'Scrapping of Article 370 last straw that eroded hope'

A girl runs for cover after throwing stones during a protest in Srinagar. (PTI Photo)

As Jammu and Kashmir ceased to a full-fledged state with its bifurcation, a fact-finding team on Thursday said the scrapping of special status to the state was the "proverbial last straw that eroded" the hope for a "peaceful and just resolution" and demanded withdrawal army and para-military forces from civilian areas in the region.

The report 'Imprisoned Resistance - 5th August and its Aftermath' publicised by a 11-member team of activists, who visited Kashmir between September 28 and October 4, also claimed that the "freehand" given to the armed forces "by virtue of laws which allow for almost anything to do be done under the garb" of maintaining law and order has resulted in "absolute impunity".

The team demanded a probe into allegations of crimes committed by the armed forces, saying that the government cannot be seen to be allowing forces to commit "gross" human rights violations without them having to face any consequences. It also demanded Repeal the Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978 and the Armed Forces (Jammu &Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990.

"People were clear that the political middle ground has been extinguished and that everyone was willing to face the might of the Indian State. This resolve has translated into the indefinite and complete people’s hartal. The hartal defines the political space of Kashmir today. The hartal represents people’s urge to take back control, the struggle for democracy and self-rule all in the face of the lockdown," the report said.

The team which visited Kashmir included Aarti Mundkur (lawyer, Bengaluru), Amit Sen (psychiatrist, New Delhi), Clifton D’ Rozario (All India People’s Forum, Bengaluru), Gautam Mody (New Trade Union Initiative, New Delhi), Lara Jesani, Veena Gowda and Mihir Desai (People’s Union for Civil Liberties), Nagari Babaiah (People’s Democratic Forum, Bengaluru), Ramdas Rao (All India People’s Forum, Bengaluru), Saranga Ugalmugle (lawyer, Mumbai/Goa), Swathi Seshadri (independent researcher, Bengaluru).

The report said the narrative that was presented by the government with the help of media was "far from the reality" and there has been a "determined, systematic effort" to portray a sense of normalcy in the valley to justify the "unilateral action of snatching the autonomy" the Kashmiri people had.

Travelling within Srinagar and other towns and within the valley has, for the most part, become a near impossibility unless people have access to a vehicle of their own, it claimed adding Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (JKSRTC) has suspended operations since August 5. "Only those with private vehicles are able to travel, that too with much difficulty given the barbed wires at multiple locations," it said.

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