A group of 500 individuals and organisations of feminists, women’s rights and democracy activists, lawyers, academics, students, writers, and journalists from across the world have issued a statement in solidarity with the women of Kashmir. They have urged the Indian government to roll back its decision to restrict public movement and block communication networks in Jammu and Kashmir.
Their statement came a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the United Nations General Assembly. At an event in Texas on Sunday, Modi defended his government’s recent decisions regarding Kashmir and criticised Pakistan. He also asked the huge audience at the NRG Stadium in Houston to give a standing ovation to Indian parliamentarians who, in August, approved the decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status.
“Women have been at the forefront of Kashmiri struggles for freedom, justice, truth and accountability for widespread human rights violations particularly sexual violence and enforced disappearances,” said those signed the statement. “Today the women of the world stand with them in resisting the forces of tyranny, militarism and violence. They urge the Indian government to step back from its current aggressions and end the violence and militarisation that has failed to resolve the dispute since 1947.”
Some of the well-known signatories are academics Nivedita Menon, Nandini Sundar, Kalpana Kannabiran, activist Meena Kandasamy, and organisations such as Urgent Action Fund, Global Fund For Women, and Our Bodies Ourselves. The statement has been endorsed by individuals and organisations from 30 countries – from South Asian nations to the US, Iran, Indonesia, Israel, Palestine and Uganda.
They alleged there was “credible and mounting evidence of a healthcare and humanitarian crisis, civilian deaths, pellet blindings and other injuries in attacks by Indian armed forces, torture, molestations, arbitrary arrests, and the severe curtailment of freedom of opinion, expression, and information; assembly and movement; and religious freedoms”.
The signatories pointed out that the civil and democratic rights of Kashmiris stood suspended, including their right to determine their future. “One particularly insidious justification for the illegal constitutional changes has been that they will benefit women, Dalits and sexual minorities by granting them constitutional rights so far denied to them,” they added.
“This bolsters colonial tropes of a backward Muslim majority region whose women and minorities are in need of rescue by the civilisationally superior people of India,” they said. “Moreover, it is based on outright falsehoods, misinformation, and false equivalences, that are being deliberately amplified, including by high state functionaries , despite being repeatedly debunked by experts and lawyers.”
The statement opposed the co-option and weaponisation of the languages of women, Dalit and queer liberation to justify the oppression of Kashmiris.
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