Srinagar, Apr 9: A group of India’s intellectuals including former government servants, academicians, journalists and civil society members have written to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and expressed their collective concerns over the “worsening” situation in Kashmir.
The letter is signed by former Deputy Governor of Reserve Bank of India, Ravi Vira, former Secretary, Ministry of Defense Amitabh Pande, former Home Secretary of India Gopal Pillai, former Secretary Hindal Tyabji, and academicians and authors including Anand Sahay, Prem Shankar Jha, Radha Kumar Happymon Jacob, Shiv Vishwanathan and Badri Raina.
In the letter, the signatories have specified that president’s rule coupled with crackdowns and arrests in Kashmir are “formidable disincentives” to the voting exercise.
“In these conditions, what kind of a turnout can we expect in the valley? Taken together, the policy of President’s rule, counter-insurgency, crackdowns and arrests, combined with threats to rollback Articles 370 and 35-A and alterations to the administrative structure of the state, provide formidable disincentives to vote,” the letter reads.
The signatories have mentioned that the closure of the highway for forces’ movement would weaken the “democratic credentials and attract the military rule.”
“It is, moreover, only the most recent of a series of actions that add to disaffection in the valley. Others include banning the JKLF and the Jamaat-e-Islami, imprisoning their leaders as well as those of the Hurriyat, and denying security to members of political parties,” it said.
The signatories slammed BJP by claiming that its rule in last four years has undone the hardwork of 15 years by previous regimes in Kashmir.
In the letter, the intellectuals suggested the Home Ministry for immediate rollback of its decisions, which they believe deteriorated situation in Kashmir.
“The first step would be to rescind orders for closure of the highway, followed by release of those arrested (unless there is substantive evidence of their being involved in recent terrorist attacks such as on the CRPF at Pulwama), restoration of security to political leaders and return to a policy of defense against attack rather than preemptive action. If your government could initiate a Ramzan ceasefire, then why not one for elections?”
“No reasoned explanation has been offered. These elections offer an opportunity to craft a more conciliatory policy towards the people of the state, including dissidents who have engaged in peace initiatives, such as the Hurriyat M, who have once again held out an offer of talks,” it said.
In the letter, the intellectuals criticised the BJP’s manifesto, saying it is opposed to conciliation in Jammu and Kashmir.”
“Nevertheless, whether your party wishes to avail of this opportunity or not, surely you would recognize that governance is larger than party interest and a change of course is required. Lest the situation in the state worsens to a point of no return. We urge you, even at this late stage, to take the steps mentioned above. Jammu and Kashmir will only then be able to have a free and fair election,” it said.
Former Kashmir interlocutor and one of the signatories, Radha Kumar told The Kashmir Monitor the policies of the current government for Kashmir compelled them to write to the Union Home Minster about the ground situation.
“It was a very hard task to find email of the Home Ministry as all their contacts mentioned in websites are incorrect. Actually we are a group of people who are aware of the situation in Kashmir and are upset about it,” she said.
“We have written on Kashmir so far and we thought to find something which will have more weightage,” she said.