250 IITians write to Modi govt against restrictions on Kashmir

About 250 alumni, teachers and students of the various Indian Institutes of Technology across India have written to Modi government against the sustained ‘brutalisation’ of Kashmiris.

hey have demanded immediate restoration of communication and mobile services in the valley, release of “political prisoners”, among others.

“The eight million people of the Kashmir valley have been under lockdown for more than two months now. Mobile phones and internet services have been shut down, and hardly any news is allowed to escape from the valley.
The mainstream Indian media has been repeating the statements handed out by the Indian government, and the information blackout is almost total. The international media, on the other hand, has covered protests as well as recorded violence over the last two months. Reports of mass arrests, tortures and encounters have also filtered through,” the statement reads.

The letter which is being circulated by Sharjeel Imam, an IITian, claims that it has been signed by over 276 students and alumni.

Full text of letter:

The state of Jammu and Kashmir joined the Indian Union with an agreement that manifested itself in Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian Constitution. Two months ago, the government of India unilaterally abrogated these articles without consulting the elected assembly of the state, dissolved the provincial government, converted the state into a union territory, and imposed a curfew and communication blackout in most of the state.

The 8 million people of the Kashmir valley have been under lockdown for more than two months now. Mobile phones and internet services have been shut down, and hardly any news is allowed to escape from the valley. 

The mainstream Indian media has been repeating the statements handed out by the Indian government, and the information blackout is almost total. The international media, on the other hand, has covered protests as well as recorded violence over the last two months. Reports of mass arrests, tortures and encounters have also filtered through. 

Most of the mainstream politicians have been arrested. Many Kashmiris have been brought to prisons in UP and other states, as the jails of Jammu and Kashmir had already overflown. The universities and schools have not been functional. 

The health system and hospitals have been suffering from a shortage of medicines as well as unavailability of the internet and the condition of pregnant women has been particularly critical. The unavailability of sanitary napkins has also created problems. 

Internet and Mobile phones are considered as basic rights in our post-modern society. A whole population, a linguistic group has been cut off from the Internet. Kashmiri students have not been able to talk to their families, they do not know whether their parents are safe and they have been deprived of their financial sources. 

Besides, increasing violent attacks on Kashmiri students across campuses means that their space to speak freely here has also been shrinking, even as they already constituted one of the most vulnerable sections of the student community. 

The fact that the government has to snap internet and mobile services for a whole population in order to maintain ‘normalcy’ is an ominous sign for our society. Such a move is simply unacceptable in a democracy where the power lies with the people. 

Another ominous development has been the shrinking of democratic spaces in our campuses and streets. As citizens of a democracy, the right to speak and express our political demands is one of our fundamental rights. 

The students and individuals demanding the restoration of Article 370, or expression of any other democratic aspirations have to be respected and protected. Instead, they are being assaulted, for instance in JNU on 3rd October, Kashmiris and protesting students were attacked by a mob of 50 students. The violence which the Kashmiri students have been facing on the campuses at the hand of ABVP workers and others must be denounced and checked. 

The contribution of the Indian student movement in raising a voice against this oppression has been disappointing. Silence at this juncture will be counted as complicity in the crimes being committed in our names. 

We, a diverse group of IIT students and alumni, demand the government of India to i) restore communication and mobile services in the valley immediately, ii) release the political prisoners, iii) work towards resolving the conflict respecting the democratic aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

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