The Kashmir death toll has been increasing day by day and stands at 49 on 25th July. More than 5000 people have been injured in the protest that has gone on continuously for many days without let up. Curfew continues in Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama districts while restrictions will continue in parts of Srinagar, Kupwara, Sopore and Baramulla.
The killing of Burhan Wani on 8th July in a fake encounter by the security forces led to these widespread protests all across the southern part of Kashmir and in the capital city of Srinagar. Youth have come out in large numbers in these protests. The police and paramilitary forces have brutally attacked the protestors, not only injuring many with pellets fired into their eyes, but also indiscriminately firing bullets, in many cases above the waist. With each day’s killings, the mass protests are increasing in intensity and numbers. So also are the firings and killings by the security forces. Offices and educational institutions have been shut down and public examinations have been postponed.
According to media reports, Burhan Wani, like thousands of Kashmiri youth, was opposed to the barbaric killings and other atrocities that are continuously carried out against the masses of Kashmiri people. His expression of this anger on social media reflected the sentiments of masses of the youth in Kashmir. The state and its intelligence agencies have so far been unable to associate him with carrying out any specific act of violence. In these circumstances, the youth of kashmir perceive his killing in a fake encounter as a direct assault by the state on the right of Kashmiris to live in peace and dignity, on their right to conscience and their right to life. This is the reason for the massive participation of people in the ongoing protests. More than 50,000 people are reported to have attended his funeral procession, which too was attacked by the police.
The killing of innocent people in fake encounters, with the state security agencies declaring that they have killed “dreaded terrorists”, the people’s protests, the firing upon and killing of protestors by the security forces, further protests and further killings – all these have been happening with chilling frequency and brutality in one part of Kashmir or another. Youth and children are shot at and killed, merely for pelting stones at the police, at the hated army installations or even for simply waving banners and shouting slogans.
The Indian state rules over the Kashmiri people like a colonial and imperialist power, through brutal armed suppression and violation of all rights, including the right to life. For the past 26 years, Kashmir has been under army rule, with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) granting complete immunity to the armed forces to kill, rape and commit all kinds of atrocities against the people of Kashmir. Entire villages and localities are frequently invaded by the police, army and paramilitary personnel in house-to-house searches, and people are physically violated or arrested. Mass rape of women is commonplace. Thousands of youth have been simply declared ‘disappeared’. Graveyards of hundreds of unidentified people have been discovered.
The Indian state blames this struggle on “cross border terrorism” and “separatism”. The struggle of the people of Kashmir to live in dignity and be masters of their own destiny is portrayed as something illegitimate and sponsored by Pakistan. All those who oppose this brutal state terrorism, who demand an end to army rule, or question the present arrangement of the state of Jammu & Kashmir within the Indian Union. Ceaseless propaganda by the Indian state and the monopoly media, that Kashmiris are “anti-national” and “Pakistani agents”, is used to justify the continuation of army rule and the persecution of Kashmiris all over the country.
The reason why Kashmiri people feel alienated from India is that India and Pakistan forcibly partitioned Jammu & Kashmir between themselves in 1947-1948. The Indian state promised the people of Kashmir the right to self-determination, only to go back on this promise. On the contrary, any Kashmiri who raises the question of self-determination is denounced as an enemy of India, incarcerated in jails, tortured or killed.
Lok Raj Sangathan is of the opinion that the problems facing the people of Kashmir cannot be dismissed as “law and order” problems which can be “solved” only by Army rule. The problems facing Kashmir and her people are political problems. They demand a political solution. State terrorism and army rule in Kashmir must be immediately ended, AFSPA repealed and the army withdrawn to its barracks. Only then can a political solution be possible in Kashmir.