Over 500 academics, scientists call for an end of curfew in communications blackout in Kashmir

wilayattimes (India)

New Delhi: Over 500 academics and scientists released a statement on expressing their deep concern about the crisis in Jammu and Kashmir, over a month-and-a-half since the Indian government abrogated special status for the state under Article 370 of the Constitution.

Jammu and Kashmir has been under a curfew since August 5, when its special status was scrapped. National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, leader Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti have been put under detention, among others.

“We are writing to express our deep concern about the crisis in Kashmir that has now persisted for over a month, and which was precipitated by the government’s decision to de-operationalize Article 370 of the Constitution and to end Jammu and Kashmir’s full statehood,” the signatories to the statement said. “Since then, the government has restricted communications in Kashmir, detained opposition leaders and dissidents, and flooded the state with security personnel.”

The signatories said that while they held differing views on Article 370, all of them are appalled by the shutdown of the communications system and internet in the state. “We understand that landlines have been restored in some parts of Kashmir, but since landline tele-density in Kashmir is below 1% according to the government’s own statistics, this measure has failed to provide substantive relief to Kashmir’s residents,” the statement read. “In our own institutions, we have witnessed students suffering because they are unable to maintain contact with their families.”

The signatories said the restrictions have apparently made it difficult for citizens to even buy medical supplies or for children to attend school. “We believe the government’s actions in detaining and restricting the communications of opposition leaders and dissidents in Kashmir are deeply undemocratic,” the signatories said. “Whatever views one might hold about these individuals, a fundamental norm in a democracy is that the party in power does not have the right to lock up its political opponents when they have not even been accused of any crimes.”

The academics and scientists said they were disturbed by the reports of human rights violations in Kashmir. “We would like to express our solidarity with the people of Kashmir and offer our support to those outside Kashmir, who have been cut off from their families and friends as a result of these decisions taken by the Government of India,” they said.

The signatories said that the government is duty-bound to uphold the rights and welfare of all citizens of the country. They demanded that full communications be immediately restored in Kashmir, security restrictions be lifted, opposition leaders released, and investigations conducted into alleged violations of human rights in the state.

Members of the group include Abhisodh Prakash, Suvrat Raju, Adhip Agarwala, Junaid Majeed, Tuneer Chakraborty, Apratim Ganguly, Parita Mehta, Animesh Nanda, Srashti Goyal, Subhadip Chakraborti, Divya Jaganathan, Faizan Bhat, Omkar Shetye, Rituparna Ghosh, Aditya Kumar Sharma, Arif Shaikh, Saientan Bag, Zaid Zaz, Subrata Dev and Abhishek Dhar.

At present, all small and major sectors of life including business and commerce, education, transport, horticulture and tourism in Jammu and Kashmir are virtually defunct as the communications blockade continues to add to the prevailing uncertainty.

The transport sector is among the one that has been affected the worst as 50,000 vehicles stand grounded since Aug 5.

The tourism front has also taken a hit due to the clampdown. All hotels and houseboats are almost empty and are running in huge losses.

Indian officials have confirmed that as many as 343 politicians, business leaders, and youth have been booked under a controversial law – PSA (Public Safety Act) – and shifted to jails in India’s UP (Uttar Pradesh) and Haryana states since the Aug 5 Presidential Order.

However, it is believed that the actual number of people imprisoned under the PSA is far more than figures presented by the government.

In the meanwhile, the Indian government has decided to reopen around 50,000 temples in Kashmir, which were closed down over the years. In this regard, Indian Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy has said that the government has set up a committee to survey the temples closed or destroyed.

The Indian army is also planning to open Siachen glacier for civilian access months after the Ladakh division was declared a union territory.

On Friday, Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter Iltija Mufti had said that the ordinary Kashmiri looks at India as an occupying force. “Is this the India of Gandhi or Godse?” she asked at the India Today Conclave, referring to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse.