NEW DELHI – More than 250 scholars, artists, activists, and others on Thursday issued a statement to express their concern about the “inhuman clampdown” that has been in place since New Delhi ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state on August 5.
The statement was signed by South Asians and their friends around the world. Some prominent signatories include professors Partha Chatterjee, Sheldon Pollock, journalists AS Panneerselvan, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, historian Ayesha Jalal, photojournalist Shahidul Alam, diplomat Kul Chandra Gautam, writer Chandra Talpade Mohanty, physicists MV Ramana, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Zia Mian, and philosopher Martha Nussbaum among others.
The signatories condemned the manner in which Article 370 was abrogated and said it is a “sharp departure” from democratic governance. The statement said they were gravely concerned by the Centre’s silencing of voices of dissent, and detention of social activists, lawyers, journalists, and human rights defenders. “We condemn the Government of India’s use of majoritarian populism to perpetuate a climate of fear across the country,” the statement read.
The actions of the government show a complete lack of respect for constitutionalism, secularism, and democratic values, it added.
The signatories urged the government to immediately lift the communications blackout in Jammu and Kashmir and hold dialogue with the people of the state.
The government imposed restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 and cut off mobile networks hours before rescinding the state’s special status. The state has witnessed sporadic protests since then, especially in Kashmir. Restrictions have been been partially lifted in Jammu but remain in place in the Valley.
Here is the full statement:
The undersigned citizens of and friends of South Asia, who stand in solidarity with all freedom-loving citizens of this region, release this statement on Jammu and Kashmir.
We are deeply concerned by recent political developments in Jammu and Kashmir. We are distraught that the people of this beleaguered land, who have lived with violence and political disempowerment for decades, have now been subjected to a further erosion of their rights under the intensified military suppression of the last ten days.
Article 370 of the Indian Constitution represented a historical understanding between the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian state. On 5 August 2019, not only was Article 370 abrogated, but the very statehood of Jammu and Kashmir was abolished, bringing the region under New Delhi’s direct rule. The manner in which these abrogations were accomplished, through executive order and in the absence of a state legislature, is a betrayal of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, whose elected representatives were never consulted. This is a sharp departure from democratic governance, and the constitutional validity of these decisions has been rightfully challenged.
We condemn the curtailment of civil liberties in Jammu and Kashmir: the blackout of telecommunications and internet services; the severe restrictions on media and on the freedoms of movement, peaceful assembly, and protest; and the violent suppression of demonstrations. These are all violations of international human rights obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which India ratified in 1979.
We are alarmed by credible media reports of security forces having opened fire on peaceful protestors and disturbed by the denials issued by the authorities, who have gone on to accuse journalists of fabrication. We are gravely concerned by the Government of India’s silencing of voices of dissent, and detention of social activists, lawyers, journalists, and human rights defenders. We condemn the Government of India’s use of majoritarian populism to perpetuate a climate of fear across the country.
These actions of the Government of India exhibit a complete lack of respect for constitutionalism, secularism, and democratic values. This does not bode well for India’s people, who have, uniquely in South Asia, benefited from decades of democratic rule. We are apprehensive of India’s future as a democracy and the implications that this degeneration will have on its population of 1.2 billion as well as on the rest of the subcontinent.
We urge the Government of India to immediately end the inhuman clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir, to restore civil liberties as well as the flow of information, to immediately release all political detainees and prisoners, and to enter into dialogue with the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
In the middle of August, when we are meant to celebrate independence from colonialism, we condemn this regression towards despotic rule. We stand in solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and with people across India and South Asia who aspire to peace, prosperity, and fundamental freedoms.