Archive for the ‘Arrest’ Category

On 15 March 1929, Sir Albino Banerjee, a Bengali Christen, who for two years had been  Foreign and Political Minister of   Maharaja Hari Singh had observed that the rulers had been treating “Mohammadan population” worst than “cattle.”  Ninety years later, when the idea of governance in the world has undergone a sea change,andcolonialism has crashed themindset of those in the corridors of “hegemonic authority” in the state has not changed. That the ‘ruling elite’ even in the second decade of the twenty-first century considered the people of Kashmir as wild quadrupeds weremanifest in 2010when for silencing the dissenting youth it introduced guns meant for hunting of animals. And allowed troops to use the same with impunity in the state.Ironically, the pellet gun with its single cartridge spewing about five hundred lead-pellets on a finger touch was added to the deadly arsenal of the state as a ‘non-lethal weapon’by the ‘central government’.Of course with the consentof Omar Abdullah thethen chief of the unified military command in the state.  The   5.5 mm wadcutter, domed (round nose), hollow point and pointed lead pellets are deadlier than those used in air guns for animals. Intriguingly, Kashmir is the only place where this weapon is used for controlling thecivilian protest.

In 2010, summer hundred and twenty-sixchildren and youth were killed by thetroops and the state police, thousands wounded and injured,  some fired with pellets in the face and eyes lost their vision. The state using all coercive tactics in its arsenal and brute force in dealing with the situation that across the world was recognized as Kashmir ‘Intifada’had stirred the international media and caused editorials and reports in almost 1800 newspapers and web portals across the globe. It also had pin pricked the conscience of scores of conscientious citizen and writers in India. The killings of children, the insensitivity of the state and the impunity that soldiers have been enjoying under the Armed Forces Special Powers Actdeeply moved some writers and set them to rethink about New Delhi’s policies in Jammu and Kashmir.In fact, many of them  concluded  that “after six decades of effort, Kashmir’s alienation looks greater than ever before.” Some of themthrough their writings had endeavored to update the knowledge ofa new generation about the Kashmir problem that had caused four wars between India and Pakistan andtaken atoll of ‘country’s economy-  half ofthe population of India’s population has been living below the poverty line.Swaminathan S Aiyar had written, “Many Indians say that Kashmir legally became an integral part of India when the Maharaja of the state signed the instrument of accession. Alas, such legalisms become irrelevant when ground realities change. Indian kings and princes, including the Moguls, acceded to the British Raj. The documents they signed became irrelevant when Indians launched an independence movement.  The British insisted for a long time that India was an integral part of their Empire, the Jewel in its crown, and would never be given up. Imperialist Blimps remained in denial for decades. I fear we are in similar denial on Kashmir.”

The uprisings during the summers of 2008, 2009 and 2010, had convinced even a section of leadership in India like P. Chidambaram, the then Home Minister that the laws like the AFSPA, seen as the darkest of darklaws by people of the state need tobe withdrawn. Nevertheless, the lessons learned that the coercive tactics and brutish handling of the resistance instead of improving the situations complicate itfurther, andthe dialogue was the only way forwardof resolving the problem by adoptinga policy of denying even an inch of space to the voices of the dissent in the statewere unlearned after 2014. Instead of instilling some faith in youth through hate media blitzby some televisions channels they have been and are being driven to the wall.

In the recent past 2016 has been the grisliest year, the New York Times had rightly observed that in the history of Kashmir it would pass as the year of “Dead Eyes Epidemic.” In that year thousands of children with ‘eyes ruptured’ by lead pellets fired by paramilitary troops and police ‘armed with pump-actionshotguns’were brought to the hospitals- in fact, hospitals could not accommodate all those injured with pellets.   More than thirteen hundred suffered impaired vision,andhundreds of others pelleted to blindness pushed into darkness for rest of their life. From important newspapers in the world to the Amnesty International to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights every organization concerned about the human rights violations raised their voice against blinding of children and demanded to ban of the pellet guns. Even, the National Human Right Commission defending human right records of India before the UN Commission on Human Rights had described the use of pellet gun during 2016 turmoil as “controversial.”

