NEW DELHI – As the clampdown on communications enters its 37th day, the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) along with other women’s organizations, on Tuesday held a meeting of solidarity with the women and the common people of Kashmir.
The 10th of every month is a momentous day for the women of the Valley, who assemble at Lal Chowk with details and pictures of their missing relatives, seeking justice and information about the lost men. Over the years, their number has been increasing. This month, the 10th also coincides with Muharram, and the women in Delhi felt that it would be the right moment to tell the women of Kashmir that they are not alone in their grief. The pain of the loss of loved ones needs to be expressed, as must the demand for justice.
Over a 150 women from different women’s organizations gathered at the Janatar Mantar seeking lifting of the communications blockade, reversal of the decision to abrogate Article 370 and restoring the democratic and human rights of the citizens in the valley. Apart from NFIW, leaders from AIDWA, Progressive Writer’s Association, Ms. Sayeeda Hameed, Pragatisheel Mahila Samiti, NAPM, Delhi University Teacher’s Association, JNU Student’s Union, ANHAD, NCHRO, Mobile Creche and Baligha Trust and women from shelter homes across the city reassured the Kashmiri women that women across the country sympathize and empathize with their suffering.
The overwhelming concern of the speakers and attendees was of concern for the anti-constitutional and anti-democratic moves of the government, the repression, the fomentation of communal agenda and the crushing of the economic fabric of not just Kashmir, but the entire country. Violence and hatred are now engulfing children, the old and the weakest sections of society.
Speaking on the occasion, General Secretary NFIW Annie Raja, emphasized on the need to defeat the sinister plans of the right wing ideological forces. She pointed out that all the moves the current government is taking are anti-constitutional, dictatorial and inhuman. Kashmiris have as much of a right to be identified with their lands and India as any other Indian. The undemocratic repealing of Article 370 is nothing but the attempt of the ruling government to colonize and seize the land for their corporate masters. The attempt must be defeated at all costs. We need to fight against the bigotry, parochialism, religious hatred and the misuse of the government machinery to narrow ends of vested political parties.
Maimoona Mollah of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, who was also part of the fact finding mission in Kashmir talked about the trauma that women in the region are facing. When children as young as 10 are picked up for torture and there are people disappearing in custody from every third household, and when the families are not allowed to mourn their dead, the government is nothing but an oppressive and unpopular power. We need to make amends and restore the dignity of the people in the valley. The first two steps would be removal of the armed forces and the restoration of Article 370.
Writers, teachers, students, activists and the homeless, all pointed out the sinister game of divide and rule masking oppression and land grab, that is being played by this government. Journalists, students and writers pointed out that the stories being peddled by the government through the corrupt media constantly talks of normalcy in the region, but social media, foreign press and independent journalists tell a different story. The fact of the matter remains that a huge step has been taken without the consent of the people affected, and that is what kills democracy. The vicious politics being played by the centre is taking a toll on the youth. There are pellet blindings, proofs of torture and atrocities on unarmed youth. What is happening to the women is left to one’s imagination.
Activists who work with tribal and human rights organizations drew parallels between the oppression of the youth in the areas where they work and Kashmir. To grab land for the corporate patrons, politicians and the corrupt administration brand the youth as naxalites, terrorists or in the case of Kashmir, separatists. As we have seen in the struggles of the tribal people that they are displaced after being called naxalites, all for the benefit of the corporate loot and plunder, we need to stand up as a collective to this corporate greed and save Kashmir.
Women speakers drew attention to the trauma faced by ordinary women in Delhi and other urban centers when they are unable to communicate with their children or family members for a few hours. Women in Kashmir had been looking for their kin for years, and the numbers have only swollen with the lockdown. Now we have a whole population that is unable to communicate with anyone. They empathized with the women by telling them that as women we understand the problems and mental trauma that women face when they lose someone or see someone in their family suffer.
All the speakers agreed that 370 was the only thread that bound Kashmir with India. Now that has been snapped and the people are going to feel stabbed in the back. The ideology of the ruling party says that the country belongs only to hindus, but we need to re-iterate that not only Kahsmir but all of India belongs to all irrespective of religion.
Mohammad Abuzar of ANHAD, talked about the politics of opportunists like Arvind Kejriwal and some Congressmen. The pride of power and control over the coercive apparatus will not bode well in history, he said. India is a democracy where the power to make or break political leaders lay in the hands of the people. As the opposition fails, it is upto the common man to take up the fight for equality, justice and peace. Opportunism is going to be harmful, both for the leaders playing it and the country at large. It will only divide the social fabric further.
NFIW Delhi State Secretary, Philomena John pointed out to the dangerous game being played by the ruling party that has already left a Gujarat that is impoverished, socially polarized and developmentally backward. Today it is Kashmir, yesterday it was Gujarat and tomorrow it will be Assam. State after state will be destroyed. As it is the PM has backtracked from all his election promises, from inflation to unemployment. The rampant lawlessness that is being promoted is going to break the country into pieces, facilitating the corrupt to rule. The PM will sell the country to foreigners. They will employ the countrymen who would be forced to work as cheap labour. It is a mindset and the divisive drive that needs to be fought.
Speakers also pointed out that the media and the ruling political party are creating myths about Kashmiris being cruel and anti-hindu. Their Islamophobia needs to be countered. The lies and canards need to be fought. Many activists who had visited Kashmir prior to the lockdown, were ready to give testimonies vouching for the honesty, kindness and liberalism of the people there. People sang songs and read poems to tell the countrymen that it is not just the land of Kashmir that is important, but the love of the people is as important.