“What justification is there for an event that does not include a single Kashmiri or anyone who has taken a public stand against the abrogation of Article 370?” the protesters asked.

Protest against non-Kashmiri all-male panel discussion on JK in Bengaluru
news Protests Sunday, September 15, 2019 - 16:12

Over 35 people, including prominent journalists, authors and activists have spoken out against Bengaluru-based Bangalore International Centre for its event on September 15, Sunday, titled 'Jammu and Kashmir: The Way Forward,' which was a panel discussion on the events after Article 370 was abrogated. The speakers at the event were Ashok Malik, Senior Journalist and Political Analyst; Lt Gen Prakash Menon (Retd), Director of Strategic Studies, Takshashila Institution; Anand Arni Distinguished Fellow, Takshashila Institution;and  Nitin Pai Co-founder and Director, Takshashila Institution.

In a statement, India Against Hatred has expressed their deep reservations about the event. “Under the circumstances, how can the very first event being held in the BIC to discuss the developments of August 5 and thereafter be premised on the assumption that the post-abrogation scenario is a fait accompli that need not, cannot and must not be questioned? And that all that remains is for “the Indian government and civil society” “to manage the political, social and security consequences arising from the move”?” the statement said. The statement, at the time of writing, has been endorsed by over 35 people, including journalists, activists and authors.

“What justification is there for an event that does not include a single Kashmiri or anyone who has taken a public stand against the abrogation of Article 370, or anyone who has reported from the ground on the reality of the current situation in Kashmir? We won’t even get into the acceptability of manels – and this is a non-Kashmiri, upper-caste, all-male panel – in this day and age,” the statement added. 

“The BIC maintains that it is a “neutral” space that provides a forum – open to the public – for bi-partisan debate and discussions where different points of view can be heard,” the statement said, adding, “If the BIC stands by its claim that it is committed to genuine, non-partisan debate that enables multiple, diverse schools of thought to contend, it must not associate itself with events like this one which promote an unquestioning, unilateral approach to current events,” the statement said.

Reacting to this, V Ravichandar, Honorary Director, Bangalore International Centre, told TNM, "As the panel discussion today was to begin, some representatives wished to make a statement. BIC believes in freedom of expression and listening to all voices. They were given time to make their statement which they did. Post that the panel discussion started. The entire video of the event (90 minutes) will be uploaded by tomorrow (Monday) and we request readers to view it.”

On August 5, the union government had abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, removing special status for Jammu and Kashmir; it also converted the erstwhile state into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir, which will be a Union Territory with Legislature, and Ladakh, a union territory without legislature.

A day before, on August 4, a massive clampdown was issued in Jammu and Kashmir. Many leaders in the Valley, including Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, were placed under house arrest and continue to remain so. Mobile and internet services were suspended in the state and while authorities deny any incidents of violence and dissent, there have been reports of protests and action by the government in the Valley.

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