People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 35

August 29, 2010


Kashmir: Stop Repression, Start Dialogue


Prakash Karat


THE Kashmir valley has been in turmoil for the past two and a half months.  The whole valley has been  shut down by continuous mass protests and hartals, on the one hand, and the official curfew imposed, on the other.  All life is at a standstill with shops, business enterprises and educational institutions closed.


From June 11 to August 22, sixty two young people have died in police firings ranging from the age of 8 to 25.  Crowds of stone pelting  young men confront the CRPF pickets and the result invariably has been  firing, leading to  deaths and injuries.  Every such death has led to further mass protests and hartals.   There is a total sense of alienation and deep anger against the Indian State among wide sections of the people.


I had visited Srinagar on August 22 and 23 along with Mohd Salim, member of the Central Committee of the Party.  The primary purpose of our visit was to convey our deep sympathy to all those who have lost the young members of their families and to convey our serious concerns at the sufferings of the people.   We also utilised the visit to meet a wide cross-section of people and to  hear their views on the prevailing situation.  We met members of civil society groups comprising professors, doctors, lawyers and journalists.  We also had  a meeting with Party members and members of the CPI(M) state committee and also representatives of the CPI. 





The way the central government and the state government have handled the situation is truly appalling.  First of all, there has been no distinction made between tackling mass protests by youth, most of them teenagers, and operations against the militants and terrorist violence.  In incident after incident, the central paramilitary forces have resorted to firing on stone pelting crowds.  Apart from the young boys who have died, there are hundreds who have been injured and are in hospital with bullet injuries.   If such brutal methods had been adopted in any other part of the country, there would have been an uproar and outrage.  The Kashmiri people see the callousness of the central government and the silence about the brutalities inflicted as further evidence that India treats Kashmir differently from the rest of the country. 


There is no justification whatsoever for the methods adopted by the police to  suppress the protests by the stone pelting crowds, nor can the imprisonment in jails of  juveniles be condoned.  Some of the young people arrested under the Public Safety Act have been shifted to jails in Jammu and Udhampur.  The state government headed by Omar Abdullah  has proved totally ineffective and  stands discredited among the people because of its failure to protect the lives and safety of the people.   By treating the matter as primarily a law and order issue and relying on administrative measures, the movement and the protests are increasingly influenced by hardliners and fundamentalists.  The moderate sections among the separatists are finding it unable to provide any leadership. 


Significantly, the Amarnath yatra with 4.5 lakh people participating was held peacefully during this period of mass protests with the cooperation of the locals.  This attests to the tolerance and goodwill inherent in Kashmiriyat which is a marked feature of Kashmiri society.


It is wrong to characterise these  protests as the handiwork of the LeT and other extremist groups.  The outpouring of anger and the intensity  of protests are marked by a self-propelling  momentum.  To miss this and to see it as an engineered movement will  only lead to further blunders in handling the situation.





The immediate steps which are required to be taken to bring about a return to normal life and also allow peaceful political activity are as follows: 


1.     The administration should immediately put a halt to the use of police firing as a means to curb protests.  Other methods of crowd control should be utilised.  Security forces entering houses during curfew and harassing the inmates, particularly women, should be stopped.


2.     All those who have died, or, are injured belong to the poorest sections of the working people.  There should be adequate medical treatment and compensation for all the injured in the hospitals.   There are a number of injured who will be permanently incapacitated.  A programme of rehabilitation and means of livelihood  for the sustenance of their families should be  worked out. 


3.     All juveniles held in jails should be released.  Cases of a minor nature against them should be squashed.


4.     The draconian powers conferred by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) should be curbed.  Our Party has been demanding deletion of the draconian powers in the Act. Immediately, the  Disturbed Areas Act applied in places like  Srinagar and other urban centres may be revoked.  This will automatically make the AFSPA inapplicable in these areas.


5.     Due to the prolonged economic standstill, many shopkeepers and small enterprises have been ruined.  Steps should be taken for reviving their trade and business enterprises and  providing financial assistance for the same. 


6.     Not only is there rampant unemployment among the youth, the daily wage earners have been deprived of their livelihood in the past three months.  The government has to urgently initiate steps to generate employment and to compensate those who have lost their livelihood. 


7.     There is a need to have a credible probe into all charges of police excesses.  This must be done speedily and anyone found guilty should be brought to book. 





One of the sore points  with the people is the failure of the Indian State to take action  against those found  guilty of excesses and human rights violations.  Earlier, in the Pathribal incident in which some army officers were involved, permission was not given to prosecute them.  In the recent Machil encounter in which three innocent villagers were killed on the pretext of their being jihadists crossing the border, no action has been taken. It is this last incident which began the whole cycle of the current protests.  The prime minister’s assurance that there will be zero tolerance of human rights violations must be implemented. Action should be taken against those found accountable for the false encounters.





The history of Kashmir is also one of a long record of broken commitments and promises.  The special status accorded to Jammu & Kashmir in the constitution through Article 370 has been eroded over the years.  Successive Congress governments at the centre have failed to live up to the promise made to the Kashmiri people that their identity and special status would be ensured. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao had promised maximum autonomy and stated that the “sky is the limit”.  The BJP-led government had refused to consider the resolution adopted by the Jammu & Kashmir assembly which called for restoration of the pre-1953 status as far as autonomy is concerned.  The reality is that both the Congress and the BJP are averse to the provision of more autonomy to the state. 


The UPA government has a poor record as far as the political initiatives for  promoting a dialogue are concerned.  What was required was a dialogue which would involve all sections of the state.  Instead, in the first tenure of the government, there were the round table meetings held in Delhi and Srinagar and the formation of four sub-committees.   The report of the working group headed by Justice Sagheer Ahmed on centre-state relations was the most disappointing. 





The CPI(M) has been advocating the provision of maximum autonomy for the state and  autonomy for the three regions of  Jammu, the valley and Ladakh.  It has argued that a political settlement should reflect in the changes in the constitutional set-up to ensure such autonomy.  At the present juncture, what is required are the steps to bring about a semblance of normalcy and for democratic and peaceful political activities.  Having ensured that, the UPA government should waste no time in spelling out a framework for a political dialogue which should involve all sections.  This will be possible only if there are no preconditions set for the dialogue by any side.


What is of utmost importance is to instill confidence among the people of Kashmir that there is an earnest and sincere effort to  discuss  all the issues concerning  Kashmir keeping also the people’s aspirations in mind.    In the next Central Committee meeting of the CPI(M), the Kashmir issue will be discussed and our Party’s approach will be further  spelt out.  The CPI(M) will campaign all over the country on the need for a political solution to the Kashmir issue.