Civil Society Groups Pitch for Indo-Pak Dialogue on Kashmir

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Protest demonstration on Saturday at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.

Zafar Afaq | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI – Several civil society groups pitched for dialogue on Kashmir involving all the three parties – India, Pakistan and peoples of Jammu and Kashmir – for establishment of lasting peace in South Asia. They held a protest demonstration on Saturday at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.

At the demonstration, the groups vociferously demanded roll back of revocation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir and urged the government to talk to the people of the region before taking any decision that affects them. “We affirm that we recognise the people of Jammu and Kashmir as the most important stakeholders in their lives and land,” they averred.

The protest was organised by several citizen groups including Citizens’ Federation of India. “We have assembled here because we are concerned about the situation in Kashmir,” a protestor told Caravan Daily.

Over 300 protestors assembled at the spot at around 3 PM, many of them carrying posters and banners making an appeal to the government to end lockdown in Kashmir.

Speaking about the gathering, another, M Vijayan, described the turnout that they were satisfied with the turnout at the protest rally as satisfactory. “Despite intimating the public about the event just two days in advance, the participants took time off their busy schedule to show up at the venue,” he emphasised.

On August 5, the Central government repealed Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which gave state a special status to the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, bifurcated it into two Union Territories and brought it under its direct control unilaterally without consulting people and leadership of the state.

What was more shocking was that the government enforced crippling lockdown in the state imposing blanket ban on all types of communications including mobile and land telephony, transportation and movement confining people to their homes. It also launched a worst type of crackdown on innocence Kasmiris and arrested thousands of them including prominent politicians, civil society members, religious leaders, young boys and even children.

Consequently, the already sour Indo-Pak relationship hit a new low. In the wake of the reckless and unwarranted move, Pakistan launched a diplomatic offensive urging the international community to pressurise India to revoke the decisions. The neighbouring country also downgraded its bilateral relations and imposed restrictions on India for using its air space.

The telephone services were partially restored earlier this week, after more than two months, allowing residents some sort of breather. The protestors asked the government to lift restriction on all forms of communication including internet services. During the intervening period, Kashmir witnessed an unprecedented media and communications shutdown never seen before.

“There is an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty in Kashmir,” said a Kashmiri protestor who wished to remain anonymous, adding “I recently returned from home and everyone I talked to exhibited pain.”

The protestors made an impassioned appeal to the Supreme Court of India to show urgency in matters related to the revocation of Article 370 and 35-A.

The protestors also urged the Indian government to scale back the levels of troops deployed in Jammu and Kashmir. They demanded dismantling of torture cells and an end to the practice of detaining people for an indefinite period in military and paramilitary camps.

“We demand repeal of draconian measures like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act,” they declared unanimously. Moreover, they also asked the government to stop the police from intimidating and harassing children and their parents.

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