An eleven-member team comprising advocates, trade union and human activists and a psychiatrist visited the Kashmir Division from September 28 – October 4, 2019.
The broad objective of the team was to understand the situation persisting in the two months since the abrogation of Article 370, and, second to assess the quality of access to justice in these compelling circumstances. The team comprised of Aarti Mundkur (Advocate, Bengaluru), Amit Sen (Psychiatrist, New Delhi), Clifton D' Rozario (Advocate and All India People's Forum, Bengaluru), Gautam Mody (New Trade Union Initiative, New Delhi), Lara Jesani (Advocate, Mumbai and People's Union for Civil Liberties), Mihir Desai (Senior Advocate, Mumbai and People's Union for Civil Liberties), Nagari Babaiah (People's Democratic Forum, Bengaluru), Ramdas Rao (All India People's Forum, Bengaluru), Saranga Ugalmugle (Advocate, Mumbai/Goa), Swathi Seshadri (Independent Researcher, Bengaluru) and Veena Gowda (Advocate, Mumbai and People's Union for Civil Liberties).
The report is based on our visit to different districts in the Kashmir valley, our visits to the High Court, District Courts and other quasi judicial institutions, our interactions with the lawyers, health and mental health professionals, traders, people of Kashmir and victims of state perpetrated violence. Details of the same are covered in the report.
Between August 5 and 6, 2019, two presidential orders, C.O. 272 and C.O. 273, were issued that had the effect of abrogating Article 370 and Article 35A, and effectively dismantled the limited protection afforded to Jammu and Kashmir in self-governance, territorial integrity and the collective rights to land and livelihood. By the 6th evening, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 was also passed by both the houses of Parliament, which bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir state into 2 union territories – Jammu and Kashmir (union territory with state legislature), Ladakh (union territory without state legislature). Vide notification dated 9th August, the appointed day for the bifurcation Act, was declared to be October 31, 2019.
Since the midnight of August 4, 2019, anticipating a widespread resistance from the people , there has been a complete blackout in the Kashmir valley. All communication services like landlines, mobile phones, internet and even postal services had been blocked by the government. All schools, colleges, educational institutions and offices were ordered to be closed until further orders, and student hostels were asked to be vacated with immediate effect. Already there were 6.5 lakh armed forces in the Kashmir Valley including 1.3 lakh police force. As per reports in the press, in the month preceding the decision, about 1.75 additional personnel were deployed in the valley. However, in what is nothing short of a covert operation by the government, no information of their plans to unilaterally bring about the above policy changes was provided to the people of Kashmir, who were completely kept in the dark, let alone be consulted. One can only imagine the manner in which this contributed to breeding fear, uncertainty and anxiety.
As lawyers, activists and a medical doctor, we felt it important out of a sense of solidarity for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, but also out of a sense of responsibility to understand the situation first hand on the ground, in order to advance the true spirit of a democratic society and hold our elected government and the institutions of democracy accountable for their actions.
This report seeks to draw attention to the history of Jammu and Kashmir valley while understanding the events just before and after the August 5, 2019. Along with the collective aspirations of the people of Kashmir, the ongoing committed resistance of the people, the resulting structured state violence on them and the systematic denial of legal recourse and justice to the people, we trace the judicial trend to people's issue while locating it in the present context based on facts and events since August 5, 2019.