The CSI Desk at The Other Media functions as the coordinating desk for the programs in the North- East and Jammu and Kashmir. The Desk is engaged in building and developing meaningful dialogue and partnerships with the civil society, platforms and forums in North-East and Jammu and Kashmir. CSI Kashmir Desk based in Srinagar and the NEPI (Northeast People’s Initiatives) Secretariat office based in Guwahati are the main program-based offices of the CSI Desk.
CSI Kashmir Desk works under an Advisory Committee, which guides and supports the functioning of the Desk. The Kashmir Desk currently maintains a Resource Center, which provides resources for students and youth. The Resource Center will be developed as place where students would be encouraged to undertake research, engage in socio-cultural, lego-political, ethno-linguistic dialogue.
The NEPI office provides a secretariat to the forum which is constituted by academicians, activists, movements, thinkers, mass organization leaders engaged in peace, human rights and justice issues. A Program Associate of The Other Media coordinates the programs of the organization and programs of NEPI.
From the early days of violence and political turmoil in the Indian administered areas of J&K, The Other Media and the people associated with the organization at different levels have been involved with wide range of issues concerning peoples’ lives in this conflict zone. From human rights related fact findings to initiating dialogue with political players in the region, The Other Media’s collaboration with different civil society groups (and individuals) in Jammu & Kashmir dates long back. During times when the violent conflict in the region made direct local civil society intervention impossible, The Other Media operated through human rights and peace activists from outside the region, in the process also empowering local initiatives and organizations.
The militarized nature of the conflict did not permit organizations like The Other Media to be directly involved with the kind of initiatives needed. Hence The Other Media became a part of the Citizens’ Initiative on Kashmir, operating with a secretariat in Delhi. Many fact-finding missions and campaigns against human rights violations and militarization were organized under this banner by The Other Media. However, it was only towards late 1990’s and early 2000 that The Other Media could get to associate with and organize Kashmiri civil society. The first concrete programme, whereby civil society groups of both J&K and rest of India were brought together, was organized in 2000, in Delhi. This programme was organized by The Other Media, wit help from PIPFPD and SAFHR (Kathmandu). Similar initiatives at different levels have been going on from time to time, since then. This gathering culminated in the formation of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKFCSO). This coalition after two years was converted to Coalition of Civil Society, one of the biggest civil society players in Kashmir today. The Other Media’s North East Region work in the past has spanned supporting civil society organisations in the conflict zones with secretarial and logistical assistance and also in building linkages and associations with CSOs in ‘rest of India’ on these issues. The Other Media’s work in these areas is founded on the firm belief that the larger CS and CSOs show the way to transformation of conflicts.
Specific activities in the past 13 years include:
- Active support to groups and movements in NE struggling for Human Rights, right to life and livelihood with dignity, Peace, Civil Liberties and Democratic rights. These included support to programmes and campaigns by NPMHR/MASS/NESO/NSF/ NMA/ etc.
- Establishment of a loose knit Forum of Intellectuals, Academics, Activists, Students, Women’s’ Groups etc. (from Delhi mainly) under the banner of Solidarity Group in Support of The Restoration of the Civil & Democratic Rights in the North East
- Supported and run the secretariat for National Campaign for the Repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
- Published dossiers and reports on AFSPA
- Provided assistance to the legal case against AFSPA in the Supreme Court
- Initiated Civil Society’s initiatives on Human Rights, Justice & Naga Peace Process, which conducted a national programme in Kohima in 2001 and published an extensive research report on ‘Four Years of Ceasefire: Promises and Pitfalls’, analyzing the peace process between NSCN-IM and GOI
- Extending legal and lobbying assistance to HR groups and people’s organizations in their struggles against draconian legislations, illegal detentions/arrests, etc.
- Involvement in the border refugee issues
- Published resource material on different conflict related issues in NE, for eg. On the Naga Resistance Movement, the Naga-Kuki conflict, Report on the Chin refugees in Mizoram, etc.
- Organized Coalition of civil liberty and human rights organizations against POTO/Act
- Active support to the Naga Civil Society Initiative, ‘People to People Dialogue – the Journey of Conscience’
The Programmes undertaken by the Civil Society Initiative Desk are :-
a. Kashmir Resource Centre
The Kashmir Resource Centre aims at establishing a place in Srinagar that would provide a place for students and young people to access information, reading material and for interactions as well. The Centre will also organize focused discussions each month on specific issues. It will be a space that will fill the gap of decimation of cultural spaces for interaction following long years of militarization and restriction of movement especially for the young people.
b. Women Against Militarization and State Violence Programme
The Other Media Programme Women Against Militarization and State Violence came into being in 2007 as an outcome of its involvement in the conflict regions of Kashmir and North East through civil society organizations there. In terms of work with women in conflict areas, The Other Media has been associated with Naga Mothers Association (NMA), Naga Women’s Union of Manipur (NWUM), Indigenous Women’s Forum of North East India (IWFNEI), Boro Women Justice Forum (BWJF), Karbi Nimso Chingthur Asong (KNCA) etc. in North East and Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in Kashmir.
A conference of women titled “State Violence and Women: Survivors, Defenders and Leaders” was organized by The Other Media on 6-8 July 2007 in New Delhi. It focused on experiences of women from regions with a long history of militarization. The participants who included women representing civil society organizations, individuals, media persons and academicians from India’s North East and Jammu and Kashmir decided to constitute a working group that would continue the process of bringing together women from the conflict regions. The Other Media was requested to provide a secretariat in Delhi for coordinating the activities of the process.
