In a show of resistance against the government’s move to revoke the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370, a protest march was organised in New Delhi from Mandi House to Parliament Street on August 7th, 2019. The demonstration was jointly led by Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation (CPIML). The protest was attended by over three hundred people, even outside of the Left parties, with students, civil society organisations and concerned individuals taking to the streets.
Prior to the abrogation, over 280 companies of security forces were deployed in the Kashmir valley. Panic further gripped the local residents when a security advisory was issued for Amarnath pilgrims to head back home over the speculation of a terror attack. Later on, a curfew was imposed across the state under the section 144 leading to a complete communication blackout. The protest was joined by several students, activists and concerned civilians who condemned the ruling government for trampling down the voices of Kashmiris.
The communication clampdown has caused distress among many about the safety of their loved ones residing in the valley. A Kashmiri protester who spared no effort in getting in touch with her family made the following statement, “I haven’t been able to get in touch with my parents from last three days and this is after trying every possible way in which I can contact them. I don’t know if coming here for a protest will solve anything but all I know is that this is all I can do right now.”
The protest was joined by several students, activists and concerned civilians who condemned the ruling government for trampling down the voices of Kashmiris.
She further added, “There are very few Kashmiri voices here and even on social media. Once you’ll hear their account, you’ll know what revocation of Article 370 has done to the people and how unconstitutional it is. This is just another example of India breaking its promises to Kashmir. The promises that they have broken is going to cause a lot of problems in coming years.”
The protesters regarded the revocation as forceful integration of Kashmir into the Indian Union and an assault on the right to self-determination of its people. Anurath, a student from JNU made the following statement during the protest, “It is even more obvious that this is an occupation of the land where the government realises themselves that Kashmiri people are not with them, that’s why so many preemptive measures were taken.”
Article 370 was the result of an agreement between the two sovereign powers, Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian Union. By declaring the article as inoperative, the elected government has undermined the sanctity of the agreement. Madhu Prasad, who works with the All India Forum for Right to Education made the statement, “The people of India have a federal constitution and the people of Kashmir did not want their federal rights to be trampled upon. In other states, people have their own rights too because it is not essential that conditions will be the same for everybody in a subcontinent as large as India. Indian democracy has always been plural. Today the attack is not only on the rights of Kashmiris but India’s democratic federal pluralism.”
The abrogation of Article 370 and 35A has generated concerns in the other states, particularly in North-East India over the loss of state autonomy as it closely resembles special provisions provided within the Article 371 of the Indian constitution. A student protester from the JNU said, “I’m from Sikkim and we have a similar act, Article 371F. If this could happen in Kashmir where there is huge resistance, it won’t be a surprise if they start doing this in the other states as well.”
Among the protesters, were people from the Muslim-dominated Kargil district who strongly opposed the bifurcation of the state into two union territories. A student protester from Kargil expressed her dissent over turning the Ladakh into a union territory without a legislature. She rejected the assertion of Ladakhi MP Tsering Namgyal who made the following statement in the Lok Sabha, “Someone said that there is a bandh in Kargil. I am a Member of Parliament from that region, and I can say that over 70 percent of the people in Kargil are very happy. People here often confuse the entirety of Kargil with one road or a small market”. She condemned the mainstream media for focusing on just the majoritarian point of view.
Article 370 was the result of an agreement between the two sovereign powers, Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian Union. By declaring the article as inoperative, the elected government has undermined the sanctity of the agreement.
The march was met by a small group of counter-protesters who were seen waving the national flag and shouting the slogans of ‘Vande mataram’ and ‘Bharat mata ki jai’.
“I hope everyone realises that we are not against India, but we do not want to live in a country which does not regard the wishes of its own people,” said Madhu Prasad.
All photos taken by Geetika Sharma and Shubhra Aswal.