As many as 251 eminent personalities from South Asia, Europe and North America have condemned the Indian government’s scrapping of Kashmir’s special status and curtailment of civil liberties in the valley, saying such acts mean betrayal of the people there.
Expressing deep concern, they said they are distraught that the people of the beleaguered land, who have lived with violence and political disempowerment for decades, have now been “subjected to a further erosion of their rights under the intensified military suppression of the last 10 days”.
In a statement issued from Kathmandu in Nepal on Thursday, the academics, journalists and human rights activists said Article 370 of the Indian constitution represented a historical understanding between the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian state.
On August 5, the Indian government not only abrogated Article 370, but also abolished the very statehood of Jammu and Kashmir, bringing the region under New Delhi’s direct rule, it read.
“The manner in which the abrogation was 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,” mentioned the statement.
The noted personalities condemned the curtailment of civil liberties in Jammu and Kashmir; the blackout of telecommunications and internet services; the severe restrictions on the media and on the freedoms 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, which India ratified in 1979, they pointed out.
“We are alarmed by credible media reports of security forces having opened fire on peaceful protestors and disturbed by the denials issued by the authorities, who have gone on to accuse journalists of fabrication.
“We are gravely concerned by the government of India’s silencing of voices of dissent, and detention of social activists, lawyers, journalists, and human rights defenders.
“We condemn the government of India’s use of majoritarian populism to perpetuate a climate of fear across the country.”
The eminent personalities said the actions of the Indian government exhibit a complete lack of respect for constitutionalism, secularism, and democratic values, which do 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.”
They urged the Indian government to immediately end the “inhuman clampdown” in Jammu and Kashmir, to restore civil liberties as well as the flow of information, release all political detainees and prisoners, and to enter into dialogue with the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
“In the middle of August, when we are meant to celebrate independence from colonialism, we condemn this regression towards despotic rule.
“We stand in solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and with people across India and South Asia who aspire to peace, prosperity, and fundamental freedoms,” they noted.
The signatories include Veena Das, professor of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; Partha Chatter-jee, professor of Columbia University, USA; AS Panneerselvan, a journalist in Chennai; Ayesha Jalal of Tufts University, Massachusetts; Shahidul Alam, a photographer from Dhaka; Kul Chandra Gautam, ex-assistant secretary general of the UN; historian Gyanendra Pandey of Emory University; Chandra Talpade Mohanty, professor of Syracuse University, New York; Anu Muhammad, professor of eco-nomics at Jahangirnagar University; MV Ramana, professor of University of British Columbia, Vancou-ver; Meghna Guhathakurta, a researcher from Dhaka; Martha C Nussbaum, professor of University of Chicago; Farida Akhter, human rights activist from Dhaka; Pervez Hoodbhoy of Quaid-e-Azam Universi-ty, Islamabad; Zia Mian of Princeton University; Sofia Karim, architect and artist from London; Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, filmmaker from Karachi; and Sheldon Pollock, professor of Columbia Univer-sity.