No sympathy for jailed separatists amongst the common people; Kashmiris for punishing those who looted the State: Fact-Finding teams of GIA present reports to the Union Minister

GIA delegation presenting the report to the Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh in New Delhi on October 23, 2019
Three teams of intellectuals and scholars under the banner of Group of Intellectuals and Academicians (GIA) visited Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh regions of J&K in the first week of October to know the ground realities and understand the people’s aspirations there. The teams found that the people have high hopes from the Centre particularly after the UT status, but at the same time, they want to punish the politicians who looted the state for seven decades. The Report was presented to Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh in Delhi on October 23, 2019
Three Fact-Finding Teams of Group of Intellectuals and Academicians (GIA) that visited Kashmir in the first week of October after the amendment in Article 370 and removal of Article 35A have stressed on issues involving the women, nationalist Kashmiris and minorities from the Valley in developing a framework for furthering the aspirations of people in the State. The report said there is no lockdown, shops are open, there is no scarcity of doctors and medicines, there is usual traffic on roads, there is no evidence of kidnap by army and people are happy that corrupt politicians have been detained.
“Overall Kashmir is going through intense churning. Kashmiris across board seek healing from a corrupt, oppressive, social and political culture that has emerged in Kashmir for the past 70 years and more intensely in the last 30 years. They want the Government of India to make the UT model work in Kashmir. They look towards the Centre to reach out to them with real change. We recommend that the process of healing between the Government of India and the Kashmiris be facilitated. Any group or set of persons nationally or internationally trying to derail this process should not be allowed to betray the Kashmiris,” the Fact-Finding Team for Kashmir region said in the report, which was presented to Union Minister of State in PMO Dr Jitendra Singh in New Delhi on October 23.
The team members who visited Kashmir region included Advocate Monika Arora (Advocate, Supreme Court of India), Sushri Renuka Dhar (Associate Professor, Department of English at PGDAV College, University of Delhi), and Sushri Sonali Chitalkar (Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Miranda House, University of Delhi). The team visited Srinagar (Downtown as well as other areas), Budgam, Baramulla and Pulwama. The suburban regions of Srinagar that the team visited included Bemina, Batmaloo, Rainawari, Lal Chowk, Press Enclave, Polo View, Residency Road, Dal Gate, Sonwar, Indra Nagar, Karan Nagar, Jawahar Nagar, Hyderpora, Ram Munshi Bagh, Barzulla and Sheikhpora.
Two separate teams visited Jammu and Ladakh during the same period. The team that visited Jammu comprised of Dr. Prerna Malhotra (Associate Professor, Department of English Ram Lal Anand College, University of Delhi), Dr. Reena Sablok (Assistant Professor, Department of English, SSN College, University of Delhi) and Dr. Ritu Mathur (Assistant Professor, Chemistry, Zakhir Husain College (University of Delhi). The team visited Jammu, Akhnoor, Sundarbani, Nowshera and Rajouri areas of Jammu region from October 7 to 9, 2019 and covered both rural and urban areas.
The team that visited Ladakh was comprised of Sushri Poonam Bachheti, (educationist), Dr. Poonam Kumari (Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Miranda House, University of Delhi) and Prof. Vijeta Singh Aggarwal (Department of Management Studies, GGSIPU, Delhi). Besides spending time in Leh, the team visited several villages and also Government offices, Colleges, schools, homes, market places and spoke to people in the rural as well as urban areas including men, women, youth and children.
According to Smt Monika Arora, the objective of visiting the state was to observe the daily lives of people in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions and also to catalogue conditions on the ground. “We spoke to the people on streets of Kashmir, sought appointments with members of civil society and Government, as well as meeting people across all political and economic streams,” Smt Arora said. The team met random persons on the streets across rural and urban Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. The teams also met the minority groups in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh—Shias, Sikhs, Kashmiri Hindus. They also met the marginalised groups in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh including members of SC/ST communities. The groups meet the political party activists belonging to mainstream political parties as well as terrorist groups. The discussion was held with the representatives of the Armed forces, state agencies and government officials also in all three regions.
