Back from Kashmir, Women’s Team Recounts Horror Stories

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The report released on Tuesday at Press Club in New Delhi was prepared by a team consisted of National Federation of Indian Women. — Photo by Caravan Daily

Waquar Hasan | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI — A fact-finding report prepared by woman activists has rubbished the Center’s claim of normalcy in Kashmir noting that the kind of humiliation and torture the people of Kashmir suffered so far has “reached a point of no return”.

The team, which has recently visited Kashmir to bring out the ground reality in the Valley in the aftermath of the revocation of Article 370, claimed in its report that “the incidents that were recounted to us sent shivers down our spines and this report only summarises some of them”.

The report released on Tuesday at the Press Club of India (PCI) in New Delhi was prepared by a team consisted of National Federation of Indian Women (NFIM) activists, Annie Raja, Kawaljit Kaur and Pankhuri Zaheer, Sayeda Hameed from Muslim Women Forum and Poonam Kaushik from Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan, Delhi.

During their visit to Kashmir, September 17-21, they spoke to people, men, women, doctors, lawyers, boys, girls and police personnel to know their opinions, feelings and sufferings after the Centre unilaterally has revoked Article 370 and 35 A, which guaranteed special status to Kashmir, on  August 5.

“What I felt was that what is happening in Kashmir is nothing but an Indian way of genocide. Boys as young as 10, 12 and 15 years of age routinely are picked up by the security personnel. In some areas, every house has such stories to tell. We met some of the mothers whose children have been picked up at night. And they have no clue as to where they are,” said Annie Raja recounting the horrors of Kashmir.

The report narrates the ordeal the people are going through. One, Zarina (name changed), from Bandipora, related the story of her four-year-old child to the team. When the child hears barking of dogs after dusk, she places her index finger on her lips in a gesture to silence others. For the innocent child, “the barking of the dogs is the sign of an imminent intrusion of army personnel”.

The lady further said that she couldn’t switch the torch light of her phone on even while taking her little daughter to the toilet. Even a glimmer of light could prove an invitation to trouble as it would draw the men in uniform from far off and the men of their household would be invariably picked up and could even pay with their lives.

“Villagers across four districts of the Valley, who the team spoke to, had a common refrain that they have to turn the lights off by 8 pm, after maghrib (evening) prayers, every day. In Bandipora, a young girl made a mistake of keeping a lamp lit beyond the stipulated schedule to study for her board examinations, scheduled for November this year provided that her school reopens soon. Enraged by the breach of curfew, army men barged in her house scaling the outer wall. Her father and brother, the only male members of the household, were taken away for questioning. The duo is under detention since then,” noted the report.

Raja said that the revocation of article 370 has united all the people of Kashmir irrespective of their age, gender, region, and profession. “They speak in one voice and their sentiments now are one. Each one of them feels this is the last blow on the self-respect of Jammu and Kashmir. They can’t forget or forgive it.”

The report noted with the public transport shut down people have no option but to bank on private cars for commuting. If they have one, they can move around. Those who don’t own a car, line up alongside the roads to take a lift. There is a sense of helplessness among the people regarding public transport as they can’t travel as frequently as they once used to.

The fact-finding team found economic activities are closed down in the Valley. People, mostly poor and working class, are concerned about bread and butter. Hospitals are facing lot of obstructions in their functioning due to lack of communication and inaccessibility to transport facility for patients. “At Lalla Ded Women’s Hospital in Srinagar, several young female doctors expressed their frustration at the hurdles in the way of their work.”

Poonam Kaushik, an advocate, said the Jammu and Kashmir High Court was completely shut down. Offices of the bar council are locked up. Many lawyers have been detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA). They are kept in the jails outside the state.

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