Since 2007 The Other Media has been supporting the program and providing the secretariat that coordinates the programs planned by the working group. It also helps the working group to formulate programs responding to the needs of the situation in the conflict areas.
c. Impact of Conflict on Education and Child Rights
This study proposal aims at studying the impact of the presence and controls of the security forces in the villages and towns of Kashmir on education and child rights. It will study the impact on education in terms of drop outs, discontinued education and mental health cases among children. It is also aimed at assessing the impact on non-school going children.
The pervasive alienation and resentment over the subversion of democratic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir finally erupted in an armed resistance movement in 1989. The armed movement was met with deployment of the massive military might of the Indian State. Pakistan also provided material and moral support to the armed groups thus mystifying the situation. It resulted in complete militarization of the region with some estimates stating that more than 700,000 Indian Army and paramilitary troops are spread across the tiny Jammu and Kashmir region – making it one of the most militarized places on earth. The dreaded Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, vesting complete impunity to the security forces, was enforced in the State. This law, coupled with other special laws, completely emasculated the civilian democratic set up in the State.
This has led to countless instances of grave human rights violations in Kashmir by the security forces in the name of controlling the insurgency there over the last 17 years. The army and the security forces virtually had been given a carte blanche to control the secessionist movement. More than 3500 persons, by Government’s own admission, have disappeared in these years. There have been several instances of indiscriminate firing on demonstrators, use of civilians as human shields and systemic violence against women by security forces. Thousands of youth have been killed in fake encounters by security personnel for official benefits and favours.
This programme proposes to assess the extent of militarization in the state of region with special focus on its direct impact on education. It envisages a survey of the number of educational institutions that have been occupied by security forces and compilation of information on harassment of students by security forces, the state of enforcement of juvenile protection laws and other related information that can give a comprehensive picture of the effect of militarization on education in the state.
d. Civil Society Dialogue
This programme aims at making a fresh initiative of building dialogue between the civil societies of Kashmir and elsewhere in India on the issue of conflict in Kashmir. It seeks to strengthen the constituencies that will look critically at the past and existing political processes of the government of India, Indian political parties and a range of Kashmiri political opinion. The programme is hoped to pave the way for a sustained people to people dialogue for a just resolution of the dispute.
This will be among the fresh initiatives of The Other Media in Kashmir. With our experience of coordinating earlier initiatives elsewhere like the ‘Naga journey of conscience’, The Other Media will undertake this new challenge meant for initiating an interaction and dialogue between the civil society of Kashmir and that of different regions of India. It will be a tour cum interaction programme, meant both at educating those from Kashmir about other issues/struggles etc and educating people from different regions/cities in India about the issues of Kashmir and the need for an early political resolution to this issue. The tour programme involving almost 30 people from different regions of Indian administered regions of Jammu and Kashmir will be held in 4 phases; East India, South India, Central India and North India. The series is planned at a stretch of 10 months, with sufficient recuperative gaps. The delegation will include civil society representatives and all the regional programmes will be organized by / held in consultation with different local/regional partners. Coalition of Civil Society – J&K will be one of the primary partners in the project and many youth groups like ‘Initiatives’ (Mumbai) and peace initiatives like Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum state chapters in India will be the secondary partners in the project.
e. Community Dialogue for Conflict Transformation in Karbi Anglong
This programme aims at bringing together conflicting communities and civil societies in the North East, to sit together and dialogue. The project is envisaged around the field expertise and the credibility of neutrality that The Other Media holds with the civil society groups in NE.
The first phase of the programme has been conceived around a pilot programme in the strife torn hill districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills. It has been proposed that in the pilot programme, CSI Desk will invite the CSO and political party representatives of Karbis and Dimasas from the Karbi Anglong Hill tracks of Assam state for discussions.
Teams of Members from NEPI have had a series of visits to Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills between March to October 2007 and conducted meetings with the District Aministration, journalists, academicians litterateurs, and Karbi and Dimasa Civil Society Organizations. NEPI and The Other Media have prepared a preliminary report on the status of relief and rehabilitation of the displaced people during the conflict. The Report indicates a tense situation between the Karbi and Dimasa groups characterized by fear and insecurity and polarisation of communities.
The team also found that the villagers have not been adequately been rehabilitated and their livelihood has not been completely restored. The affected families received only a meager sum of Rs. 1600 and 3 bundles of tins for reconstruction of their homes. Their patta (land title-deeds) and other documents were burnt in the violence and arson. The Administration has been asking for copies of FIR for restoration of their pattas and the police personnel have been asking for bribes before handing a verification report or a FIR. Therefore, most villagers have not got their patta. Further, very few villagers have been able to get back to to agriculture in a proper way due to loss of implements and cattle. A large number of people have started working as daily labourers. Several others have started agriculture with rented tractors and shared cows and goats.
f. NEPI Resource Center
NEPI will aim at creating a resource center to assist the local young people and students belonging to indigenous communities. The center will also provide all kinds of support to people’s organizations and movements in the NE in their campaigns and advocacy work. The creation of a Resource center is a part of the second phase of consolidation of NEPI. The forum will continue to generate debate and discussion and thus facilitate the process of coming together of CSOs on common issues of human rights, peace, justice and democracy. The Working Group will meet to guide the programs. The General Body will meet to discuss and give their views.
The other important objective of NEPI is to facilitate the emergence of young leadership that is rooted in the community and is equipped with theoretical understanding of larger issues of peace, democracy and human rights. NEPI plans to organize workshops for this purpose. It will benefit the front line young activists in the CSOs.