DEPORTING GAUTAM NAVLAKHA
By Abdul Majid Zargar
The worst fears of human rights advocates were realized on 28th May when noted human rights defender Gautam Navlakha was detained at Srinagar Airport, retained for a day and deported back to India the next day. The Govt. has not offered any convincing explanation for the drastic step.
Kashmiri people are no new to such type of Hara-kiri committed under the banner of national security. The ink on accession papers had barely dried when our political leadership set the process of deportation & extermination of people in motion- and believe me the charges used to be as frivolous as “listening to Radio Pakistan”.
In Kashmir, the human rights defenders have always been at the receiving end of the State’s brutality. The meticulously planned assassination of Dr. Abdul Ahad Guroo, targeted Killing of Dr. Ashai and brutal murder of Jaleel Andrabi are a few instances among many. Worst more is that the perpetrators are roaming free with the active connivance of largest democracy in the world. The fault lines of India’s flawed Kashmir policy are becoming visible with each passing day. Here the perpetrators of human rights violations are being conferred with civilian awards and their defenders with punishments.
What wrong did Gautam Commit to merit deportation? In a place where killing, torture, deaths & disappearances in custody. Denial of a right to a fair trial, Persecution, humiliation and denial of a right to secure life, rape & Violations of the privacy of homes is common & routine; he demands that these be put to an end. He is only calling for justice in a society that is striving to be just, and he does not want people to be raped or killed or imprisoned or have their nails pulled out to force them to call themselves Indian. The truth of what is happening in Kashmir needs to be told. Brutality by the state and the silencing of human rights defenders is no option for India. Forcing Shapiro (husband of Angina Chatter-a human rights defender) to return to the U.S., threatening Arundhati Roy with sedition, and now deporting Gautam Navlakha illustrate how government wants to muzzle saner voices in Kashmir. A culture of impunity has been allowed to flourish in the state, allowing perpetual harassment and killing of those-who-dare-to-speak to continue unchecked.
While India describes itself as the world’s largest functioning democracy, its democratic aspirations look risible in the context of the ongoing denial of rights and violations of international law in occupied Kashmir. Does a democracy need garrisons and army brigades to impose its authority on civilian cities, towns and hamlets on a daily basis for decades? The answer is \”No\”..Democracies empower people to make decisions. They offer opportunities for people to even secede from state unions, as was afforded to Quebecois in Canada. Such are democratic principles. Real democracies don’t impose draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Power Act or the Public Safety Act. They do not use laws governing unlawful assemblies (section 144) to curb movements of a single individual. They do not impose declared & undeclared curfews & arrest people in their own houses. As very rightly observed by the head of the ad hoc delegation to Kashmir of the European Parliament, John Walls Cushnahan, Kashmir is \”the world’s most beautiful prison\”
But let us not lose heart. There are people in India like Shivam Vij, a Delhi based writer, who has this to say about the struggle of the people of Kashmir: “As an Indian I believe in the Constitution of India. I endorse the Kashmiris’ right to demand independence from India because the values of occupation are not the values of the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution. Forcing a nation to identify itself with the Indian Union is not the spirit of Indian Constitution. If the idea of India is one where the self appointed guardians of nationalism decide what national interest is and then want to see in jail those who don’t agree with that version of national interest, we must all secede from such an India. We are all Kashmiris!”
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. Feed back at firstname.lastname@example.org)