Huge rally against Kashmir violence in KolKata-First Published in The Hindu Kolkata

  0 comments   |     by Suvojit Bagchi & Soumya Das

First Published in The Hindu Kolkata, July 15, 2016 - A sizeable rally was organised by various civil society groups, human rights networks, student bodies and ordinary citizens of Kolkata to protest against ongoing violence in Kashmir on Thursday. The participants assembled in a popular meeting place in central Kolkata, College Square, carrying posters, flags and placards and walked till Sealdah station, also located in the central areas. The rally was organised as a part of a week long programme in Kolkata to protest against the ongoing unrest in the valley of Kashmir.

Thousands of civilians assembled in College Square,opposite Calcutta University, on Thursday afternoon. Posters with some of the names of the people killed in police firing– Azad Hussain (25), Shopian, Umar Shafi (16), Achabal or Amir Nazir Lattoo (22) of Bijbehera etc.– with a catchline, “Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris” were pasted on the ground in College Square.

Slogans demanding “Azadi [freedom] for Kashmir” were raised and even school boys participated in the rally. However majority of the participants were from various colleges and universities of the State, while many academics, rights activists or even supporters of specific political parties, including the ruling party, could be seen. Former Head of the Department, Bangla, Presidency University, Sabyasachi Deb told The Hindu that he participated in the rally to register his protest.

“Why young boys– like Burhan Wani– is taking up arms is a not question that nobody is asking. Rather the State is seeking a solution by killing more and more civilians. It is shameful, barbaric and would never produce a solution,” said Prof. Deb. He said that the officials of the State should “immediately stop killing the people” and seek a dialogue-driven solution to the problem. Vice president of civil rights group, Association for Protection of Democratic Rights [APDR], Ranjit Sur demanded a referendum.“The people of Kashmir are fighting for their autonomy. They have the right to decide their own fate. Despite promising to hold referendum in Kashmir, regarding the demand of autonomy, the Government of India has not done so, over decades,” Mr. Sur said.

Book on Kashmir released in Kolkata

Earlier in the week, releasing a book on Kashmir, women activists from the valley said that a new wave can “now be experienced in Kashmir” and that is participation of the women in the freedom struggle. Whether it is using the digital platforms to disseminate information from the house, hit the road to confront forces or researching incidents of violence women are in the forefront, said two Kashmiri researchers.

Ifrah Butt and Natasha Rather are the two researcher-activists, who addressed at least five public meetings in Kolkata, and said that “Kashmiri society has changed.”

“It was not a very open society where you can discuss many issues– even love and relationship,” said Ms Butt, who was in Kolkata to release a book on mass rape and torture of Kashmiri women allegedly by Indian security forces in Kunan-Poshpora in 1991. An all women team of Ms. Butt, Ms. Rather and three others- Essar Batool, Munaza Rashid, Samreena Mushtaq- investigated the 1991 incident to publish a book, Do you remember Kunan Poshpora? Releasing the book in Kolkata, both Ms. Butt and Ms. Rather said that it was an arduous task to convince their parents on why would they investigate an incident of rape that took place 25 years back.

“Kashmir, like all other societies, is a deeply patriarchal one. We don’t discuss rape with our parents. Moreover, for security reasons, parents do not us to get involve in politics,” said Ms. Rather. But as the researchers went ahead with their investigation and eventually filed a Public Interest Litigation [PIL], they had to confront their parents.

“When our parents got to hear of our project and the reasons, they agreed to let us work. Even my mother asked if she can take part in the probe of mass rape,” said Ms. Rather. The researchers claimed that Kashmir was a place where women where not behind purdah or burqa till 1980s, when trouble broke out.

“But with militarization the men in the society felt more insecure and women paid the price as the men wanted the women to stay indoors for the fear of security forces,” Ms. Rather said. But the situation is changing and more women are participating in the movement, the researchers claimed.

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