Skip to main content

Despite hurdles Restore Democracy march 'succeeds' in reaching Srinagar from Jammu

By Sandeep Pandey, Rajendran Narayanan*
A ‘Restoration of Democracy’ march, part on feet and part on vehicles, was planned from Jammu to Srinagar between November 26 and December 1, 2019 in Jammu and Kashmir after the decision of Government of India earlier on August 5 to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A and division and downgrading of state into two Union Territories, J&K and Laddakh.
When the march started on November 26 from Press Club, Jammu with over 50 people the police stopped it just before it reached a main road and told us that we could not proceed on feet. They, however, allowed it to go on vehicles. The marchers then assembled at a nearby Gurudwara and about 30 of them went ahead in five vehicles. 
Prominent among the marchers were Sheikh Abdul Rehman, former Member of Parliament from J&K and two times Member of Legislative Assembly from Madhya Pradesh, Dr Sunilam. The group reached its destination for the day Udhampur and distributed a pamphlet prepared for the march taking out a procession though the market. 
The next morning, however, the police prevented the group from holding a press conference. The march proceeded towards its destination for the second day Ramban. Local political leader Amrit Varsha received the march with much fanfare. Slogans were raised for restoring the pre-5 August status and a press conference was immediately held. 
On November 28 morning distribution of pamphlets took place at the local bus stand and market. Small group discussions also took place with people while pamphlets were being distributed. However, after a public meeting held inside a hall during the day, the police arrived and threatened the journalists not to further cover the march and on the pretext that route ahead to Srinagar was closed due to land-slides asked the march to return to Jammu. 
The police vehicles followed the march and ensured that they crossed the Ramban district border on the way back to Jammu. However, six marchers, including the two writers, decided to make an attempt to directly reach Srinagar by shared taxi and were successful on the second attempt on November 29. 
In Srinagar, the group met Communist Party of India leader Ghulam Mohammad Mizrab in his village Poshpora in Shopian district and activists of J&K Coalition of Civil Society and Haq Insaf Party in Srinagar besides common citizens. The group also interacted with security personnel deployed at short distances from each other on stringent long duty hours for long stretches extending from several months to years.
Common sentiments expressed by people ranged from disappointment to anger at the way Union Government has handled the situation. GM Mizrab says that earlier there were three kinds of people in J&K, one who had accepted being part of India, second who aspired for independence from India and Pakistan both and third who looked towards Pakistan with some hope, although the latter two segments had realised over a period of time that their dreams were not practical and had shrunk in size. 
For example, the total number of militants presently in J&K, according to government’s own figures, is not more than 300, for whom 8 lakh security personnel have been deployed and the government incurs an extra expenditure, other than salaries and upkeep, of Rs 3 crore daily. 
Most Kashmiri families now have some connection with India, either their children are studying in some educational institutions or they have business interests elsewhere in India. But after the August 5 decision of Government, when even the most pro-India leader Dr Farooq Abdullah was put under house arrest, majority in Kashmir have now turned against India. 
Mizrab says that even though he would prefer to be with India, he has been deeply hurt by the decision as he thinks it is taking away his identity in a way. A college teacher put it more succinctly, Articles 370 and 35A were like nikah-nama, document of marriage, between India and J&K and the Indian government by abrogating these Articles has annulled the marriage. The link between India and J&K has been severed and the alienation is now complete. 
Another college teacher said previously they were not so conscious of Indians coming to J&K but now they view them with suspicion. It is what the British rule was for India. Khurram Parvez of JKCCS informed that about 3.5 to 5 lakhs migrant labourers have also been sent back to India before August 5 just like the tourists, whose departure was publicised, and it may not be a surprise that after some time Kashmiris may be blamed for this just like they are blamed for driving out the Kashmiri Pandits, even though they were evacuated then, initially only for several months, on the pretext of some planned action against militants, both of which have now prolonged. 
When one of the marchers Amit Maurya took photograph of an empty classroom in a school in Haval on November 30, 2019, the teachers present panicked
The group of marchers also saw vacant houses belonging to Kashmiri Pandits on the border of Shopian district and Pulwama, keeping the option for them to return open, in addition to a colony established for Hindu government employees here. It doesn’t appear that there is any problem in common Kashmiris belonging to any religion living together as they emphasise that their culture is Kashmiriyat and the variety of Islam practised here is Sufi.
The economic life seems to be limping back to normalcy from external appearance, with business and economic activity going on for several hours during the day, but the fact is that the four month long clampdown has broken the back of the economy which was further compounded by bad weather. The apple industry suffered the worst. 
The producers could not meet the demands of buyers due to lack of labourers and restriction in transportation and trees have been damaged due to early snow which will take about a decade to re-grow. It is being claimed that Jammu region, especially the larger Hindu population is happy with government’s decision, but the fact is that economy of this region is tied with Kashmir and has also suffered badly. People in Kashmir now want to bypass Jammu and want to do business with other regions of the country.
When one of the marchers Amit Maurya took photograph of an empty classroom in a school in Haval on November 30, 2019, the teachers present panicked. They would not let him leave until he deleted the photograph from his mobile phone. 
In spite of the claims being made by the Home Minister, the fact is that except for the Board examinations, the questions papers were taken by teachers to homes of students of all other classes and answers brought back to the school. The parents of children are forced to engage the same teachers at home for tuition classes at monthly charges upto Rs. 5,000 for a child of class VI or VII.
It is not clear when the economy or education will return to normalcy but the most serious damage that the government has done is to politics. There is no sign of revival of political process. While the Bhartiya Janata Party has realised the political agenda of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh in J&K, it is preventing other Parties from carrying out their activities. There is a ban on political activity, especially related to Articles 370 and 35A. 
Government employees have been made to sign an agreement to be part of one of the two Union Territories. The people who were arrested are being released after 10-15 community members are made to sign bonds guaranteeing that the person being released will not take part in any activity opposing the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A. 
The government doesn’t want any other voice than its own. Most newspapers are carrying government advertisements or reporting government and apolitical events. The media is totally censored. The bureaucracy and security establishment is dominating the politics. There doesn’t seem to be any hope for restoration of democracy yet. Senior activist of JKCCS Pervez Imroz asks how can there be democracy in a situation of occupation, either before 5 August or after that?
---
*Sandeep Pandey is a social-political activist and Rajendran teaches at Azmi Premji Univeristy. Contact: ashaashram@yahoo.comn.rajendran@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

