ICW Statement on Kashmir

Statement by India Civil Watch in response to Modi’s abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A.

India Civil Watch (ICW) unequivocally condemns the Indian government’s abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, the subsequent dissolution of the state of Jammu & Kashmir and its elected government, clampdown on elected representatives, and the division and demotion of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories governed directly by Delhi. The action is both illegal and destructive of the constitutional federalism that has made the Indian Union possible over the last 7 decades. As noted by legal scholars, abrogation of these articles can only take place with the approval of the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly, which was dissolved unilaterally by the Indian government. Absent this, the Indian action violates India’s own Constitution. 1   

This unilateral action took place without consultation or debate in parliament, and was rammed through without due consideration as a Bill, using the ruling party’s massive majority in parliament, while also getting support from several opposition parties in the upper house. For Kashmiris the struggle to attain a modicum of normalcy has been shattered by this action – total shutdown of everyday life in the Valley, with tens of thousands of troops being deployed (in addition to the already heavy militarization), curfew declared, communications completely shut down, and roads adorned with barbed wire. Already several people have been injured or killed by security forces for the mere act of trying to protest. 

ICW condemns the brazen colonial arrogance of the Modi government, which in keeping with its long record of hammering away at human rights and freedoms throughout India, wages war on vast sections of India’s people as it pursues a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and neoliberal plunder. As has been pointed out by the renowned development economist Jean Dreze, the land reforms and other social welfare schemes that were enabled by the Article 370 helped J&K to have development indicators far better than most other Indian states including the much-touted example of Gujarat.2 With the abrogation of 35A the protections Kashmiris enjoyed from the prospect of being overwhelmed by settlers and private capitalist predators from India have been eliminated. There already are reports of big capitalists proposing to grab land and resources in Jammu and Kashmir, not to mention Modi’s ominous televised pronouncement that this would open up prospects for jobs for Indians.3 Kashmiris have endured more than three decades of colonial violence at the hands of a brutal military occupation by India, having lost tens of thousands of lives since 1990. What the Indian government is doing today is transforming the occupation into a militarily enforced annexation which is illegal by India’s own constitution, but also brazenly flies in the face of international law, most importantly “final solution” indicates that they see Kashmir’s subjugation and plunder in light of the genocidal anti-Muslim bigotry underlying Hindutva fascism. ICW stands in solidarity with the Kashmiri people and condemns the Indian government’s attack on democracy, human rights and the Indian Constitution. 

ICW

1. : See Murder of Insaniyat, and of India’s Solemn Commitment to Kashmir, By A.G. Noorani, legal scholar and author of the book Article 370: A Constitutional History of Jammu and Kashmir, published by Oxford University Press, 2011. Also, The BJP’s Dangerous End Game in Kashmir, by senior journalist and author Prem Shankar Jha.

2. : See Economist Jean Dreze: Article 370 helped reducing poverty in Jammu and Kashmir, Jean Dreze, National Herald, August 9th, 2019.

3. : See Mukesh Ambani’s RIL to form task force to invest in J&K, Ladakh after PM Modi’s request, Business Today, August 12, 2019, and Several Announcements For J&K, Ladakh In Coming Months, Says Mukesh Ambani, Outlook India, August 12, 2019.  

An Open Letter to the Contesting Political Parties

Give an assurance for the Release of Prof. Saibaba, Varavara Rao and other Intellectuals and for the safe guard of Peoples Democratic Rights

An Appeal from Poets, Writers, Artists, Journalists, Intellectuals and Different Democratic Organisations

The gradual shrinking of democratic space day by day, the voice of the people and the intellectuals being muffled is distressing us a lot. Prof. G. N. Saibaba, a social activist, with 90% disabled body and 19 severe ailments is denied of the needed medical aid  and his appeal for medical bail is rejected. Saibaba who was voicing for thousands of adivasis kept under imprisonment, far from any legal aid and about their rightful struggles, was sentenced to life imprisonment by Gadchiroli court, a year back. But his appeal against it in High Court is yet to be heard. Many national, and international human rights organisations, including United Nations Human Rights Commission, and Intellectuals all over the world appealed for his unconditional release. But all the appeals fell on deaf ears. Moreover it is pathetic that the court says that there is no danger to his life and he is getting medical aid regularly, while the medical reports and his health conditions appear contrary.

