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Co-Written by Dr. P. S. Sahni & Shobha Aggarwal

 

On 22 August, 2019 leaders of most major opposition parties demonstrated at the national protest site, JantarMantar, New Delhi, India from 11 a.m. to 1.15 p.m. The all party demonstration was organized to urge immediate release of leaders detained in J & K; to save democracy and to protect human rights. The call for this action was given by the DMK President, M.K. Stalin. Supporters of DMK from Delhi joined in large numbers.

While the attendance at the protest was in hundreds the body language of the opposition leaders; the tone and tenor of their speeches and statements; the stingingly sharp criticism of Modi Government’s action on Kashmir; no mincing of words;the political ambience of the meeting; the electrifying environment created by the playing of a Tamil song with lilting tunes at the start of the function – all sum up the mood at the gathering. The pain, anguish and outrage at the August 5 decision of the Modi government was all too discernible. The protest was attended by leaders of DMK, Congress (I), CPI, CPI (M), Indian Union of Muslim League, Samajwadi Party, National Conference, Trinamool Congress, RashtriyaJanta Dal, LoktantrikJanata Dal. Shehla Rashid of J & K Peoples’ Movement was also present.

Before the leader addressed the gathering the following slogans were raised repeatedly for a few minutes:

  • Release the political leaders detained in J & K immediately
  • Resume telecom services in the valley
  • Restore democracy in J & K
  • Restore normalcy in J & K

The message in the slogans formed the resolution adopted at the protest.

The sixteen odd leaders spoke in Tamil/Hindi/English and stressed:

  • “Our (National Conference) leaders don’t know why they have been arrested. I will return to Kashmir and inform the people that so many supporters are there in India willing to extend hand-in-hand support.”[National Conference representative]
  • “Promises were made to Kashmiris by our ancestors who fought for India’s freedom; those in power today appear to be fighting those very freedom fighters through their action in Kashmir … Kashmir has become an open air prison.” [SharadYadav]
  • “Please tell us what is the crime they have committed that they are behind bars, it is our right to know.” [Dinesh Trivedi]
  • “Country’s unity cannot be maintained with a bandook (gun) and the army. BJP’s action in Kashmir is antinational.” [Brinda Karat]
  • “Time to hold each other’s’ hand. If we are silent today – doomsday awaits us. We voted against the government in Parliament.” [RJD]
  • “We condemn what is happening. Abrogation of Article 370 is undemocratic, unconstitutional and an assault on democracy. There is a sininster attempt to push through RSS agenda of Hindu Rashtra. There is curfew all over; jails are full in J & K. We should reach out to people of J & K; call for nationwide protests.” [D. Raja]
  • “Media is muzzled; does not have access in J & K; jails in U.P. are being used to house Kashmiris arrested in the valley; this is a dangerous situation.” [Ram GopalYadav]
  • Mulkka, kaumkaitanabheenamiyaargire, kisurkhiyaandekhateheehaath se akhabaargire

With the start of the 2nd term of the government a reign of dictatorship has started. Today the struggle against dictatorship has also started.” [Manish Tewari]

  • “Government’s swoop down in Kashmir seizing J & K through military take over; the Constitution has been manipulated to pave the way for a Hindu Rashtra.” [SitaramYechury]
  • “We (DMK) have a national outlook; steps in whenever constitutional norms are in danger.”[DMK representative]
  • “Something grave is happening in J & K. Only international media knows it. Indian media is covering Kashmir but the telecast is not being allowed. We are no longer living in democracy.” [GhulamNabi Azad]

Placards carrying the following messages (in Hindi, English and Tamil) were displayed:

  • Release all political leaders, workers and ordinary people arrested in Kashmir.
  • BJP-RSS-NDA Government stop assaults on the Indian Constitution.
  • Stop assaults on rights of people in J & K.

Dozens of workers, members of CPI (ML) New Democracy came out in support carrying placards with messages:

  • Do not trample federal structure
  • Restore democratic rights of people of J & K
  • Restore Article 370.

Some Delhi based, non-party political activists also joined the protest in solidarity. As we walked away after the protest was over, one of us – who had attended J.P.’s rally of 25th June, 1975 – commented that though J.P.’s rally was attended by around a lakh of people at RamlilaMaidan, Delhi the political message sent out by today’s protest is as loud and clear as it was then in 1975!

(Dr. P.S. Sahni & Shobha Aggarwal are members of PIL Watch Group. Email: pilwatchgroup@gmail.com)


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2 Comments

  1. Sumanta Banerjee says:

    Although the government-controlled mainstream press refused to cover the Jantar Mantar rally, it heralds the beginning of a protest movement against the Mody government, with Kashmir being its
    centre-point. The Centre’s decision to forcibly destroy Kashmir’s autonomy and unilaterally birfurcate into two union territories, poses a threat beyond Kashmir, to the regional parties in other parts of India, as well as national mainstream parties which fear to be swamped by a one-party (BJP) system of rule. One hopes that these parties mobilize their followers and turn the few hundreds who gathered at Jantar Mantar on 22 August, into lakhs when they meet there the next time. In the meantime, I earnestly hope that the ranks of all these regional and national mainstream parties will throw up from amongst themselves new leaders, new reincarnations of JP, who’ll galvanize the masses .

  2. Dr. P. S. Sahni says:

    Sumanta Da,
    As we visit Jantar Mantar almost daily, the pathetic state of the national press (print, t.v. channels) since 2014 is all too obvious. If 25 to 50 protesters from BJP/ Sangh Parivar are at Jantar Mantar – an equal number of journalists are covering the event; the O.B. vans are then permitted to be parked right inside the protest site; as also the cars in which BJP MPs/ Ministers arrive! On 22nd when the mass protest by opposition parties took place, the policemen on duty got all vehicles – belonging to MPs/ former CMs/ former Union Ministers from the opposition parties – cleared of Jantar Mantar; it has never been so glaring even in the last 5 years and 3 months. That day even the foreign press vehicles were asked to leave the protest site. To ensure that the speeches of the leaders of opposition parties on 22nd August were not audible, a high decibel level loudspeaker was permitted to blare out the speech of a ‘planted’ protest with 5-6 people present in all at that protest against reservation; this was based at the other corner of Jantar Mantar; for the first half an hour the opposition protest on Kashmir faced disturbances; the disturbances were stopped when it became embarrassing even for the police persons and home ministry officials on duty!
    The above is a standard tactic to which my colleagues and I could swear on oath. Besides there are paid musclemen around who come and thrash you, threaten you if your protest gets seen to be an anti-national protest. It was under such circumstances that Gautam Navlakha’s face was blackened at the protest held at Jantar Mantar and organized by PUDR the same morning when Afzal Guru was hanged in 2013. Besides there are disturbers malingering as being of unstable mind who never lose an opportunity of coming and disrupting any serious discussion amongst a few activists at the protest site. My hunch is that the musclemen and disturbers are hand-in-glove with the police. I personally can identify many of them over the years.