The Situation in Kashmir
The fact-finding team observed intense petitioning and activity for the release of jailed Kashmiri leaders in Kashmir. There has been loud campaigning to establish that Kashmir is under ‘Lockdown’ and there is ‘genocide’. There has been a call for restoration of mobile and internet connectivity. There are reports that 1300 children have been picked up and lodged in jails outside Jammu & Kashmir. There is no sympathy for jailed Kashmiri leaders amongst the common people of Kashmir. They want the Government of India to take them to Court and convict them for corruption. There is no Genocide in Kashmir. The only Genocide observed was that of Kashmiri Hindus in 1990. At present Kashmiris are not under any kind of lockdown or genocide.
The team found that there is a large section of people who credit the amendment in Article 370 and the removal of Article 35A with saving many lives. “Women are safe in Kashmir. We saw women on the roads driving cars. We saw them actively working in the Panchayats. They are not being harassed due to their religious identity. Sarpanches are looking forward to BDC elections. However, they need urgent security and reassurances from the government. The minorities of Kashmir seek closer interaction directly with the GoI. People want the Kashmiri Hindu Genocide must be recognised by the GoI. The experiences of the victims cannot be equated with the brutalisation of Kashmiri Muslims in the State by non-State actors. The Kashmiri Hindus were targeted for their religious identity. There is a silent constituency of wisdom amongst Kashmiri Muslims. They seek closer interaction with the government,” the report said.
The team found no evidence of children being picked up by security forces and randomly arrested. Media persons are freely travelling and reporting in Kashmir. No one stopped the team during the extensive travel through Kashmir. The brutalisation of people by terrorists still exists in rural areas. They are not allowing people to resume daily lives, the report added.
The Situation in Jammu Region
The team that visited the Jammu region found everything normal. Markets, shops, transportation services, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, mobile and landline phones were working as usual. Internet services are available on Wi-Fi at homes, Internet Cafes and all government institutions. Only mobile phone internet was withheld till date. All the people interacted during the visit welcomed the decision to set aside Article 370 and 35A. Many people shared their apprehensions regarding the loss of lands and jobs as they fear influx of outsiders. A few students also were enthusiastic about expected increase in competition and their own possibility of skill development. “The team felt the prolonged pain and suffering of the victims of 35A. No compensation can reverse the years of their mental agony and all kinds of loss. There is dire need for development of the neglected and discriminated areas and communities in the region. The government needs to identify and prioritise its tasks on immediate and long term basis,” the team said in its report.
The Situation in Ladakh & Kargil
The team that visited Ladakh observed that in both Leh and Kargil people are engaged in deriving benefits from the UT status and are looking at ways in which their regions will develop mechanisms for empowerment through BDC elections and the like. There is a demand for greater focus on the preservation of the Bhoti. They also want greater participation of local populace in the decision making process. People want a greater focus on land connectivity because large parts of South Ladakh are even now accessible only on foot. Similarly, air connectivity, communication connectivity etc. also need to be strengthened. Education infrastructure is required to be strengthened in local area, as it has been a dominant concern of the local population since long. Since lot of focus is on creating the economic opportunities, concerted focus is required on local value addition, development of local resources with adequate documentation and adoption of technology, suitable distribution of the surpluses generated and active participation of the community in the process. Focus is also required in a concerted manner on local skill formation in the locally relevant sectors and then creating economic and entrepreneurial opportunities to absorb these skilled people. Tourism has been a contributing factor to social unrest in this strategically important region; the government has strong incentives to pay closer attention to the effects of tourism as well as tourist facilitation. Since Ladakh’s main attraction is its culture and natural environment, the government needs to be open to initiatives aimed at protecting these. In this context grant of Union Territory status to Ladakh makes perfect sense. People from Leh and Kargil have been brought closer and are now able to resolve mutual differences with greater attention.
People in Kargil are very delighted with setting aside of Article 370. However, some people are not aware of the outcomes and therefore they are a little confused. K Hassan Pasha, a politically active resident of Kargil, said that educated people of Kargil are very happy with the removal of Article 370. They feel that now onwards the Kashmir centric policies will stop and they have finally got independence in the right sense of the word. The future is bright and now we will get our rights.
“Ladakh is a place where the Ladakhi and Indian identity is bigger than the religious identity, all groups coexist harmoniously. While the developmental concerns remain, those are endemic to the place and concern all. What does emerge is that for the isolated geographical places and distinct cultural and linguistic groups living therein administrative political and developmental dimensions need to be seen beyond the constraints of a larger administrative mechanism like a state where these identities get marginalised. In this context grant of the Union Territory status to Ladakh makes perfect sense,” the report of the Fact-Finding Team added.