 If that is the most inhuman treatment meted out by the wheeled chaired Professor, we are shocked to learn of the incarceration of 79 year old VaravaRao, a well-known Telugu writer, and activist and the voice of the voiceless on charges of criminal conspiracy to assassinate the Prime Minister. We can’t imagine the telugu literary and intellectual areas along with peoples movements and movements for democratic rights without his contribution since 50 years. The pity is that VaravaraRao, who met many politicians with an appeal for the release of Prof. Saibaba, himself is jailed. 

Even the same fate struck to another intellectual, a lawyer, Surendra Gadling, who has been representing the Professor in Courts. Another seven intellectuals, who demanded the release of the Professor are in jails now. All these intellectuals are the rights activists fighting for the cause of the dalits, women and adivasis. All these actions are nothing but strangling the voices, which demand justice. 

It appears that the Conspiracy theory suits to the Police rather than the intellectuals, imprisoned. At first they were charged with the their involvement in the Bhima Koregaon riots. When that appeared ludicrous, the charges were reframed and the intellectuals were charged with the conspiracy. For that the police created false and fake letters to support their theory. All politicians of many hues, including Rahul Gandhi, and some of the retired police officers, judges openly condemned these false allegations. The more heinous act of the machinery is that they were arrested under the draconian UAPA. These nine intellectuals, who are jailed, are theVoiceof the voiceless. Thus by muffling their voices the government is denying them their fundamental Right of Expression. It is nothing but strangling the voices of crores of Women, Dalits, Muslims and Adivasis. It is not only the above mentioned intellectuals, but thousands of Adivasis,Dalits and Muslims have been languishing in jails for decades without trial.

 Inregard of Prof. Saibaba and VaravaraRao, they belong to our telugu society and have been active in public life for decades. VaravaraRao, who is in Pune jail now is 79 years old and needs constant medical attention. Saibaba, the wheeled chaired professor with umpteen diseases needs constant medical care, which is denied in Nagpur Anda cell . We are very much worried about the condition of both.

It is not these specific cases that panic all peace loving people. It is the atmosphere of fear and terror prevalent in the present society in which the intellectuals are being threatened, attacked and also being for their dissenting voices. Violence on Dalits and minorities has grown specifically in the recent years. This atmosphere of fear and panic is not good to democracy and is against the spirit of our constitution.

As candidates to be elected as people’s representatives under the oath of our constitution, we need not say that it is your bounden duty to safe guard democracy and rule of law and see that all institutions including the police, abide by the constitutional values both in action and spirit. For democracy to survive it is essential that the Right to expression, dissent is honoured. Once the voice of dissent is strangled, there is no chance for democracy to survive.

For you and your political parties the guiding spirit and light is Indian Constitution. The Congress party already promised to repeal the sedition law. More over when the basic fundamental Rights are curtailed, no amount of your proposed welfare measures and development programs can safeguard the democracy. It leads to chaos. 

Hence, we request all contesting political parties to put your policies on safeguarding the democratic rights in public and give a clear assurance to the people.

We appeal you to strive for an impartial and just enquiry in the above cases and see that Prof. Saibaba, VaravaraRao and others are granted bail immediately.

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Bhima-Koregaon witnessed the progressive manifestation of the resistance against dominant Hindutva brahmanical cultural coercion on the vast masses of people in the country…Rona Wilson along with the four other activists were arrested in the attempt by the police to establish possible Maoist connection to the Koregaon violence. (Sanhati, March 13, 2019. Received from U. Punyark) Read more

Chomsky, Petras, Davis Join Scholars To Express Concern on “Clampdown on Dissent in India”

NEW DELHI: International scholars including Noam Chomsky, James Petras, Angela Davis, Fredric Jameson, Bruno Latour, Ilan Pappe, Judith Butler amongst others, have signed a statement castigating the Modi led government for creating an environment of fear through arrests, intimidation and violence. Under the aegis of Fresh Perspectives, USA the academics from the US and UK mostly have expressed deep concern about the current environment in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the “alarming clampdown on every form of dissent in India.” Read more