Vaccine nationalism? Covaxin isn't safe either, perhaps it's worse: Experts

By Rajiv Shah  I was a little awestruck: The news had already spread that Astrazeneca – whose Indian variant Covishield was delivered to nearly 80% of Indian vaccine recipients during the Covid-19 era – has been withdrawn by the manufacturers following the admission by its UK pharma giant that its Covid-19 vector-based vaccine in “rare” instances cause TTS, or “thrombocytopenia thrombosis syndrome”, which lead to the blood to clump and form clots. The vaccine reportedly led to at least 81 deaths in the UK.

'Scientifically flawed': 22 examples of the failure of vaccine passports

By Vratesh Srivastava*   Vaccine passports were introduced in late 2021 in a number of places across the world, with the primary objective of curtailing community spread and inducing "vaccine hesitant" people to get vaccinated, ostensibly to ensure herd immunity. The case for vaccine passports was scientifically flawed and ethically questionable.

'Misleading' ads: Are our celebrities and public figures acting responsibly?

By Deepika* It is imperative for celebrities and public figures to act responsibly while endorsing a consumer product, the Supreme Court said as it recently clamped down on misleading advertisements.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

US 'frustrated' with India’s discomfort: Maritime exercise in South China Sea

By Vijay Prashad*  In early April 2024, the navies of four countries -- Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States -- held a maritime exercise in the South China Sea. Australia’s Warramunga, Japan’s Akebono, the Philippines’ Antonio Luna, and the United States’ Mobile worked together in these waters to strengthen their joint abilities and -- as they said in a joint statement  -- to “uphold the right to freedom of navigation and overflight and respect for maritime rights under international law.” 

Dadi, poti discuss 'injustice' under 10 yr Modi rule: Video campaign goes viral

By Our Representative  Watan Ki Raah Mein, a civil society campaign of the Samvidhan Bachao Nagrik Abhiyan, has released a short video conversation on social media of an exchange of letters between a dadi and her poti discussing poverty, unemployment, corruption and women’s safety. The letters also raise the question of  suppression of our fundamental rights of speech, expression and justice. 

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

India 'not keen' on legally binding global treaty to reduce plastic production

By Rajiv Shah  Even as offering lip-service to the United Nations Environment Agency (UNEA) for the need to curb plastic production, the Government of India appears reluctant in reducing the production of plastic. A senior participant at the UNEP’s fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4), which took place in Ottawa in April last week, told a plastics pollution seminar that India, along with China and Russia, did not want any legally binding agreement for curbing plastic pollution.

No compensation to family, reluctance to file FIR: Manual scavengers' death

By Arun Khote, Sanjeev Kumar*  Recently, there have been four instances of horrifying deaths of sewer/septic tank workers in Uttar Pradesh. On 2 May, 2024, Shobran Yadav, 56, and his son Sushil Yadav, 28, died from suffocation while cleaning a sewer line in Lucknow’s Wazirganj area. In another incident on 3 May 2024, two workers Nooni Mandal, 36 and Kokan Mandal aka Tapan Mandal, 40 were killed while cleaning the septic tank in a house in Noida, Sector 26. The two workers were residents of Malda district of West Bengal and lived in the slum area of Noida Sector 9.