South Asian academics, activists and artists condemn “intensified military suppression” in Jammu and Kashmir

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Kolkata: Around the time that 120 Harvard University’s faculty and students wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of India, seeking the immediate release of former IAS officer Shah Faesal another group of scholars, artists, social activists and others issued a statement of solidarity with the people of Kashmir.

These 251 signatories, of the ‘statement of solidarity’ have expressed their concern with regards to the “inhuman clampdown” in Jammu and Kashmir, since August 5, call themselves ‘concerned South Asians and friends of South Asia”.

The letter dated August 15, has been drafted by Kathmadu-based anthropologist Himali Dixit and curator Nayantara Gurung Kakshapati. It starts off by stating, “The stripping of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of special status and of statehood without consultation with the people of Jammu and Kashmir; and the implications of these recent developments for democracy, pluralism, and due process in India.”

“Article 370 of the Indian Constitution represented an historical understanding between the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian state. On 5 August 2019, not only was Article 370 abrogated, but the very statehood of Jammu and Kashmir was abolished, bringing the region under New Delhi’s direct rule. The manner, in which these abrogations were accomplished, through executive order and in the absence of a state legislature, is a betrayal of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, whose elected representatives were never consulted. This is a sharp departure from democratic governance, and the constitutional validity of these decisions has been rightfully challenged,” wrote the signatories.

They further wrote, “We condemn the curtailment of civil liberties in Jammu and Kashmir: the blackout of telecommunications and internet services; the severe restrictions on media and on the freedom of movement, peaceful assembly, and protest; and the violent suppression of demonstrations. These are all violations of international human rights obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which India ratified in 1979.”

In the letter the signatories expressed their concern over the degeneration of Indian democracy. They expressed, “These actions of the Government of India exhibit a complete lack of respect for constitutionalism, secularism and democratic values. This does not bode well for India’s people, who have, uniquely in South Asia, benefited from decades of democratic rule. We are apprehensive of India’s future as a democracy and the implications that this degeneration will have on its population of 1.2 billion as well as on the rest of the subcontinent.”

Veena Das, Partha Chatterjee, A.S. Panneerselvan, Ayesha Jalal, Shahidul Alam, Kul Chandra Gautam, Gyanendra Pandey, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, M.V. Ramana, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Zia Mian, Sofia Karim, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Martha Nussbaum, and Sheldon Pollock are some of the 251 signatories, who issued the solidarity statement.

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