New Delhi, April 16 (KMS): Indian civil society group, the Concerned Citizens Group (CCG) has said that Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir has continued to remain disturbed since August 05, 2019 and that anger, despair and alienation of Kashmiris have increased further in the territory.

The CCG members visited Kashmir from March 30 to April 02, 2021 which was its third visit after the Narendra Modi government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and the eighth since mass uprising in the Valley following the martyrdom of prominent youth leader, Burhan Wani in July 2016. The members of the group comprise Yashwant Sinha, Sushobha Barve, Wajahat Habibullah, Kapil Kak and Bharat Bhushan. But only Sushobha Barve, Wajahat Habibullah, Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak and Bharat Bhushan undertook the latest visit due to the Covid-19 situation.

During the visit, the CCG met with a cross-section of representatives of civil society groups, businessmen and politicians especially those who had been released after being jailed in the wake of the developments of August 05, 2019.

The CCG said that India’s virtual obliteration of the political mainstream, nullification of Article 370 and Article 35A, bifurcation of the territory and the enactment of the new domicile laws seemed to have increased the all pervasive sense of fear, humiliation and hopelessness among the Kashmiri population. It said the speed with which the Indian government has gone about issuing one executive order after another has added to the anti-India sentiment and increased peoples’ anger. The group members said that they had never heard so many people expressing hatred of India as openly as during this visit to Kashmir.

The Group maintained that there is no space for any dissent or criticism of government policies and police action on any platform – be it social media, print or electronic media. It said journalism has been virtually criminalized and no protests by civil society are allowed, nor are rallies by political parties permitted, adding, the police do not hesitate to summon journalists and ordinary citizens and even lock them up under the Public Safety Act.

The Group concluded by saying that under these circumstances, short of restoring status quo ante, it is very difficult to recommend a course of action to fundamentally change the situation in which the Kashmiris find themselves. The Group members, therefore limited themselves, to suggestions, they said, are akin to applying balm on a wound to relieve the immediate pain.

It asked for addressing the sense of defeat and anger amongst the Kashmiris by opening up the democratic space for people to express themselves, allow civil society organisations to function by holding meetings, seminars, and discussions, and stop criminalising journalism and allow journalists and media persons to freely report from the ground, they said.

The Group called for not imposing artificial political processes on the Kashmiris which seem democratic outwardly but are bereft of any democratic muscle. It also stressed for allowing the Indian Opposition political parties to visit Kashmir, move around freely and meet local political leaders and civil society actors.

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