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Kashmiris 'betrayed', India's solicitor general 'doesn't understand' ground realities

Counterview Desk
The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), India’s top civil society network, has claimed that the Government of India (GoI) us “lying about the situation in Kashmir”, insisting in a statement signed, among others, by Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Dr Binayak Sen, Prafulla Samantara, Lok Lingraj Azad, Kavita Srivastava and Sandeep Pandey that it is totally wrong to say “migrant workers and marginalized communities continue to stand in solidarity with the people of Kashmir.”
Contesting solicitor general Tushar Mehta claiming on behalf of the GoI that there was “no crackdown in Kashmir” and restrictions were “reasonable and limited”, and that the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A were welcome by the people of Kashmir as also by Dalits, tribals, and migrant labourers, NAPM said, independent reports actually suggest loss of personal liberty, illegal detentions and communications blackout.
The statement said, “We condemn lack of understanding of the situation of the marginalized section by the solicitor general. We also take this opportunity to appeal to him to understand that our lived experiences make us realize that the people of Kashmir feel betrayed and are suffering; we appreciate their courage and stand in solidarity with them.”

Text:

Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A and the way it was done has been a matter of great concern for the nation. The Supreme Court has had four hearings in November on the Kashmir lockdown case. The fifth hearing happened on 21st November, in which the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, arguing on behalf of the Union government, claimed that there was no crackdown in Kashmir, and that reasonable and limited restrictions were imposed in Kashmir to maintain the safety of its residents.
He further asserted that there was no protest in Kashmir, as people welcomed Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, which has paved the way for bringing in 106 people-friendly legislations from which Kashmir was exempted in the past. He also asserted that the action of the state has support from women, SC/ST community, Safai karamchari community, migrant labourers and other marginalized sections.
As an alliance of national movements working with marginalized communities we want to let it be known that the NAPM has found the Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A and the way it was done extremely problematic. We are deeply anguished at the claims of the Solicitor General and would like to lay out the facts, as have come out.
The clampdown, and the pain and hurt caused to the people of Kashmir was clearly visible to a four-member team which visited Kashmir for five days (9-13 August 2019) traveling extensively in Kashmir, bringing out the report “Kashmir Caged”, which included eminent women's activists Kavita Krishnan and Memoona Mollah, economist Jean Dreze and NAPM representative Vimal Bhai.
Since then many other independent reports have also highlighted the loss of personal liberty, illegal detentions (including that of children), communications blackout, absence by arrests of non-BJP political and social actors and the non-violent resistance to all this, that has characterised the lives of Kashmiris since August 5.
We would like to refer to two reports here, one of an eleven-member team comprising advocates, trade union and human activists and a psychiatrist which visited Kashmir from September 28 to October 4, 2019 and brought out the report “Imprisoned Resistance August 5 and its Aftermath”.
The second, that of Nitya Ramakrishnan (advocate) and Nandini Sundar (sociologist) who visited the Kashmir Valley between October 5 and 9, 2019, speaking to a cross-section of people, brought out the report “Go back to India and cover every statue of Gandhi so that he doesn't have to face this shame”. Kashmiris mark the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birthday with Satyagraha.
Clampdown has resulted in loss of livelihood to thousands of migrant workers from other states
Internationally also these concerns have been raised. On October 22, the US House Subcommittee on Asia held a historic hearing on Human Rights in Asia where the current situation in Kashmir was also discussed. “Witnesses were able to highlight the immense amount of state repression in Kashmir, and not just after August 5. Amnesty International's representative, Francisco Bencosme, spoke of the detentions, the lack of press freedoms and the worrying attacks on religious freedom in India”.
We would also like to stress that the clampdown has resulted in loss of livelihood to thousands of migrant workers from other states. Thousands of migrant workers had to return to their home state. Communication breakdown caused great pains to both the workers and their family members who were unable to contact their loved ones.
Recent reports (click here and here) indicate that the exodus of migrant workers from Kashmir is only escalating with time. Further reports indicate that the economy of Kashmir has suffered greatly since August 5. According to the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), the estimated loss to the Kashmiri economy is at least Rs 10,000 crore.
The handicrafts sector has been hit particularly hard, with one report estimating losses at Rs 300 crore. Such a sudden deflation of the economy of Kashmiri economy is bound to have damaging consequences both for Kashmiri workers and entrepreneurs, and on migrant workers dependent on the economy for their livelihood.
We as NAPM condemn this lack of understanding of the situation of the marginalized section by the solicitor general. We also take this opportunity to appeal to him to understand that our lived experiences make us realize that the people of Kashmir feel betrayed and are suffering; we appreciate their courage and stand in solidarity with them.

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