By Abhishek Jha for Youth Ki Awaaz:
A silent protest was held at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on July 13 against the ongoing killings of civilians in Kashmir. The protest started at around 2 in the afternoon and saw the participation of more than 50 people including students and citizens, as well as people belonging to various trade unions, political parties, and civil society organisations. There was also a brief intervention by a few people from right-wing groups, who shouted slogans in support of the Indian army and against the protesters.
“We cannot say they are safe,” a Kashmiri student present at the protest, who hails from downtown Srinagar and is here in the capital for admission to Delhi University, told YKA. He said that although his family is safe as of now, there was no guarantee because of the violence outside. He was last able to contact his family two days ago. “Parents are saying, ‘Stay in Delhi’,” he said, citing that the situation is very “tense”. Asked whether he has faced any problems with neighbours here in Delhi following Wani’s killing, he said, “I have to talk about my rights” and that he would irrespective of what his neighbours said. He also said that India must understand that there must be a reason for the protests that have been in happening in the valley for nearly two decades now. “I don’t hate India. I hate India’s policies,” he said while marching with a placard.
Another Kashmiri student present at the protest told YKA that while “tourists are treated with respect (in Kashmir)”, “every Kashmiri, when he is outside, he is treated as a terrorist”. “That is why we don’t want India or Pakistan. We want only our Kashmir,” he said to YKA.
After a brief silent march holding placards against the civilian killings and asking for a political solution to Kashmir, members of civil society, political parties and student organisations of the left also addressed the gathering. Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of AIPWA and a Polit Bureau member of the CPI(ML), urged that “we need to speak to Indians too” and not just the government of India about Kashmir.
“Does the oppressed start the violence?” Shehla Rashid, vice president of the JNU Students’ Union, asked, questioning the media portrayal of Kashmiris as a violent mob. She also questioned the relentless pursuit of Umar Khalid, the student from JNU who is out on bail in a sedition case for organising an event in commemoration of Afzal Guru’s hanging. “It’s not as if only Umar Khalid is speaking on Kashmiris. There are other people speaking too,” she said. She said that when the students of JNU tried to question Afzal Guru’s hanging, there was an effort to get them lynched. She also read out a Facebook post by a Kashmiri questioning the state of democratic rights in the country as enshrined in the Constitution of India, the attitude of Indians towards the protests by Kashmiris, the civilian killings, and the denial of the plebiscite promised by the first Prime Minister of India.
The speakers also spoke about the recent decision of the Supreme Court to order a probe into 1,528 alleged fake encounters in Manipur to denounce the heavy deployment of the army in Kashmir. The order questions the continuation of AFSPA and the deployment of the army in the state. That Burhan Wani was not known to have participated in a combat by the time of his death and had said that his organisation- the Hizbul Mujhahideen- will not attack Amarnath pilgrims in a recent video was also brought to light by the speakers.
Speaking to YKA earlier on why the left student organisations have not been vociferous in supporting self-determination for Kashmiris, even at the time of the February 9 incident, Rashid said that all the issues were being debated in JNU for a long time until a mob-lynching crowd got the sanction of the government. She also said that the parliament attack is an important issue and should be discussed. “We have been pushed to a corner,” she said.
Photos from the protest: