Expressing dismay over what they called state and central governments' abandoning people of Kashmir, the Concerned Citizens' Collective Committee, a Delhi based civil society group, that was on three day Valley visit from December 12, today said that "the only face of government that the people of the Valley encounter is of a repressive security establishment".
The Concerned Citizens' Collective team comprising civil society activists Pamela Philippe, Navshran Singh, Dinesh Mohan, Harsh Mandar and Tapan Bose in a joint statement issued after completing three-day visit said that there is no proportionality of state response as stone pelting is met by bullets and pellet guns.
"The high proportion of injuries on the face and above the waist demonstrate that there was official intention to shower hundreds of pellets on the agitated population, not to disperse but to kill or permanently disable," the statement reads.
"This attitude of governments, both state and central is even more regrettable because the large majority of the victims of the bullets and pellet guns are children, many of them so young that they could not have been part of any agitation. Even for those boys who were pelting stones, the response of a democratic state cannot be to disable them for life, or to kill them."
There is also no display of public compassion by the state government, which has failed to reach out to the children who are blinded and disabled, and their suffering families, many of whom are too frightened to seek medical treatment for fear of being criminalised, it further reads.
At the same time, the Committee greatly appreciated the doctors and public medical community, including in psychiatry and ophthalmology, who extended 'extraordinarily compassionate, even heroic, service and care" to the victims of pellet and gun injuries.
"The Committee was distressed to learn that many children are presently incarcerated in adult prisons. Others are detained in juvenile homes but without the protections of a comprehensive juvenile justice system which has not been established in JK.," it said, adding, "Equally distressing is the finding that both children and adults are being detained under the draconian anti-democratic Public Security Act."
The Concerned Citizens' Collective team met a wide range of the Kashmiri population over their four-day stay in Kashmir. They interacted with over 150 persons, ranging from children disabled by pellets and bullets and their caregivers, youth, women, older people, working people, farmers, doctors, human rights and civil society activists, journalists, traders, business leaders, writers, and villagers in Kulgam, Pulwama and Anantnag.
"This wide swathe of public opinion was nearly unanimous in expressing their anguish and alienation from the state. It was clear to the Committee this was no longer a movement of militants supported by Pakistan as is portrayed in the national media, but a broad-based movement of almost all sections of Kashmiri society," the statement signed by all the five members reads.
"A number of people who met the team members asked that if the Kashmiri people were indeed equal citizens of India, then why does the government and its security establishment use forms and levels of state violence in the Kashmir valley that they do not deploy in other parts of the country?"
Demanding immediate ban on use of pellet guns, the committee said that they stand in solidarity with all these people suffered during past five months.
"The Committee also demands that the leadership of both the central and state governments publicly express regret for their use on children and civilians; that peaceful dissent and stone pelting is met in future with democratic, proportionate and restrained response by the police and security personnel; that security personnel responsible for these excesses and violence are punished; that the state administration releases forthwith all children and youth and political prisoners; that it reaches out humanely with all support for treatment, rehabilitation, education and livelihoods of persons disabled because of bullets and pellets and their caregivers; and that a peaceful, just and humane atmosphere is created in the state to initiate political engagement and meaningful dialogue to address the widely held grievances of the people."