For past three years, the UN Human Rights Commission has been showing concern about the human rights situation in the state and asking Islamabad and New Delhi for providing unbridled access to the state on both the sidesof the transitory dividing line.  Interestingly, despite,   voices raised in various international forums against the use of pellet gun on civilian protestors and blinding of children as young as four years, boys and girls nightmares of ‘epidemic of dead-eyes’  continue to haunt people. In fact, the ground situation during past three years has not changed.   Roughlysixty to seventy peoplewerehit with pellets, many in the face and the chest in past twenty days in April only.  Hardly, there is a day when stories with headings like “Kashmir’s many Inshas and their dark, shattered lives” or “Kashmir pellet injuries bring back memories of 2016” are not reported in the newspapers.

New Delhi, despite having assured abandoning the use of the pellet has not so far responded to the clarion calls from international human rights organizations. Troops continue to empty shotguns on juvenile protestors as shooting ducks.   In this tormenting bizarre scenario some days back a word of experience was distinctly visible in the statement of Army Chief, candidly saying that not the gun but ‘dialogue’ was a way forward. It is high time, for the present dispensation in New Delhi to pick up the word of experience and make a beginning for initiating a dialogue with all the internationally recognized contestingparties to the Dispute by revoking the AFSPA and retreating the pellet gun.

Z. G .MUHAMMAD
Columnist and Writer
Srinagar,
Kashmir.
www.peacewatchkashmir.com

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Every year, the world commemorates the victims of Haymarket affair that took place on Tuesday, May 4, 1886, at Haymarket Square in Chicago, by observing May 1st as International Workers’ Day in their memory; albeit in Canada & US, 1st September is chosen as Workers’ Day. On that fateful day, the workers had gathered peacefully to demonstrate & advocate for better working conditions. But, how many in the world know that Haymarket affair was not the first labour agitation against the exploitation of working class in the labour history of the world. Setting the records correct, it was precisely 29th April, 1865 when Kashmir’s weavers,  locally known as ‘Shawl Baufs’, had hit the streets of Srinagar in protest against the high taxes that were levied upon them by the Dogra despots. 1. Before coming to that tragic & fateful day in the labour history of the world, the appalling conditions under which the Kashmiri weavers & artisans worked would not be out of place to a mention. Under the Dogra rulers ‘system of taxation, the barest margin of subsistence was allowed to the Muslim Kashmiri workers. The production of silk, saffron, paper, tobacco, wine and salt was a State monopoly. An ad valorem duty of 85% was levied on all woolen manufacture. 2. Under these pitiable working conditions, the shawl weaver could, thus, hardly earn 7 or 8 chilki rupees per month, out of which he had to pay five chilkies as tax and had to live on remaining 2 or 3 chilkies, only  3., by buying singara (water chestnuts) for feeding his family. 4. The shawl weavers were allowed neither to leave Kashmir nor change their employment, so that they were nearly in the position of slaves. 5. There was fear with the Dogra ruler that migration by the weavers to other State would “reduce his revenue.” 6. But, still, thousands of shawl weavers, escaping cruel clutches of Dogra monarch’s frontier guards, had made their way to British Indian Punjab. 7. The weavers worked under the supervision of a most notorious taxation department of the Dogra rulers which was called Dagshalli that would arbitrarily collect exorbitant taxes for the tyrant ruler and regulate their work with factory owner or proprietor. In case, a weaver left the work, the Dagshalli through the Dogra soldiers would bring his wife, children & parents before them who would imprison them forthe weaver’s escape &, otherwise even, for his consequential failure to pay such exorbitant Dagshallitaxes to the ruler through the factory-owner. 8. The Dagshalli department was purchased by a wealthy Kashmiri Pandit, Raj Kak Dhar, under a contract with the Dogra ruler for rupees 20 lakhs. This had left Raj Kak Dhar entirely free to realise this amount through arbitrarily fixed tax rates of the ruler by employing brute force of Dogra soldiers. 9.

