The revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status by India on August 5, last year, ‘bewildered Kashmiris and left them stunned and dumbfounded’ was the crux of a report released by the Forum for Human Rights Jammu and Kashmir.
The Forum for Human Rights, which is an informal group of concerned citizens comprising ex-judges, academicians and senior ex-servicemen described the economic, social and political impact of the post 5th August actions and their long duration of 11 months as disastrous.
Co-chaired by Justice Madan B. Lokur, a former judge of the Indian Supreme Court, the report said, “All the former State’s industries suffered severe blows, hundreds of thousands lost their jobs or underwent salary deferment or cuts; closure of schools and universities gravely impaired education and added to the trauma of children and parents; healthcare was severely restricted by curfew and roadblocks; the local and regional media lost what little independence they had.”
The report, which is based on the interviews of locals, suggested that “Post August 2019, the intensification of security forces’ operations and rising number of cordon and search operations – conducted every single day from the beginning of June 2020 to around mid-July – have exacerbated the pain and suffering that the people of Kashmir have endured over three long decades.”
It pointed out that China’s attempts to mobilise the UN Security Council and May 2020 advancements in Line of Actual Control “also highlighted a trilateralisation of the dispute over Kashmir between India, Pakistan and China”. According to the report, occupied Kashmir’s unemployment rate is 17.9% in July 2020. “Job losses in the valley were just under half a million at 497,000,” it reported.
The Forum has demanded release of all political detainees, amendment to the draconian Public Safety Act and implementation of the juvenile protection legislation and withdrawal of charges against journalists and activists.
“Restore in practice the humanitarian guidelines to be followed when conducting Cordon and Search Operations, to prevent civilian deaths, injuries or any other damage or loss. Adequately compensate innocent citizens whose houses have been destroyed in operations,” it recommended. It also called for reinstatement of all the former statutory oversight bodies such as the J&K Human Rights Commission and the J&K Women and Child Rights Commission.
Former interlocutor Radha Kumar, Justice Ruma Pal, Justice A.P. Shah, Justice Bilal Nazki, Justice Hasnain Masoodi, ex-Home Secretary Gopal Pillai, ex-Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, Lieutenant General (retd) H S Panag, Major General (retd) Ashok Mehta, Air Vice-Marshal (retd) Kapil Kak, ex-vice chancellor R.D. Sharma, writer and historian Ramachandra Guha etc. are part of the Forum.—KMS