In widespread protests, people demand an end to Army rule in Kashmir
In the early hours of December 15, a joint team of army, special operations group (SOG) of police and paramilitary staged an “encounter” on suspected “militants” in Pulwama village in South Kashmir. As soon as the gunshots of the security forces were heard, hundreds of youth from surrounding areas marched towards the encounter site to protest the killings. The security forces fired bullets, pellets and tear smoke shells on the protesters, as a result of which at least 7 youth were reported killed on spot while hospitals reported nearly 40 others admitted with serious injuries.
This brutal action of the armed forces in Kashmir has been widely condemned by militant protest actions in New Delhi, Srinagar and other parts of the Kashmir Valley as well as in various parts of the country.
People across the Kashmir valley have come out in protest actions against the Pulwama killings. Protest marches and a three day protest bandh took place throughout Kashmir immediately following the Pulwama massacre. On December 19, hundreds of people marched in Handwara, in protest against the killings in Pulwama. Carrying black flags, placards and banners, they marched through the market places of Handwara, calling for an end to atrocities by the security forces and demanding that the central government and all political forces should respect the sentiments and aspirations of the Kashmiri people.
Activists of various organisations held a militant protest at Jantar Mantar, near Parliament in New Delhi on December 19. They included National Alliance of People’s Movements, Khudai Khidmatgar, People’s Union for Civil Liberties Delhi, Lok Raj Sangathan, Delhi Solidarity Group, Samajwadi Yuvjan Sabha, Sadbhavna Mission, Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, National Movement Front, NTUI and others.
The participants raised slogans against the brutal massacres by the armed forces, which have now become a daily feature of life in Kashmir. “Down with the state terror in Kashmir!”, “Remove AFSPA, stop army atrocities in Kashmir!”, “Down with the killing of innocents in Kashmir!”, “Punish those guilty of the massacre of thousands of Kashmiri youth!” They carried placards bearing these and other slogans.
Representatives of the participating organisations as well as many concerned individuals – professors, writers, cultural workers, women’s rights activists, tribal rights activists, etc. – addressed the gathering.All speakers condemned the Pulwama killings. They expressed their complete disagreement with the central government’s“Kashmir policy” according to which every Kashmiri is treated as a potential “threat to the nation”, to be crushed with the utmost bestiality. They pointed out that tens of thousands of people have been killed in the Kashmir Valley in the last 29 years. Thousands of youth have simply “disappeared”, thousands of unmarked graves have been reported. They pointed out how every “encounter” by the state security forces is met with the resistance of the people, how the security forces have been resorting to firing upon innocents in the name of “catching militants” and how every funeral of those killed by the security forces is attended by thousands of people. The people of Kashmir feel completely alienated from the Indian state, they emphasized. The central governments Kashmir Policy of treating the Kashmir problem as a “law and order problem” to be dealt with by brutal repression is no solution. Speakers pointed to the need to counter the lies propagated about the Kashmiri problem by the Central government and the corporate media houses.
Speakers demanded the immediate revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which gives immunity to the armed forces personnel for their crimes against the Kashmiri people, thus giving them a free hand to commit the worst kind of atrocities – rape, murder, loot, arrests and torture. They demanded immediate withdrawal of the army into the barracks. The problem of Kashmir, they pointed out, cannot be solved by armed force; it demands a political solution.
The students of Aligarh Muslim University staged a protest demonstration at the campus on December 19, against the killings in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.In a statement issued by AMU Students’ Union, the students condemned the killings by the security forces in Kashmir and pressed for a political resolution of Kashmir conflict. The Students’ Union also submitted a memorandum to the President of India on the Kashmir situation.
The problem facing the Kashmiri people has its source in a state that denies them their human, democratic and national rights. The striving of the Kashmiri people to affirm their rights is painted as “anti-national” and “Pakistan inspired” and sought to be crushed by brute force. The protest demonstrations in Delhi, Aligarh and other places reaffirmed the determination of people of India to defeat the attempts of the Indian state to isolate, defame and crush the struggle of Kashmiri people for their rights.