People’s Union for Democratic Rights unequivocally condemns the violence and repression unleashed by the security establishment on Kashmiri civilian population since the killing of Burhan Wani on Friday evening. CID ADG SM Sahai had declared in a Press briefing on Saturday that “Our non-lethal weaponry is better than we earlier had and we will use it to prevent any further loss of human life.” However, the figures attest the insincerity of the claim, as the death toll of 12 on Saturday, the 9th of July, has more than doubled to 30, of whom 29 are civilians. While the casualties and clashes had been largely confined to South Kashmir, by Monday these had spread to North Kashmir and Srinagar as well.
Since Sunday, “non-lethal” means – firing pellets (shards of hot metal) – have indeed been used. As these have not so far resulted in hiking up the body count, claims can be made about restraint. But the intensity of their use is unprecedented even in Kashmir, as is the extent of damage inflicted. Last known, 92 eye operations had already been performed in SMHS Srinagar alone, though doctors hold little hope of repairing the damage, with many still waiting.
On Saturday, Sahai claimed that over 96 police personnel have been injured, and several police posts attacked and set on fire. These figures are being advanced by the administration as justifications for the brutal reprisals by security forces. Two things are immediately noteworthy: One, the targets of the Kashmiri people’s anger have been police and security forces, not civilians. And two, if over 90 personnel have been injured by primarily unarmed crowds, realistically how many injuries and casualties must have an armed force inflicted? In the circumstances PUDR believes it to be an act of bad faith to equate the repressive might of the Indian state with the anger of an occupied populace.
Not only was there live firing, newspapers carry statements of doctors that a large number of those killed and injured have bullet injuries in the upper half of the body. The security forces and police clearly intended to kill. The Doctors Association of Kashmir has reported that tear gas shells have been fired into hospitals, and have protested against the violation of medical protocols of war. Ambulances were stopped and damaged by security personnel and those trying to reach the injured to hospital, beaten up.
The government seems to be preparing for a long curfew, with reports coming in of 1000 supply trucks entering Kashmir, pilgrims evacuated, and 800 more troops brought in. If there were ever any doubts it should now be evident that what is prevailing in Kashmir is a state of siege and occupation.
The situation is reminiscent of 2010, when a false encounter at Machil and the subsequent death of a youth in police firing in the protests that followed, led to a month-long curfew and over a hundred dead. In the last three days, despite curfew, the disrupting of internet connections, barricade and checkpoints, the security forces have been unable to check people’s movements and actions, and, on the contrary, have further fuelled their rage. The anger has reached a point of no return if people, even though unarmed, are willing to openly brave police fire. From here on, it can only increase if the state does not rethink its strategy.
PUDR reiterates that the brutal and horrifying use of force by the Indian state is completely reprehensible and unconscionable. The state in its actions since Saturday, 9th of July, has violated not just the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols governing internal conflict but also basic fundamental and human rights. We call upon all democratically minded people to protest against the rights violations in Kashmir, to call for demilitarization, and show solidarity with the people of Kashmir in realising their democratic aspirations.
Deepika Tandon, Moushumi Basu