NEW DELHI – A team of women’s rights activists on Tuesday raised concerns over human rights violations in Kashmir after a visit to the Kashmir Valley, and demanded that Article 370 be restored and the Army as well as paramilitary forces be withdrawn with immediate effect.
Presenting a “fact-finding report”, the five-member team also called for the immediate restoration of all communication lines, including internet and mobile networks.
The group, comprising Annie Raja, Kawaljit Kaur and Pankhuri Zaheer from the National Federation of Indian Women, Poonam Kaushik from the Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan and Syeda Hameed from the Muslim Women’s Forum, visited Kashmir from September 17-21.
The group, which addressed a press conference here on their findings, visited several villages in the districts of Shopian, Pulwama and Bandipora.
“We wanted to see with our own eyes how this 43-day lockdown had affected the people, particularly women and children,” the report stated.
The team demanded that the Army and paramilitary forces be withdrawn with immediate effect from the Valley in order to achieve normalcy.
“Restore Article 370 and 35A. All future decisions about the political future of Jammu and Kashmir must be taken through a process of dialogue with the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” the activists said in their report.
All army personnel must be removed from the civilian areas of Jammu and Kashmir, they demanded.
“For confidence building, immediately cancel all cases/FIRs and release all those, especially the youth who are under custody and in jail since the Abrogation of Article 370,” the team demanded.
Alleging excesses by the Army and other security personnel, the women activists said a time-bound inquiry should be conducted to ensure justice.
“The Army cannot remain a holy cow,” Raja told reporters.
The activists also demanded compensation for all families who they claimed lost lives because of non availability of transportation and absence of communication.
“We went to hospitals, schools, homes, market places, spoke to people in the rural as well as urban areas, to men, women, youth and children. This report is our eyewitness account of ordinary people who have lived for 43 days under an iron siege,” Raja said.
She said the team now intends to submit its demands to Home Minister Amit Shah and urge action on them.
Narrating their experiences in the Kashmir Valley, the women said several local people said they feel they “have been caged”.
“Shops, hotels, schools, colleges, institutes and universities were all closed, and streets were deserted as we drove out from the airport,” they said in the report.
They also raised concerns over the arrest and detention of young persons.
“One estimate given to us was 13,000 boys lifted during this lockdown,” the activists claimed.
The women’s rights activists claimed that nothing about the situation is normal.
All those claiming that the situation is slowly returning to normalcy are making false claims based on distorted facts, they said.
“Article 370 has united the people of Jammu and Kashmir and all of them feel that it is a blow to their dignity. They will not forgive and forget,” Raja said.
On August 5, the Centre announced the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and the bifurcation of the state into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.