right to self-determination — which has been a constant demand of the people of Kashmir — was an achievement”.

Talking about the political conciousness of Kashmiris, Kak said: “We should not see the stone in the hands of children, there is a political conciousness in it.”

The members said the report would be released across 40 cities in the country and in those parts where the “understanding of Kashmir is absent”.

Khurram Parvez, Chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Society Coalition (JKCCS), said Kashmiris did not expect the Indian civil society to fight for them.

“We Kashmiris do not expect Indians to fight our battle. We will fight our own. We want them to fight their own battles of poverty and posterity,” Parvez, who was booked under the Public Safety Act in 2016, said.

Activist Kavita Krishnan urged the central government to initiate a “healthy dialogue” with Kashmiris and said: “We must hear what the people of Kashmir are saying. There is a need for a healthy dialogue with the Kashmiris to resolve the long-standing issue.”