One more person lost his life in Kashmir. The valley, it seems, isn’t all that happy with the solution to the Amarnath land row. Or it could be the case that the land row was just an excuse to wage a far bigger revolution for independence. Was it just the pent up emotion emerging from a general feeling of discontent finally being released?

On Saturday, two things happened. A person was killed as protestors and the police clashed during a shutdown called by the Separatists in the Kashmir valley. Another thing came to my notice – there was a press release by four NGOs who had sent a team of 8 members to investigate the economic blockade

What I am going to share with you now is basically what I read in the press release. It is horrifying to say the least and by the time you read it, like me, you too might feel a little less proud to be an Indian.

This team arrived at Srinagar on August 22 and witnessed a massive protest meeting at the Idgah grounds. They publically declared their demand for azaadi (freedom) at the meeting venue. These protests and processions continued also on the 23rd. However, an indefinite curfew was imposed from the 24th. This was to prevent a dharna at Lal Chowk. Keeping in mind that the previous dharna was a non violent one at the Idgah, the curfew was completely responsible for the confrontation on that day. Previously, a curfew was imposed on August 11, hours after security forces opened fire at many places on an unarmed procession heading towards Muzaffarabad border killing atleast 8 people. The curfew was imposed so that people couldn’t come together to protest against the killings and so that the security forces could flex their muscles a bit. Over the next three days, 20 people were killed by the JK police and the CRPF.

Another shocking revelation was that the firing incidents were unprovoked and aimed to kill as was evident from eye witness accounts. For instance, on August 12, somewhere near Bandipura town, security forces opened fire on a crowd from above the hill where 15 RR camp is located. Also a large number of deaths resulted from injuries to the abdomen, back, chest, head. There was also another incident at Lasjen where the protestors were fired at after being assured that peaceful processions were allowed.

Even more disgusting is the fact that even the injured were targeted. Hospital sources claim that ambulances carrying the injured and the dead were attacked. A certain Mehrajjuddin’s thigh injury was further aggravated when the security forces twisted a lathi in it. He died later that evening. The SMHS hospital was reportedly attacked by the security forces with tear gas shells and firing live bullets. They didn’t even let the dead rest in peace as funeral processions weren’t spared either.

During the evenings of the 13 and 14 August, the security forced engaged in attacking the houses near the places where the firings had taken place, thrashing people and smashing window-panes. Journalists were also beaten up at some places, houses were raided the people in them thrashed.

When families tried to register FIRs (very few tried anyway), they found that the FIRs were already lodged and the details altered. The police refused the version presented by the families asked them to prove it by getting 4 witnesses.

As far as the economic blockade is concerned, it started with the severe restriction of the movement of goods and people on the Srinagar-Jammu highway after the protests in Jammu got violent. There was also the fear of being mobbed. The impact was far worse for the traffic moving out of the valley. And hence, there were very significant losses for trade in Kashmir.

On August 24, the indefinite curfew was imposed, media people were manhandled, 1 person was killed as police opened fire in Dal Gate, poltical leaders were arrested. Over two days the curfew led to atleast 7 people being killed and 275 being injured.

What this press release revealed was that the security forces used brutal force to suppress people even when they were protesting in a non violent manner. Curfews were used to kill with impunity. A number of inhuman crimes were committed in the name of maintaining Law and Order.

If the Kashmiris have lost all faith in the system and want a way out, can we really blame them? That too after decades of suffering under army rule. If this is the way a state chooses to address unarmed civilians’ issues, protests and their demands in a democracy what message are trying to send across to all the innocent families in Kashmir?

This show of power was totally uncalled for and should be condemned in the strongest possible words. Its time we learnt from our past mistakes. We did it in Gujarat, we are doing it in Chattisgarh, and we have been doing it in Kashmir itself for decades now.

If a state wages a war on its own people who are they supposed to turn to? Is this what azaadi is all about?

And one last piece of thought for you to ponder on before I finish…is clinging on to Kashmir really worth so many human lives?

Purav Goswami

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