Now coming back to that sad day of Kashmir’s tragic history. The weavers on that fateful day of 29thApril, 1865 peacefully took out a procession that marched to the ground [maidan] of Zadagar, Srinagar, protesting against such break-breaking taxation, nominal wages, miserable working conditions & ban on migrating to neighbouring State of Punjab for comparatively better wages. Meanwhile, Raj Kak Dhar unnerved by the protest of the impoverished unarmed weavers misinformed Diwan of Dogra administration who immediately dispatched Dogra Army under the command of Col. Bije Singh who pushed the unarmed hungry multitude towards the narrow Haji Pather Bridge and in the stampede 28 poor unarmed weavers were drowned in the stream and scores injured. Next day the dead bodies were recovered from the stream and with a declared intention to seek the tyrant ruler’s justice, the dead bodies were paraded by the weavers and other Kashmiris, whose sympathy was naturally attracted by mayhem,    in a procession to place them before him. They were stopped by the Dogra army in the way & not allowed to proceed to meet the ruler. The organizers of the procession were arrested, tortured, jailed & even flogged. Among those incarcerated in Bahu Fort jail were Rasool Sheikh of Tanki Kadal,  Ali Pal, Abdul Qadus alias Qudoo Lala & Sona Shah who died due to the torture.  10. In the history of Kashmir liberation struggle, these unsung heroes of Kashmir are remembered as First Martyrs. 11.

Being also, the First Martyrs in the history of labour struggle of the world, they seem to have been forgotten by the State & the world, probably because the event had not taken place somewhere in Europe or America, but in a forgotten landlocked vale of Kashmir. Despite that, no one can doubt, those Kashmir weavers who laid their lives on 29th April, 1865 for sacred cause of seeking justice for labour class deserve to be remembered by all justice loving people of the world who fight for the rights of labour class with equal respect & honour as shown to the victims of Haymarket affair.

Footnotes:

  1. Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects: Islam, Rights, and the History of Kashmir, by Prof Mridu Rai, (2004) page 62
  2. Two Nations & Kashmir by Lord Birdwood (1956) page 31
  3. Geography of the State of J & K by Pandit Anand Koul Anand (1925) page 31
  4. Kashir by Dr GMD ( D Lit France) Vol 2, page 746
  5. The Abode of Snow by Andrew Wilson (1875) page 398; ibid page Kashir page 746
  6. Kashmir Papers, S N Gadru, (1973) page 68
  7. Kashmir a disputed legacy by Aliaster Lamb (1991) page 13; Ibid, Mridu Rai (4000 had fled the valley)
  8. Freedom Movement in Kashmir by Gh. Hassan Khan (2009) page 21
  9. Kashmiris-Fight-For-Freedom by M Y Saraf, ( 2009) vol 1, page 291
  10. Ibid; in 1920 & 1924 the Kashmir witnessed again bigger Srinagar Silk Factory Workers’ Agitations that brought to the surface the appalling conditions in which the workers were placed, J & K, Politics of identity & separatism by Rekha Chowdary ( 2015) page 20
  11. Comprehensive History of Kashmir Movement by Shabnum Qayoom ( 2014) vol 1, page 319

M J Aslam, Author, academician, storyteller & columnist, Presently, AVP (JKB).

Every day our youth lay down their lives. Every day the monster of violence and destruction, wreak havoc in the valley of flowers. Every day devil enters paradise to commit sins. Every day we carry the bullet-ridden bodies of our budding flowers and bury them, express anguish and shed tears. We mourn, and then there is a sort of truce and then we start once again and the whole cycle continues. That is Kashmir for you. Bleeding, crying for peace, and awaiting the promises made to it.

There are various narratives with regard to Kashmir: The narrative of Indian and Pakistani government, respective civil society of both the countries and the narrative of world community etc. All buzzing around, heard, discussed and finding a place at world forms, seminars, convocation and in media. We, who live the Conflict, too have a narrative, which however finds less sympathetic ears. Our narrative is, both ignored and accused of being barrowed or sponsored from outside. Our voice finds barricades on earth, under  water and even in air. Simply, we feel chocked.

