An all women’s group of leaders from different organizations has returned from Kashmir with a detailed upcoming of the on ground situation. In a press conference the team that spent over five days in the valley said, “this was the last blow to the freedom of people in Kashmir.” The team of five women spoke to students, housewives, shopkeepers, paramedics, patients, helpers security guards, army personnel and others during their short stay there. Their aim? To see in person if normalcy had returned to Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 which gave the state’s citizens special powers and protection. (Read About Article 370 Here). As a result, has been a complete clampdown of communication in the state for the last 50 odd days.

In this team were CPIM leader Annie Raja, educationist Dr. Kanwaljit Kaur, Pankhuri Zaheer from National Federation of Indian Women, Poonam Kaushik from Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan and Syeda Hameed from Muslim Women’s Forum.

They say that they covered 17 villages and 13 areas to asses diverse regions, speak to different authorities and engage with all kinds agencies working on the ground. “We interacted with all sections of people over there and visited different institutions and we saw what’s actually happening with the people of Kashmir,” Annie Raja said. Srinagar, Bandipore, Shopian and Pulwama districts were among those the team went to.

The all women’s group of leaders from different organizations that returned from Kashmir, Pic: SheThePeople

“This abrogation of Section 370 has united the people of Kashmir,” noted Raja. “They speak in one voice and their sentiment is now one that is everyone irrespective of age, gender, locality feel that this is the last blow on the freedom and dignity of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Also read: Two Women Officers Play Crucial Crisis Management Role In Kashmir

State of law

“The judiciary is paralyzed,” said Advocate Poonam Kaushik, who practices in the Delhi High Court and is the leader of Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan,. She said the team met lawyers of J&K High Court during the trip. “The office of High Court Bar Association has been locked since the lockdown and the lawyers told us that so many from the fraternity have been arrested and put behind bars under Public Safety Act in various Jails of Northern India without the police informing their parents which jail they are lodged in,” she asserts.

Crippling Curfew

“Across many villages people recounted similar experiences. They talked of curfews and lights out at 8 pm after Maghreb prayers. In Bandipora, we saw a young girl who made the mistake of keeping a lamp lit to read for her exam on the chance that her school may open soon. Army men angered by this breach of ‘curfew’, jumped the wall to barge in. The only males in the house, father and son, were taken away for questioning. ‘What questions?’, no one dare ask. The two have been detained since then,” the report says.
50 days of communication clampdown
Pankhuri Zaheed, from the National Federation of Indian Women spoke about how lack of communicationhas affected the valley. “The blackout means that when a woman delivers her child in a hospital then in case of complications, her husband cannotcall his family for help. It means that when your child is picked up by the army or the police,  the family will not get the news. It means that in case of fire and a shop burns down, the owner will not get to know about it until they go and see it for themselves. This has serious implications for the common people of Kashmir.”
Section 370 Removal
The all women’s group of leaders present their report, Image: SheThePeople
Are Children Going To School?
Dr. Kanwaljeet Kaur, who recently retired as a teaching professor from Punjab University, worried for state of education in the valley. She said, students expected their exams in November“The children have their exams in November. I spoke to a woman who travels for eight hours to go to Leh where she drops her two children at her sister’s house and then gets her notes downloaded and photocopies and then comes back to the valley. She travels for two days just to get her supplies for exams. This is not the story of just one girl but most children who are studying in the state. Education is most affected in all this calamity.”

Also Read: Women must tell their own stories

Now that the team has come back from the valley, they have asked for specific reactions from the Indian government at the centre.  Their demands include immediate cancellation of all cases/ FIRs against young people who have been taken to custody since the abrogation.

In the last two months many groups have visited the valley in a bid to understand the on ground situation better. The clampdown has trigged a large number of debates that go beyond the act of abrogation to how it’s ‘being handled’. This issue is far from over, do watch this space for more.

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