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Oppressor can't bring freedom to Kashmiri women: Modi told ahead of UN address

Counterview Desk
A statement, simultaneously issued from Delhi and New York, by 211 women from India and 185 from around the world, and endorsed by 87 women’s groups, ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2019, has taken strong exception to what it calls “particularly pernicious” argument of the Government of India that the clampdown on Kashmir will the state’s women in the long run. 
The statement says, “Not only does this bolster the colonial tropes of a backward Muslim majority region whose women are in need of rescue by the civilisationally ‘superior’ people of India, it is based on outright falsehoods, misinformation, misrepresentations and false equivalences, that are being deliberately amplified, including by high state functionaries, despite being repeatedly debunked by experts and lawyers.”
It underlines, “The government’s concern for the women of Kashmir might have rung truer if members of the ruling party were not witnessed publicly gloating over their new found sexual access to Kashmiri women, now that Indian men can finally get ‘Kashmiri brides’, as though Kashmiri women are spoils of war.”

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On 30 August 2019 30,the United Nations’ International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, Parveena Ahangar, mother of Javaid, a 16 year old who was ‘disappeared’ by paramilitary forces in Kashmir in 1990 mourned again: “Every year, the families of APDP (Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons) come together on 30 August. This is our way of reassuring each other that we are not alone in our grief. Yet this year we have been strangled, and there was no coming together because through its siege, India has denied us even the right to mourn.”
Kashmir under siege. Kashmir caged. Kashmir imprisoned. Analogies abound for of the Indian Government‘s actions of August 5, 2019 when it unilaterally terminated the semi-autonomous Constitutional status granted to the region as a condition of its accession to India, and bifurcated it into two directly ruled Union Territories.
This action was preceded in the previous week by a military blockade, a state of undeclared emergency, and an unprecedented media and communications clampdown. An estimated 4,000 Kashmiris have been arbitrarily detained including politicians, business leaders, lawyers, human rights defenders, chartered accountants, journalists, teachers, and students.
Some are being held without charges or trial, under administrative detention laws such as the Public Safety Act, 1978 while the grounds of detention and whereabouts of a large number, including children as young as ten, remain unknown. An unknown number of people have been moved to prisons outside the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
The Indian government continues to declare that all is ‘normal’ in the face of credible and mounting evidence of a healthcare and humanitarian crisis, civilian deaths and blindings and other injuries in pellet gun attacks by Indian security forces, torture, molestations, and the severe curtailment of freedom of opinion, expression, and information; assembly and movement; and religious freedoms.
As the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi addresses the UN General Assembly on 27 September and reasserts this claim of ‘normalcy’, we, the women of the world urge the global community to remember that 8 million Kashmiris will still be held hostage by close to 1 million Indian security personnel. Still stripped of their constitutional rights, fundamental freedoms and liberties. The promise of plebiscite given to them at the time of their accession to India, broken. Their right to self-determination, throttled. Their control over their lands, shattered.
Like colonised peoples anywhere, the future of the Kashmiri people is deeply uncertain. Their imprisonment is strengthened by the silence of world leaders, international civil society, the near complete gag on the media, as well as Indians who have celebrated the constitutionalised annexation of Kashmir, and believed the narrative that this is being done for their own good.
One particularly pernicious strand of this discourse has been that the move will benefit women, dalits and sexual minorities by granting them constitutional rights so far denied to them. Not only does this bolster the colonial tropes of a backward Muslim majority region whose women are in need of rescue by the civilisationally ‘superior’ people of India, it is based on outright falsehoods, misinformation, misrepresentations and false equivalences, that are being deliberately amplified, including by high state functionaries, despite being repeatedly debunked by experts and lawyers. The government’s concern for the women of Kashmir might have rung truer if members of the ruling party were not witnessed publicly gloating over their new found sexual access to Kashmiri women, now that Indian men can finally get “Kashmiri brides” as though Kashmiri women are spoils of war.
The Indian government claims Kashmir needs ‘development’, but its social development indices, including gender indicators such as maternal mortality, age of marriage, child sex ratio and female literacy are better than the Indian average. Land reforms enabled by Article 35A have reduced social and caste inequities and landlessness, and brought relative prosperity.
Like the women of Kashmir, we have also, all too often, been told that the violence and control we face in the home, family, community and nation is an ‘internal matter’
While acknowledging that militarisation and militarised sexual impunity exacerbates both public and private patriarchy, we need to listen to Kashmiri women, when they say, as they did to a recent Fact Finding delegation from India: “We are capable of fighting our own battles. We don’t want our oppressors to claim to liberate us!”.
The women of Kashmir should know. As successive governments in Delhi have systematically violated all democratic norms in Kashmir, it is the women of Kashmir who have been at the forefront of the struggles for justice, truth and accountability for widespread human rights violations particularly sexual violence and enforced disappearances. They have stepped out in protest, been jailed, sexually assaulted, and still risen to make sure they are heard.
As feminists, women’s rights activists, peace, democratic and civil rights’ activists, lawyers, academics, students, journalists, scientists, artists, writers, etc., we raise our voice today in salute and solidarity with the women of Kashmir. About 500 individual women and women’s organisations from about 30 countries across the globe – ranging from South Asian nations to the U.S, Iran to Indonesia, Afghanistan to Argentina, Europe to Mexico, Israel, Palestine, Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa – stand with them in this, their darkest moment.
  • We condemn the actions of the Indian government and their dealing with a political problem as a territorial one.
  • We call for an end to the culture of fear and terror, violence and assault that has been cultivated in the state for far too long. 
  • We speak out against the continued detention of countless people of the state and demand their immediate release. 
  • We seek an immediate end to the Internet shutdown, lift on all restrictions on movement and communications, and a restoration of real ‘normalcy’. 
  • We call for restrictions be lifted in order to allow the independent media in Kashmir to carry out its duty of reporting facts and informing the public, without fear or favour. 
  • We urge the Indian government to step back from its current aggressions and stop the militarisation that has failed to solve the problem since independence. 
  • We seek a reinstatement of consultative processes with the people of Jammu and Kashmir on any action that concerns them, their lives and their community. 
  • We call for an end to the smokescreens of Kashmir being an ‘internal matter’ etc., to avoid meaningful dialogue. For that is the only way to evolve a long lasting peaceful solution to Kashmir. 
Because like the women of Kashmir, we have also, all too often, been told that the violence and control we face in the home, family, community and nation is an ‘internal matter’, not to be exposed to the world. But we all have lived and learnt the reality, that it is only in breaking our silence that we break the shackles of our oppressions. And in that fight, we #StandWithKashmir, #StandWithTheWomenOfKashmir!
For as Rev Dr Martin Luther King famously said: “No one is free until we are all free.”
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Click HERE for the list of signatories

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