A new report released by a team of four academics, activists and journalists has chronicled the ways in which Kashmiris have been dealing with the lockdown in the Valley following the Indian government’s decision to revoke Article 370 on August 5.
The fact-finding report says that many shops and offices have been closed, but this is not due to them succumbing to the calls of militants, separatist leaders or political leaders. It is, in fact, an “act of resistance against the Indian state”.
The team found about three instances where people said they saw posters possibly by militants, asking people to shut their shops. Instead, they say that many more people claim that they were being forced by Indian security personnel to keep their shops open.
“These are people the Kashmiris are equally scared of. It is at their behest that people are being arrested. So the decision to defy them is significant and brazen. And yet, that is the choice most Kashmiris have made. To go against the diktat to open shop. And remain in this mode of civil disobedience for as long as they can,” says the report.
Their report says that the fact that there has not been any violence from the people of Kashmir “has to do with the resilience of the people. It is an active and collective choice being exercised each day, to observe civil disobedience. In feeling rejected and betrayed by the Indian state, Kashmiris have chosen to respond back, through a largely non-violent protest.”
The authors say that this method of protesting is a marked difference from how Kashmir has protested in the past: “People in Kashmir are no longer interested in an interaction with the Indian state. That space is now dead.”
They say that people across the spectrum – from hardliners to separatists who either want a union with Pakistan or want azadi, to those siding with India – have experienced collective shock and trauma. All of this has turned many Kashmiris into “silent protestors”.
The report warns that this phenomenon of silent protest and civil disobedience may just be the lull before an impending storm.
The team says that they observed differences in Jammu, which was not under the same kind of state lockdown as the Kashmir Valley. In Jammu, communication lines were open, as were shops and commercial establishments. There was no civil disobedience there.
But many in the business community complained that their enterprises have suffered major losses.
The report also contains recommendations for the Indian government, judiciary, civil society, media and human rights organisations.
It advises the government to immediately restore Articles 370 and 35A, and full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir. It also asks the government to restore all communication channels, release political leaders and social activists and withdraw the army and paramilitary forces. The government would also need to work closely with various stakeholders to bring peace and normalcy in the state, the authors say.
The report calls for the judiciary to give an urgent hearing to various cases that are in the different courts.
Civil society should engage with the people of Jammu and Kashmir to restore faith in democracy and counter the humiliation and betrayal felt by the people of the state.
The team says they visited five districts over eight days and spoke to a number of people such as politicians, bureaucrats, homemakers, schoolteachers, traders, fruit-sellers, taxi unions, students, teachers, intellectuals, poets, writers, farmers, children, journalists, civil society workers, wedding caterers, Pandits, Sikhs and Christians.