Kashmir: Article 370 Abrogation Anniversary Marked by Vigil and a Webinar Watched by 4,000 People

By M Ghazali Khan

London: Human rights organisation South Asia Solidarity Group (SASG) has marked 5 August, the anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 on Kashmir, by holding, today, a vigil at Parliament Hill, an area of open parkland in the south-west London.

A statement issued by SASG said: ‘The Indian government has deliberately chosen the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 for a lavish ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of a Ram temple in the ruins of the destroyed Babri Masjid, another long-cherished goal of the RSS and BJP in its roadmap for turning India into a fascist Hindu state. We will never forget the tearing down of the historic four centuries old Babri Masjid by Hindu supremacist mobs in 1992, and the killings of more than 3,000 people across the country which followed.’

Given the fact that Wednesday is a working day and also because of Coronavirus most of the Londoners are either staying at or working from homes, this was a pretty successful vigil addressed by several representatives from various ethnic backgrounds, some of them disgruntled Labour Party members who condemned the Labour leader Keir Starmer for reversing party’s moral stance taken against occupation anywhere in the world under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

As part of a series of programmes against BJP’s extremist agenda, SASG also jointly organised, Tuesday, a webinar with Kashmir Reading Room that was watched live by at least 4,000 people around the world. The total number of those who have been listening to the webinar has reached to more than 6,000.

During the webinar a report (Dis) Integration at Gunpoint on human rights violations in Kashmir was also launched.

The webinar was addressed by Amrit Wilson, SASG’s spokesperson, writer and activist; Professor Hameeda Nayeem, civil activist and Head of Kashmir Centre for Social and Developmental Studies; Sanjay Kak, activist and a documentary film-maker; and Advocate Parvez Imroz, human rights lawyer and recipient of several awards including the Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize by Human Rights Institute of The Bar of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France.

Introducing the report Ms Wilson said that it, ‘documents the political, legal, economic and policy changes which have taken place since August 5th 2019. It also provides an overview of the human rights violations and disenfranchisement of Kashmiris that is still underway, a year after the abrogation Article 370, bifurcation of the state, conversion into two Union Territories.’

She added that the Kashmiris, ‘have suffered so many decades of militarisation, horrendous human rights abuses and the denial of their right to self determination. We are also launching this with an awareness that India’s relationship with Kashmir has entered a new phase of occupation similar to Israel’s settler colonialism. The last year has seen not only a brutal lockdown but the  longest ever internet and communication blockade in the history of any democracy together with serious violations of human rights. What is even more significant for the future of the region is the BJP government’s facilitation of demographic changes, corporate plunder, and ecological destruction in the region. On another level it is the first step in the BJP’s expansionist policy of Akhand Bharat.’

Ms Wilson stressed: ‘While we are at this launch Kashmir has been placed under curfew. And in India BJP’s government gets ready to celebrate one year of its Constitutionally illegal move in a abhorrent and ghoulish display of fascism –choosing this day for a lavish ground breaking ceremony for the construction of a Ram temple in the ruins of the historic Babri Masjid.’

Giving a glimpse of the on-ground situation in Kashmir Prof Hameeda said the voice of Kashmiris, ‘has been completely silenced. They have been completely strangulated… Even the writer of a facebook post is detained and arrested… 34,000 of people—community leaders, politicians, civil society leaders, trade unionists’ have all been arrested.

In addition, she said: ‘There is huge deployment of [army personnel] on streets, lanes, by lanes and everywhere. Literally at every doorstep you have forces…And then you have planes hovering on your heads all the time. Drones making surveillance on each and every individual. You can imagine what kind of fear is there.  And then so many agencies have been kept after Kashmiris—NIA, IB, RAW—and recently few days back they have come up with 44 officials who have been deployed to confiscate and attach the properties of those who are suspected to be supporting the insurgents.’

Recalling 5 August 2019, the day when Art 370 was abrogated, Prof Hameeda said: ‘This is something which is unnarratable, inexpressible, unspeakable … as if we were put in Noah’s ark, cut off from the whole world, and around us there is a huge deluge and in that deluge; they are mutilating and raping our motherland. And we are caged inside this ark so that we did not make an effort to stop this rape and the mutilation of the mother which is also the motherland…Literally we felt that our mother is being raped…’

(Dis) Integration at Gunpoint can be read on https://jklpp.org/kashmir-reading-room-report-aug-2019-aug-2020/

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