New Delhi: A group of 284 eminent Indian citizens – including academics, journalists, political leaders and others – have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind, calling the current clampdown in Kashmir “unacceptable”.
The signatories have said the Centre’s decision to read down Article 370 and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories was taking without consulting locals, “and we still do not know how the people of Jammu and Kashmir feel”.
They also quoted a recent Kerala high court decision which said that the right to internet is a fundamental right, and said that internet services must be restored in the Valley on humanitarian grounds.
The full text of their petition and the list of signatories is below.
The people of the Kashmir valley and parts of Jammu have been under a security, political and communications lockdown since August 5, 2019. Thousands of troops man the entrances and exits to their homes, schools and universities. Hundreds of political leaders, including former Chief Ministers and legislators are under ‘preventive detention’. Mobile phones are blocked and internet snapped. Businesses have lost thousands of crores.
At the same time, our government has removed Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and divided the state into two Union Territories. Both steps were taken without consultation with the people of the former state or their elected leaders. It has been 68* days since the lockdown and we still do not know how the people of Jammu and Kashmir feel. We are unable even to speak to our friends and relatives in the valley.
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On humanitarian grounds, we find this situation unacceptable. The government should restore mobile and internet connections, which were declared a fundamental right just recently by the Kerala High Court.
On democratic grounds, too, we find this situation unacceptable. If the government can take away freedom of expression and the right to debate legislation that affects their lives in Jammu and Kashmir, what prevents them from doing so across the country?
It is not too late to roll-back the lockdown, hold legislative assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir and let the people decide on Article 370 and statehood. We appeal to the government to do so.
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*When the petition was first started the count was 52 days. This figure has been updated to the date of sending the petition.
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