A group of former Indian officials dealing with Pakistan and Kashmir, ex-military men, academics and journalists have expressed serious concern over the intrusions and assaults against civilians in the India-held region, which are accompanied by an absence of accountability from the authorities, according to a statement.
“We, as thinking citizens of the world’s foremost democracy, have been deeply distressed by the disturbances afflicting Kashmir since July,” the group said in the statement issued on Sunday.
The group spoke by suggestion and did not directly blame the military or the Modi government.
Prominent among its members are former RAW and IB chief A.S. Dulat, former army chief V.P. Malik and former foreign minister Yashwant Sinha.
Panel includes a former foreign minister and an ex-army chief
“We have watched with grave foreboding as Kashmir has descended into turmoil for the past several months. A grave and unfortunate situation developed and nearly a hundred people have died and many others injured. Most regrettably for our country, most casualties have been from among the youth, even children, many of whom could have been our leaders into the future. Yet there has been no accountability thus far,” the group said.
“We, as fellow countrymen, grieve with the families of those who have suffered the loss of their near and dear ones and too many of whose children have even lost vision. We have been emotionally wounded by these unfortunate developments, and feel the agony of our brothers and sisters in Kashmir. As a nation we need to do everything possible to assuage their pain even when we cannot undo their loss,” the group said.
Though Kashmir was bound to India by sturdy laws, “only bonds of love and understanding will bind India together”, said the statement.
It said the rights of Indians should be secured everywhere. “These can be secured only by giving all our citizens voice and the feeling that this is their country as much as Kashmir is part of us. It is undoubtedly the duty of the democratically elected government of the State of J&K to create a peaceful and humane environment in Jammu and Kashmir.”
The statement came a day ahead of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination anniversary on January 30, and it made note of that.
“On this day as we observe the martyrdom of the father of our nation we would do well to remember that this is also the responsibility of all citizens of India to their fellow citizens as that alone can help lead to meeting the aspirations of all.”
The group includes Justice A.P. Shah, former chief justice of the Delhi High Court; Aruna Roy, founding member of the Mazdur Kisan Shakti Sanghatan; Chinmaya Gharekhan, former ambassador to the UN; Darius Forbes, industrialist; H.K. Dua, journalist and former member of the Rajya Sabha; H.D. Muni, former professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU); I.H. Latif, former air chief marshal; Begum Bilqees Latif; Prof Irfan Habib, historian and author; Julio Ribeiro, former Punjab DGP; Smt Kapila Vatsayan, chairperson of the Asia Project of IIC; Kalpana Sharma, senior journalist and author; Prem Shankar Jha, senior journalist and author; Ramchandra Guha, historian, author and biographer; Ronen Sen, former Indian ambassador to the US; Salman Haidar, former foreign secretary; S.K. Lambah, former special envoy of the prime minister; Shyam Saran, former foreign secretary; Shekhar Gupta, senior journalist and author; V. Balachandran, former special secretary of the Cabinet Secretariat; Prof Zoya Hasan of the Centre for Political Studies, JNU; Wajahat Habibullah, former chairman of the Minorities Commission; Kapil Kak, retired air vice marshal; Bharat Bhushan, editor of the Catch News; and Sushobha Barve of the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation.