A five-person People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) team, which visited the Kashmir Valley to assess the ground situation 100 days after the government "clampdown" and protests has found that, far from being normal, people's “alienation from India”, which has taken the form of “azadi” slogan, is all-pervasive both in cities and villages.
Led by Dr V Suresh, PUCL general secretary, those who accompanied the team included Kavita Srivastava, Ramdas Rao, Pragnya Joshi and Prof Jean Dreze. It visited and met the injured and families of the deceased in Batamaloo and Idgah area of Srinagar, Batingu and Veesu in Anantnag district, Churhat in Kulgam district, Khrew in Pulwama, and Shopian town.
Claiming that “continuing brutalities” were being “committed by the Indian Forces against unarmed civilians", the team in a report has said that “the common people have lost faith in the ordinary democratic modes of redressal as they believe that they are heavily biased against them.”
“For instance”, the team says, “No FIRs are registered against offences committed by the armed forces or the police, and even if registered there is never a fair investigation, much less prosecution.”
Thus, the team reports, while more than 2,300 FIRs were registered by the police against the people, in contrast “complaints lodged by civilians against security persons numbered only about 7.”
Till date 101 have been killed in the Valley, majority in the Anantnag district, with 12,344 injured admitted in various hospitals. Of these, 1,000 were injured in the eye due to pellets, resulting in 300 cases of blinding.
According to the team, people "were of the view the view that in the face of overwhelming failure of all the democratic institutions in responding to their political grievances and aspirations, stone throwing has become the only method of expressing their sense of anger and frustration, especially among the youth.”
“There was a majority participation in the hartal announced through the Hurriyat weekly calendar”, the team says, adding, “This hartal is a complete shutdown of all private establishments including public and private transport from 7am to 5pm every day but for 24 hours on Fridays with schools, colleges and other academic institutions completely closed.”
Finding “a difference between the protests and collective action in 2016 and previous protests”, the team says, this time there was “overwhelming support of ordinary citizens, cutting across class, education, professional and urban/ rural lines to the hartal call.”
Finding “acute anger” against the loss of lives of people (particularly children, youth and women) and injuries caused by pellets, bullets and shells fired by the security forces”, the team says, “Most of the firing, according to people, was unprovoked and targeted.”
“The use of pellets as a means to curb protests was looked upon as an instrument of blinding and maiming the young. It was argued as to why in situations of equally violent protests in Haryana and Karnataka, pellets were not used as they were against the Kashmiris”, the team says.
“For the first time”, the team observes, “In Kashmir as many as six women were killed and several injured.” This led to a first-ever “all-women public protests (juloos) and the participation of women in janazas (funeral processions) in large numbers.”