SRINAGAR: A week ahead of the first anniversary of the execution of Mohammad Afzal Guru, many civil society members from across the globe have expressed support to campaign for release of Kashmiri political prisoners held in various Indian jails and for the return of mortal remains of Guru and JKLF founder Mohammad Maqbool Bhat.
At least 62 civil society members, mostly academicians, from the US, Canada, Switzerland, Palestine, Pakistan, and the UK have signed a letter seeking support for release of all Kashmiri political prisoners, “especially those who have been arrested without charges or on spurious charges of ‘sedition’—often simply for expressing political dissent”; and for return to their families of the last remains of Afzal Guru and Bhat, “being kept illegally in the Tihar prison in New Delhi, where they were executed based on politically-motivated judgments and against all norms of justice and fairness.” Maqbool Bhat was hanged in the Tihar Jail on February 11, 1984, while Guru was executed on February 9 last year. Both of them are buried in the jail.
The letter was circulated among the academicians, filmmakers, scholars, and writers in the countries by Huma Dar (a California-based Kashmiri academician), Mohammad Junaid and Ather Zia (both Anthropology scholars in the US) as part of their month-long multifaceted campaign ahead of Guru’s death anniversary.
The trio has been also running a ‘fasting campaign’ online in which the men and women, mostly youth, from in and outside the Kashmir Valley voluntarily observe day-long fasts particularly to express solidarity with incarcerated Kashmiris.
The letter, circulated through emails, also seeks support for “fair trials for those imprisoned on charges of criminal conspiracy against the state; end to the culture of open cases against the Kashmiris who are peacefully expressing their dissent; revocation of the draconian laws like AFSPA and PSA; and a sincere and time-bound political process that will lead to negotiations with genuine Kashmiri representatives for the future of Kashmir.”
The signatories include the likes of Judith Butler (Hannah Arendt Chair at the European Graduate School and Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, University of California at Berkeley); Joel Beinin (Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Professor of Middle-East History, Department of History, Stanford University); and Sherene Razack (Professor, Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and Social Justice Education and Department of Comparative, International and Development Education, OISE, University of Toronto).
While disclosing the letter to media on Monday, the campaigners termed the activity as “successful” in raising awareness about the condition of Kashmiri political prisoners.
“This might also be the beginning of the end of Indian colonial obfuscation around its occupation of Kashmir in academia worldwide,” they said.
The letter is now being posted on change.org, a portal for online petitions, for anyone to sign and support.
“It will continue now onwards as a petition, everyone can sign on change.org,” Dar told Kashmir Reader.