Kashmir: Unheard Voices And Forgotten History

We are seeing countryside celebrations following thee scrapping of Article 370, not everyone, but the majority are celebrating its removal. But do the people clapping for the revocation of Article 370 really know what the article was all about? We are seeing news circulated widely in the social media that it will decrease the instances of ‘unlawful activities’ occurring in the Valley. But has one ever questioned what are these ‘activities’ are? Has anyone heard the Kashmiris’ point of view on the removal of Article 370?

Why The Discontent Against Revocation Of Article 370?

All this led me to question why only a few thinkers are opposing the move while the rest of the country is supporting it? The following points may clear some doubts.

I do not think the “Accession” of Jammu and Kashmir in the year 1947 made it a ‘complete’ part of the ‘Dominion’ of India. The “Instrument of Accession” (IoA) which was signed between Raja Hari Singh and the dominion of India in the year 1947 October 26th was signed allegedly to stop the invasion of Pakistan backed tribes in the territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Our country’s first prime minister Nehru took charge of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir state. The role played by our prime minister in the issue of J&K was widely praised in the international stand.

In the face of increasing militarisation by Pakistan, India took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations (UN) which then set up the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) which proposed mediating a resolution through a three-point action plan which included Pakistan’s de-escalation of military and  India holding a plebiscite in J&K. However, Pakistan never vacated the areas it had occupied and, so, the plebiscite was not held by India. The UNCIP was, however, successful in negotiating a ceasefire between the two countries at the time.

dia In the year 1950, on January 26, the Constitution of Incame into force which made India a Republic nation. N. Gopalswamy Ayyangar, who was an Indian Civil Service officer under British India led the delegation for Kashmir negotiations in the UN in 1948 and was appointed to draft Article 370. He was part of the drafting committee of the Constitution of India. This article was important as it came to be known as the ‘bridge’ between India and Jammu and Kashmir. It allowed the central government of India to apply laws in three categories which are Defense, Foreign affairs and Communications. All other laws will be applicable only with the concurrence of the state government. It allowed acts proposed by President of India only when ratified by the constituent assembly of Jammu and Kasmir.

Article 370 provided a special constitution for Jammu and Kashmir. Article 370 was framed to be Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions. After the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir was formed, it had the power to amend or to remove the article 370. But the constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir dissolved in 1954 without taking a decision on article 370. The Supreme Court had said that Article 370 of the Constitution which provided special status to Jammu and Kashmir became permanent through years of existence and making its abrogation impossible (2018 SC order in the Kumari Vijayalaksmi Jha petition).

Much fake news is being circulated that the Indian flag is not respected in Jammu and Kashmir by its state government, which is not true. Jammu and Kashmir had their state flag but the Indian flag was respected as equal, even mentioned in the Delhi Agreement, 1952 signed between Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah. Even the Head of the state is to be respected in Jammu and Kashmir as in as the other states. For historical reasons connected with the freedom struggle in the State, the need for continuance of the State flag was recognised. In that regard, even the state of Karnataka has its own flag.

Fake news is being circulated that Supreme Court judgments, CAG, Election Commission, and other important government institutions didn’t have authority in Jammu and Kashmir. These are false statements, as per the Presidential Order of 1954 most government institutions hold jurisdiction in Jammu and Kashmir. Many argue that Jammu and Kashmir enjoy special provisions. But the erosion of article 370 happened through Presidential Orders. Forty-seven presidential orders were passed between 1956 and 1994, slowly making provisions of the Indian Constitution applicable in the state. And in the end, we are complaining about their special powers!

From the view of A.G Noorani, a prominent lawyer, all the presidential orders are void as there is no constituent assembly in Jammu and Kashmir where all the presidential orders need to be ratified. So, all the presidential orders should be canceled. “After the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly in 1956, the power of abrogation of Article 370 vanished,” he said.

On Article 35 (A)

There is also another important article in the constitution which the government says it provides special provisions to Jammu and Kashmir which is Article 35A. This article speaks about special ‘residents’ laws where the government of Jammu and Kashmir has the authority. The article 35A does not permit an outsider to buy land in Jammu and Kashmir. Similar laws are present in Arunachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Himachal Pradesh and in many North-Eastern states. It is to protect the demographic status of the respective state.

Another misunderstanding is that no Jammu and Kashmir women can marry a person outside the state, otherwise, they stand to will lose their state citizenship and right to own property. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court made it clear in the year 2002 that women can marry the outside person and their state citizenship will not be affected by marriage. Her right to own land will remain the same.

Precedence Set By The Present Government

Finally, the passing of presidential order on 5th august 2019 unilaterally shows that the democratic mechanism has failed. The bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha apparently without prior announcement, and the protests of opposition parties were not considered. I strongly feel discussions weren’t properly done in this situation. The most important part is that the voice of Jammu and Kashmir people was, and is, not being considered. Their leaders are not a part of the discussion. Even worse, is that they have been kept under ‘house arrest’ and later taken into the custody. Heavy number of armed forces are moved into the state to control the situation. The communications have been cut down. This situation, to me, resembles the fascist rule of Hitler in Germany.

This is not a sudden move; the government first amended the RTI to reduce its powers and then brought in the Unlawful Acts Prevention Bill(amendment) 2019 to detain ‘individuals’ in the name of law and order control. This act is, I feel, similar to the Rowlett act of British India.

George Orwell once said, “In times of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” The judiciary should intervene as it had once done when it overruled the judgment it gave in Kumari Vijayalaksmi Jha’s petition regarding Article 370. Any process of removing or changing the article 370 and article 35A should make the people of Jammu and Kashmir the final decision-makers as promised initially. Many international organisations like Amnesty International are supporting the people of Jammu and Kashmir. People should fight for their rights and should prove that democracy and the rights won’t be taken away by any government.

The complete right of any change on Jammu and Kashmir should be given to people of that particular state as promised” these are the words of famous activist Periyar E.V.Ramasamy.

 “Freedom is the recognition of necessity,” said Friedrich Engels.

Someone recently observed, “When you need a million troops and warlike siege to pass an order, then the order has already .”

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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