NEW DELHI    -    A group of members from marginalised communities and anti-caste alliances in the country have condemned the support of “certain Dalit-Bahujan political party leaders” to the Centre’s decision to read down Article 370.

In a statement with 132 signatories, the members expressed sympathies with the people of Kashmir, who they said “are in a confused and panicked state” ever since the Centre decided to shut down transportation and communication services in the Valley.

“We fail to understand why political parties representing Dalits, Bahujans and minorities have refused to acknowledge the BJP government’s blatantly tyrannical act of shutting down life in Kashmir,” the statement says.

The statement also condemned “propaganda” that Dr B.R. Ambedkar refused to draft Article 370. “Scholars who have studied Dr. Ambedkar’s works have stated time and again that there is no evidence to support this claim, and that it is a sinister rumour generated by right-wing mouthpieces,” they said.

Ambedkar “staunchly supported a plebiscite because he believed that Muslims of Kashmir must be the sole decision-makers of their fate”, the statement says. “We strongly believe that Dr. Ambedkar’s words have been used out of context to build legitimacy for the removal of Kashmir’s special status from the Constitution. A statesman of his stature would have been the last person today to support the siege of Kashmir by Indian troops.”

The signatories said that the BJP government’s “problem with Kashmir” is not over ownership of land, but “rather over the Muslims who live there”. “The opposers of Dalit–Bahujans have long used many strategies to keep Dalit–Bahujans and Muslims disunited, and we see the recent abrogation of Article 370 as a part of the same scheme,” they said.

The letter said the signatories do not support “leaders representing us [Dalit-Bahujans]” who approved the revocation of the special status to Kashmir. “We would like to tell such representatives that they do not represent our collective voice when they fail to understand the plight of any (and every) marginalised community in the world,” the statement says.

The full statement has been reproduced below.

We, the undersigned — Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi, members of all marginalised communities and anti-caste allies of India — condemn the support shown by certain Dalit–Bahujan political party leaders to the Bharatiya Janata Party government’s decision of diluting Article 370 of Constitution of India through fraudulent means. Our heart goes out to the people of Kashmir who are in a confused and panicked state ever since the union government shut down transportation and communication services in the Valley under the pretext of terror threat to pilgrims, effectively imposing an information blackout. The movement of over 46,000 Army and Air Force troops in the last one week, in addition to the 6.5 lakh–7.5 lakh force already stationed in the Valley, is alarming. We fail to understand why political parties representing Dalits, Bahujans and minorities have refused to acknowledge the BJP government’s blatantly tyrannical act of shutting down life in Kashmir. Some individuals continue to spread the right-wing propaganda that claims Dr. B.R. Ambedkar refused to draft Article 370. Scholars who have studied Dr. Ambedkar’s works have stated time and again that there is no evidence to support this claim, and that it is a sinister rumour generated by right-wing mouthpieces. In his letter of resignation as cabinet minister, dated October 10, 1951 (BAWS Vol. 14, Part Two, Section IV), Dr. Ambedkar had staunchly supported a plebiscite because he believed that Muslims of Kashmir must be the sole decision-makers of their fate. We strongly believe that Dr. Ambedkar’s words have been used out of context to build legitimacy for the removal of Kashmir’s special status from the Constitution. A statesman of his stature would have been the last person today to support the siege of Kashmir by Indian troops.

Dr. Ambedkar’s life and writings are testimony to the fact that in any situation the chief architect of the Indian Constitution stood firmly on the side of human rights and liberty. The Constitution of India, which is considered one of the finest in the world, demonstrates the importance Dr. Ambedkar gave to people’s freedoms. The Constitution is now being torn down by the BJP government at the centre, for their ideological aims. We urge everyone to not fall for the propaganda spread by right-wing forces in the name of Dr. Ambedkar.

Moreover, it is important to note that the current situation in Kashmir is drastically different from the 1950s. Many Kashmiris have lost members of their family in the intervening decades; women have been allegedly raped by the armed forces; people have been living in fear under constant threat. This has caused an irreparable breakdown of trust between the people of Kashmir and the Indian administration. The Kashmiri people have not experienced ‘normalcy’ since the past 70 years.

But in all the euphoria generated about Indians being able to buy land in Kashmir now, the BJP government has conveniently ignored and even hidden the fact that in the states where they are domicile most Dalits are landless labourers and unable to buy any land. The Dalits are treated as secondary citizens in their villages and in cities. Further, the practice of seizing lands from Adivasis and indigenous people has been on the upswing under this government. The fantasy that the BJP government is now presenting to the marginalised people of India is nothing but a farce. Additionally, we would also like to highlight the fact that Jammu and Kashmir was not the only state to have had special status. Under Article 371 of the Indian Constitution, eleven other states of India are accorded special status.

 

 Of these, six are north-eastern states, which are predominantly populated by Adivasi and indigenous people. We fear that the BJP government may use similar methods to arbitrarily impose President’s rule and amend the Constitution without giving due consideration to the federal principles laid out in the document; that it might brutally crush the freedoms and rights of the Northeast’s indigenous people, thereby harming their culture and dignity.

We are aware that the BJP government’s problem with Kashmir is not over ownership of land, but rather over the Muslims who live there. The opposers of Dalit–Bahujans have long used many strategies to keep Dalit–Bahujans and Muslims disunited, and we see the recent abrogation of Article 370 as a part of the same scheme. Regrettably, some leaders representing us in Parliament have supported the BJP government’s undemocratic action. With this letter we make it clear that those leaders don’t have our support in this matter. We would like to tell such representatives that they do not represent our collective voice when they fail to understand the plight of any (and every) marginalised community in the world.

We extend our solidarity to Muslims in Kashmir and all over India, who at this moment are forced to live in intense fear, under this government’s rule. We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Kashmiris and for what they are being made to go through. We, the oppressed people of this country, are standing strong to fight against all injustice done in the name of nationality, religion, caste and gender by the BJP-led union government. To the Kashmiri people, we pledge our unstinting support.