Kashmir: Fact finding team Report says 13000 boys lifted during this lockdown

Jammu: Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik addresses a press conference in Jammu on Nov 22, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
Jammu: Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik addresses a press conference in Jammu on Nov 22, 2018. (Photo: IANS)

Women’s Voice:
Fact Finding Report on Kashmir

September
17th – 21st 2019

New Delhi,
26 September 2019. A team of 5 women
visited Kashmir from September 17th-21st 2019.
They wanted to see with their
own eyes how this 43-day lockdown had affected the
people, particularly women and children. The team consisted of Annie Raja,
Kawaljit Kaur, Pankhuri Zaheer from National Federation Indian Women, Poonam
Kaushik from Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan and Syeda Hameed from Muslim Women’s
Forum.

Text of Fact
Finding Report on Kashmir is as follows

[Kindly note. To protect the identity
of the people we met, all names in the Report have been changed. We have not
named the villages we visited for the very same reason]

These are
lines by Comrade Abdul Sattar Ranjoor. We held these as a beacon during our
four-day sojourn in a locked and shuttered land called Kashmir.

Spring buds
will flower

Nightingales’
pain will abate

Lovers
wounds will start healing

Sickness
will leave the ailing

Heart’s
longing of Ranjoor will be fulfilled

When the
poorest will rule

Wearing the
crown of glory

(Ranjoor was killed in 1990)

Besides
spending time in Srinagar, we visited several villages in the districts of
Shopian, Pulwama and Bandipora. We went to hospitals, schools, homes, market
places, spoke to people in the rural as well as urban areas, to men, women,
youth and children. This Report is our chashmdeed gawahi (eye witness account)
of ordinary people who have lived for 43 days
under an iron siege.

Shops
closed, hotels closed, schools, colleges, institutes and universities closed,
streets deserted was the first visual impact as we drove out from the airport.
To us it seemed a punitive mahaul that blocked breathing freely.

The picture
of Kashmir that rises before our eyes is not the populist image; shikara,
houseboat, lotus, Dal Lake. It is that of women, a Zubeida, a Shamima, a
Khurshida standing at the door of their homes, waiting. Waiting and waiting for
their 14, 15, 17, 19-year-old sons. Their last glimpse is embedded in each heart,
they dare not give up hope but they know it will be a long wait before they see
their tortured bodies or their corpses… if they do. ‘We have been caged’ these
words we heard everywhere. Doctors, teachers, students, workers asked us, “What
would you do in Delhi if internet services were cut off for 5 minutes?” We had no answer.

Across all
villages of the four districts, peoples’ experiences were the same. They all
spoke of lights, which had to be turned off around 8PM after Maghreb prayers. In Bandipora, we saw a young girl
who made the mistake of keeping a lamp lit to read for her exam on the chance
that her school may open soon. Army men angered by this breach of ‘curfew’,
jumped the wall to barge in. Father and son, the only males in the house were
taken away for questioning. ‘What questions?’, no one dared ask. The two have
been detained since then. ‘We insist that men should go indoors after 6 PM. Man or boy seen after dusk is a huge risk. If absolutely
necessary, we women go outside’. These words were spoken by Zarina from a
village near Bandipora district headquarters. ‘In a reflex action, my four-year-old
places a finger on her lips when she hears a dog bark after dusk. Barking dogs
mean an imminent visit by army. I can’t switch on the phone for light so I can
take my little girl to the toilet. Light shows from far and if that happens our
men pay with their lives’.

The living
are inadvertently tortured by the dead. ‘People die without warning or
mourning. How will I inform my sisters about their mother’s death?’ Ghulam
Ahmed’s voice was choked. ‘They are in Traal, in Pattan. I had to perform her
soyem without her children’. The story was the same wherever we went. People
had no means of reaching out to loved ones. 43 days were like the silence of death.

Public
transportation was zero. People who had private cars took them out only for essential
chores. Women stood on roadsides, flagging cars and bikes for rides. People
stopped and helped out; helplessness of both sides was their unspoken bond. ‘I
was on my bike going towards Awantipora. A woman flagged me. My bike lurched on
a speed breaker. She was thrown off. I took her to the nearby hospital. She
went in a coma. I am a poor man how could I pay for her treatment? How and who
could I inform?’ These daily events were recounted wherever we went. At a Lalla
Ded Women’s Hospital in Srinagar several young women doctors expressed their
absolute frustration at the hurdles that had been placed in their way since the
abrogation of Article 370.
‘There are cases where
women cannot come in time for deliveries. There are very few ambulances, the
few that are running are stopped at pickets on the way. The result? There are
several cases of overdue deliveries that produce babies with birth deformities.
It is a lifelong affliction, living death for parents”. Conversely, we were
told that several women are delivering babies prematurely due to the stress and
khauf (fear) in the present condition. “It feels like the government is
strangling us and then sadistically asking us to speak at the same time,’ a
young woman doctor said as she clutched her throat to show how she felt.

A senior
doctor from Bandipora Hospital told us that people come from Kulgam, Kupwara,
and other districts. Mental disorders, heart attacks, today there are more
cases than he could ever recall. For emergencies junior doctors desperately
look for seniors; there is no way of reaching them on phone. If they are out of
the premises, they run on the streets shouting, asking, searching in sheer
desperation. One orthopaedic doctor from SKIMS was stopped at the army-imposed
blockade while he was going for duty. He was held for 7 days. Safia in Shopian had cancer surgery. ‘I desperately
need a check-up in case it has recurred. Baji, I can’t reach my doctor. The
only way is to go to the city, but how do I get there? And if I do, will he be
there?’ Ayushman Bharat, an internet-based scheme, cannot be availed by doctors
and patients.

Women in
villages stood before us with vacant eyes. ‘How do we know where they are? Our
boys who were taken away, snatched away from our homes. Our men go to the
police station, they are asked to go to the headquarters. They beg rides from
travellers and some manage to get there. On the board are names of ‘stone
pelters’ who have been lodged in different jails, Agra, Jodhpur, Ambedkar,
Jhajjar.’ A man standing by adds, ‘Baji we are crushed. Only a few of us who
can beg and borrow, go hundreds of miles only to be pushed around by hostile
jail guards in completely unfamiliar cities.’

At Gurdwaras
we met women who said they have always felt secure in Kashmir. ‘Molestation of
women in rest of India about which we read is unheard of in Kashmir’. Young
women complained they were harassed by army, including removal of their niqab

‘Army pounces on young boys; it seems
they hate their very sight. When fathers go to rescue their children, they are
made to deposit money, anywhere between 20000 to 60000’. So palpable is their hatred for
Kashmiri youth that when there is the dreaded knock on the door of a home, an
old man is sent to open it. ‘We hope and pray they will spare a buzurg. But
their slaps land on all faces, regardless whether they are old or young, or
even the very young. In any case, Baji, we keep our doors lightly latched so
they open easily with one kick’. The irony of these simply spoken words!

Boys as
young as 14 or 15 are taken away, tortured, some for as long as 45 days. Their papers are taken away, families not informed.
Old FIR’s are not closed. Phones are snatched; collect it from the army camp
they are told. No one in his senses ever went back, even for a slightly
expensive phone. A woman recounted how they came for her 22-year-old son. But since his hand was in plaster, they took
away her 14-year-old instead. In another village
we heard that two men were brutally beaten. No reason. One returned, after 20 days, broken in body and spirit. The other is still in
custody. One estimate given to us was 13000 boys
lifted during this lockdown. They don’t even spare our rations. During random
checking of houses which occurs at all odd hours of the night, the army persons
come in and throw out the family. A young man working as SPO told us. ‘We keep
a sizeable amount of rice, pulses, edible oil in reserve. Kerosene is mixed in
the ration bins, sometimes that, sometimes koyla’. 

Tehmina from
Anantnag recently urged her husband, ‘Let us have another child. If our Faiz
gets killed at least we will have one more to call our own. Abdul Haleem was
silent. He could see the dead body of his little boy lying on his hands even as
she spoke these words. ‘Yeh sun kar, meri ruh kaanp gayi,” he tells us.

A thirty-year-old
lawyer from Karna was found dead in his rented accommodation. He was intensely
depressed. Condolence notice was issued by Secy Bar Association. Immediately
after that he was taken into custody. Why? We spoke to a JK policeman. All of
them have been divested of their guns and handed dandas. ‘How do you feel, losing
your guns?’ ‘Both good and bad’ came the reply. ‘Why?’ Good because we were
always afraid of them being snatched away. Bad because we have no means now to
defend ourselves in a shootout. One-woman security guard said ‘Indian govt
wants to make this a Palestine. This will be fought by the us, Kashmiris’. One
young professional told us, ‘We want freedom. We don’t want India; we don’t
want Pakistan. We will pay any price for this. Ye Kashmiri khoon hai. Koi bhi
qurbani denge’.

Everywhere
we went there were two inexorable sentiments. First, desire for Azadi; they
want nothing of either India or Pakistan. The humiliation and torture they have
suffered for 70 years has reached a point of no
return. Abrogation of 370 some say has snapped the last tie
they had with India. Even those people who always stood with the Indian State
have been rejected by the Govt. ‘So, what is the worth in their eyes, of us,
ordinary Kashmiris?’ Since all their leaders have been placed under PSA or
under house arrest, the common people have become their own leaders. Their
suffering is untold, so is their patience. The second, was the mothers
anguished cries (who had seen many children’s corpses with wounds from torture)
asking for immediate stop to this brutalisation of innocents. Their children’s
lives should not be snuffed out by gun and jackboots.

As we report
our experiences and observations of our stay in Kashmir, we end with two
conclusions. That the Kashmiri people have in the last 50 days shown an amazing amount of resilience in the face of
brutality and blackout by the Indian government and the army. The incidents
that were recounted to us sent shivers down our spines and this report only
summarises some of them. We salute the courage and resoluteness of the Kashmiri
people. Secondly, we reiterate that nothing about the situation is normal. All
those claiming that the situation is slowly returning to normalcy are making
false claims based on distorted facts.

Poets speak
for humankind. We began our report with lines from the Kashmiri poet Ranjoor,
we end with lines from Hindi poet Dushyant. Both indicate the way forward for
Kashmir:

Ho gayi hai
peerh parbat si pighalni chahiye

Iss Himalaya
se koi Ganga nikalni chahiye

We
Demand:

1. FOR NORMALCY Withdraw the Army and
Paramilitary forces with immediate effect

2. FOR CONFIDENCE BUILDING Immediately
Cancel all cases/ FIRs and Release all those, especially the youth who are
under custody and in jail since the Abrogation of Article 370

3. FOR ENSURING JUSTICE Conduct inquiry
on the widespread violence and tortures unleashed by the Army and other
security personnel.

4. COMPENSATION to all those families
whose loved ones lost lives because of non-availability of transportation and
absence of communication.

In Addition:

Immediately
restore all communication lines in Kashmir including internet and mobile
networks.

Restore
Article 370 and 35 A.

All future
decisions about the political future of Jammu and Kashmir must be taken through
a process of dialogue with the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

All army
personnel must be removed from the civilian areas of Jammu and Kashmir.

A time bound inquiry committee must be constituted to look into the excesses committed by the army.

ताजा समाचार/आलेख

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