The text of the Memorandum on the crisis in Kashmir to be submitted to UPA Chairperson, Mrs Sonia Gandhi by Manushi: Citizens First Forum is given below: To add your signature to this Memorandum, please click here: http://www.manushi.in/memorandum.php
Dear Mrs Gandhi,
As Chairperson UPA, the MANUSHI--Citizens First Forum seeks your intervention to arrest the alarming deterioration in the political situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The people of J&K had reposed great faith in the UPA Government and the democratic process by registering a unprecedented voter turnout in the 2008 elections in the state. Today, there is a widespread feeling that their faith has been betrayed. Even as Kashmiri leaders of all hue appealed to the Central Government to intervene to resolve the crisis, the Centre remained impassive and indifferent.
We join our sisters and brothers in Kashmir to express our dismay at the J&K Government using of a heavily armed force like the CRPF to quell popular outbursts of public anger against Omar Abdullah’s high handed misrule. CRPF was sent to Kashmir to deal primarily with anti insurgency. Omar’s gross political and administrative mismanagement has resulted in easily avoidable loss of lives of several young men and children as well as of security personnel.
The extensive deployment of security forces has made our security personnel extremely vulnerable as prime targets of public wrath. They are paying a heavy price for political mismanagement. What began as an expression of discontent against an insensitive state Government is now a full blown anti India upsurge.
It is worth noting that throughout this period the Army has not been attacked because they have earned considerable goodwill by their refusal to be drawn into handling local political discontent. It is also significant that Kashmiri Muslims have not allowed any harm to come to Amarnath Yatris and in fact provided the Yatra all possible help & managed to extend all possible facilities even as they themselves faced siege like conditions.
At such a turbulent time, belated token gestures by the Prime Minister, like willingness meeting select delegations of political leaders from J&K will not do. To restore the credibility of the democratic process, UPA government at the Centre must be seen to lead the revival of democratic process with sincerity and take it to its logical conclusion. We urge you to consider the following measures:
1. Constitute a high powered team of interlocutors including a cross section of eminent persons in public life, media, jurists, intellectuals and social activists to engage in a consistent manner with all sections of J&K, including credible representatives from Kashmir, Jammu, Rajouri, Poonch, and Ladakh region towards finding an enduring political solution to the vexed Kashmir problem. Such a consensus within J&K is absolutely vital for the success of talks with Pakistan.
2. The UPA chairperson and the Prime Minister need to personally visit Srinagar, not for making formal speeches but for an in depth dialogue with a large cross section of people to assess the ground level situation. Action taken following such a dialogue will give people a sense that their views and feelings matter and that decisions are not taken in secret meetings held behind closed doors in Delhi.
3. Send teams of parliamentarians from all over India to visit J&K to engage with a cross section of people in the Valley as well as in Jammu and Laddakh to gain a better national level political understanding of the ground situation and thereby ensure that our policy makers are well informed about the social and political complexities of this sensitive state.
4. Through this agitation numerous young people, including school going children have been booked under the draconian Public Safety Act. The use of PSA against those who pelt stones amounts to using AK47 to kill mosquitoes. Protestors in no other state of India, including those who burnt vehicles or forced the closure of bazaars by beating up people in Mumbai and did far worse than pelt stones during the recent anti price rise agitation, have ever been booked under PSA. Cases against all the young men, women and children booked under PSA and other criminal charges for stone pelting need to be withdrawn expeditiously after securing undertakings from their families and mohalla committees that they will not indulge in violent protests.
5. Set up a high powered committee for swift release of all political prisoners who are not implicated in any serious crimes and those who have already served longer jail terms than what their alleged crimes merit.
6. The J&K Police must be revitalized and given the full responsibility for maintaining law and order. In recent years it is why the J&K Police has become totally rudderless and thoroughly corrupt. The Central Government should work closely with the J&K government to make the state a laboratory for introducing radical police reforms. A start in this direction could be made by implementing with speed the orders of the Supreme Court in this regard.
7. Government needs to re-haul the working of Intelligence agencies, many of whom are believed to create more mischief than provide intelligent inputs to the government. They need to be made more accountable and evolve better coordination so that they don’t work at cross purposes.
8. All visible signs of ‘occupation’-- security pickets every hundred yards, watch towers, barbed wire fencing, sandbag bunkers must be removed to bring back a semblance of normalcy. The presence of gun toting security forces in every galli, mohallas and at every few hundred yards on every street is the biggest irritant and creates the image of people and a land under occupation. Central para military forces should be replaced by the local police and the Army or central security forces deployed primarily on the borders and hot spots of militancy but not in populated civilian localities.
9. Under the present regime, the state has virtually withered away in Kashmir. Government offices, which even in good times worked poorly, have remained closed for weeks. The bureaucracy is thoroughly demoralized and dysfunctional. In addition to police reforms, people of J&K must be given space for engaging in the process of judicial and administrative reforms so that they can effectively call their elected representatives as well as the administrators to account.
Most important of all, the Government must communicate to the people that it treats Kashmiri people as our own so that the people develop a feeling of belonging to a networked community rather than being treated as with mistrust in their own homeland. Combating terrorism requires a surgeon’s scalpel, not a butcher’s knife.
We are firmly of the view, Madam Chairperson that the time for hesitant and gradualist, incremental political initiatives of the kind announced by the Central Government, is over. The situation demands a clear time bound plan to find a permanent solution with the political engagement of all stakeholders . We are sure that with your political; foresight you will give our recommendations very serious consideration.