Gautam Navlakha launched an Independent Initiative on Kashmir in the 1980s and that was when we had some serious discussion on the Kashmir question at Delhi University. Many of us were so far confused about the way to formulate the J&K issue and most people were unaware of the historical facts. Gautam, then with the Economic and Political Weekly, was among the few who clearly underlined the political question of self-determination that was at the center of the debate. Gautam was among the very few who had grasped the issues, personally investigated the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir, produced many fact-finding reports which shaped the thinking in the civil liberty movement in India. It helped all those who were keen to understand the underlying currents and pledge solidarity with the people of J & K.
As violence and counter-violence increased and repression by security forces and attacks by militants persisted, Gautam and the civil liberty activists in India and in J&K were the voices of sanity stressing the importance of respecting human rights and democratic process in J&K. Gautam and the forces of the democratic rights were the most solid links of the unity of people of J&K and the rest of India. And this solidarity has grown over the years as we can witness it today.
Today as the struggle for democracy in J&K goes on amidst severe repression, Gautam Navlakha is in jail in Pune as one of BK 12 (Prof. Hany Babu of Delhi University became the 12th a few days ago) – accused in the Bhima Koregaon Case including famous poets, lawyers, academics and social workers. This false case illustrating how the Indian state felt threatened by human rights workers has evoked strong protest all over India and abroad against the arbitrary arrests and denial of bail even in the face of the COVID infection.
The work done by people like Gautam Navlakha continues to inspire the struggle for democratic rights in India and in J&K. I had the privilege to work with Gautam in PUDR ( People’s Union for Democratic Rights, Delhi) and PIPFPD ( Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy) for over three decades. He represents that generation of activist intellectuals whose determination, clarity of purpose, and fearlessness continue to inspire a generation of democratic youth.
Our struggle for democracy will continue despite all the challenges and we will surely see Gautam and the entire B K Twelve out with us soon in person to guide us forward.
Stand with the People of Jammu and Kashmir!
Demand restoration of Article 370!
Demand restoration of Statehood of J&K!
End military rule, Enforce Constitutional Rights!