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Day 64: Why Is Kashmir Still Under Lockdown?

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Newspapers, with headlines about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to revoke special status for the disputed Kashmir region, are displayed for sale at a pavement in Ahmedabad, India, August 6, 2019. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Article 370 was abrogated from the Indian Constitution on August 5, 2019.

On August 5, 2019, the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, issued a constitutional order revoking Article 370. The resolution was passed by the Upper House of the Indian Parliament on the same day, and by the Lower House on August 6. India’s Union Home Minister Amit Shah, on August 5, announced that Article 370 and 35-A will be scrapped.

It was said that this Article 370 is being revoked for the ‘betterment’ and ‘development’ of Kashmir and Kashmiri people, but, the sad truth is that Kashmiris have been locked and jailed in their homes since August 4, 2019.

What Is Article 370?

Article 370 gave a special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The laws and bills passed in the Parliament of India, except on matters related to defense, foreign affairs, and communications, were not applicable until the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir passed a bill regarding that in the State Assembly.

The people of Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed certain privileges under Article 370. People from other parts of the country were not eligible to apply for jobs in Jammu and Kashmir and could not buy land or property in the state.

At the time of Partition, in 1947, the then Maharaja of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir Hari Singh had initially decided to not join India or Pakistan.

On October 22, 1947, Pashtun tribal militias, from Pakistan, invaded the princely state in a bid to capture it. The then Maharaja then made a plea to India for assistance. India agreed to offer help on the condition that the princely state accedes to the Union of India. Hence an Instrument of Accession was signed between the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Maharaja Hari Singh.

On October 17, 1949, the Indian Constituent Assembly adopted Article 370, granting special status and internal autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. It was agreed upon in the Instrument of Accession that Indian jurisdiction in the state was only limited to areas of defense, foreign affairs, and communications.

Why Do People Of Kashmir Consider Revoking Article 370 A Betrayal?

It was clearly mentioned in the Instrument of Accession that the people of Kashmir, through their Constituent Assembly, would determine their internal Constitution and the nature of the jurisdiction of India over the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Now, after the scrapping of Article 370, the people of Kashmir feel that they have been deceived and betrayed by India. Revocation of article 370 also breached the terms of the Instrument of Accession.

What Is Happening In Kashmir After The Abrogation Of Article 370?

Since the events of August 5, the day the Presidential order was issued and the resolution was passed in the India Parliament, Jammu and Kashmir has been under curfew, along with a communication blockade.

Mobile phones have not been working, and the internet connection has been snapped. People have not been allowed to wander out of their homes. People have also been barred from offering Friday prayers in Mosques, and, schools and colleges have been shut. The markets wear a deserted look and public transport has been off the roads.

It seems like life has come to a halt in Kashmir. One can clearly read fear and agony on the faces of the people in Kashmir. Uncertainty prevails in Kashmir. People have been detained and jailed. A fact-finding team consisting of five women recently visited Kashmir, and they reported that around 13,000 boys have been arrested in Kashmir. Leave the separatists aside, even ‘pro-Indian’ politicians have been jailed. Three former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir have also been arrested. Former CM and a member of Parliament, Farooq Abdullah has been detained under the darconian Public Safety Act (PSA). All other mainstream politicians have also been locked.

People have been suffering due to the communication blockade, and students and businessmen have probably been affected the worst. Students studying outside Kashmir have been in distress as they have not been able to talk to their families for 61 long days. People in Kashmir have been pushed back to the Stone Age. The mode of communication has returned to the early 90s when people used to write letters to one another. The common people of Kashmir are suffering due to this curfew and communication blockade. The local economy of Kashmir has seemingly collapsed. Winter is fast approaching and the people whose business would flourish in this season (and would store essentials for the winter) when tourism would flourish are suffering.

My Personal Opinion 

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) abrogated Article 370 in haste to satisfy the ego of their people. If they had abrogated Article 370 for the betterment of the Kashmiri people, then why have Kashmiris been locked in their homes? Why don’t they trust their own people, who used to be their allies sometime back? The BJP has a majority and they have used it in the wrong direction. Majority legislators from the BJP probably don’t understand the nuances of Article 370.

BJP has choked the political space that the youth occupied. I feel that the abrogation of Article 370 will further alienate the people from the state. I am not fully aware of the constitutional validity of Article 370, but I would say that the way it was abrogated was unconstitutional and illegal. People of Kashmir should have been taken on board before taking this extreme step.

Let us now hope and pray for peace to return to Kashmir, and hope for an end to the misery of common Kashmiris.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Kashmir Global/Flickr.
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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.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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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