The problem is, that world seems confused about us or plays ignorance. However, we do not want anything unacceptable out of blue. We simply deserve, what was promised to us and that is plebiscite. No one can take away our right to self-determination. We have no love for alienation or hatred towards social integration. We simply want peace, conflict resolution, respect for our property, lives, dignity, a space of freedom, for us, in our own land. That is no sin, off course.

What shocks us is that, those who experienced the wrath of colonialism on themselves should not have indulged in colonial acts. Those who once supported the freedom movements of many countries, like Bangladesh and South Africa etc should not have muted a similar voice in Kashmir. Those who once led non-align movement now have aligned themselves in such a way that the entire south Asia rests on a nuclear volcano with the trigger in Kashmir. Those who once stood for human rights now carry the acquisitions of human rights violations in Kashmir. Those who once propagated nonviolence and “Satyagraha” have adopted the policy of ruling with iron hand in Kashmir. You tell them reality, and with one stroke of “nationalism” “unity and integrity”, “soldier and boarders”, they will put an end to all your arguments, forgetting that their own preamble aims to secure to all its citizens justice, liberty and equality too, even if we set aside historical context of Kashmir, instrument of accession and the promise of plebiscite.

Regarding the world community, why should they make any efforts to resolve world conflicts including Kashmir, when that is what keeps their economy going. Those economists of conflict and violence manufacture wars, if their arms business seems going down. With conflict of Palestine, Middle East, Afghanistan, Rohingiya crises etc finding no solution, what hope we should keep from such civilized world?  UN has not jus failed us but also the whole world.

People in both India and Pakistan need to wake up from deep coma. They need to know that their tax money is being used for all kinds of evils. They need to know that resolution of Kashmir conflict is for their own betterment and for the good of humanity at large. They need to know that the conflict is probably been kept alive by a third party which looks at Kashmir conflict as a business opportunity only. Let they be shuddered by bitter truth, that, for politicians in India and Pakistan, Kashmir is an issue of election campaign. For Armies of both the countries, it is a place to play games and be like unbridled horses. For arms companies, it is a business hub. However, for us it is our paradise, turned into a living hell. Truth, even though twisted by knaves to make trap for fools, stands clear: We deserve and want to live in peace, with freedom and dignity.

Imran Khan, M.Phil in Psychology, Presently working a Teacher in School Education Department.

 

 

 Kashmir is bleeding, under fire


 The incidents of beating Kashmiri students in different institutions in India have been spreading like an epidemic. Every second day or so one hears about the students being roughed up in one or the other institution, in buses, in trains and so on. In fact, even some elder people returning in their own vehicles with their families through Punjab and Haryana have been manhandled by the local Police.

Thanks to some biased media channels, Kashmiris were turned into real “demons”! They were first labelled paid “Stone Pelters” and subsequently labelled “Stone Pelting Pakistani Terrorists”! Every stone pelter in Kashmir was made out to be a paid Pakistani terrorist. Stone pelting became a new form of terrorism.

The world’s second largest Army was given the task of eliminating these “Stone Pelting Terrorists” and they have been doing an excellent job. They are now shooting these so called “terrorists”like pigeons and ducks! There is not a single day when one or the other young stone pelter is killed in cold blood.

Kashmir has been practically bleeding! The depth of the anti-Kashmiri feeling can be judged from the statements of the Army Chief. He wishes the stone pelters had guns in their hands so that he could deal with them in a way he prefers! As if presently they are dealing with them very leniently!

In contrast, General Hooda and General Panang have always been giving very constructive suggestions for solving the problem in Kashmir. Incidentally, there is no history of any stone pelting mob being dealt in a way Kashmiris are being dealt in any other part of the country. In fact, some of the mobs in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have indulged in the worst type of violence yet no one has opened fire on them!

This demonizing of Kashmiris with a Pakistani touch suits the promoters of Hindutva ideology perfectly and it would be a great help in ushering in the Hindu Rashtra, which has been S.Golwalkar’s dream! However, the realization of that dream may be far off but there is an urgent task which needs to be finalized at all costs. That is the creation of Hindutva frenzy for the next Parliament election which may even be preponed?

The last election was won by showing the utopian dream of “Vikas” (Development) which has miserably failed. All those big slogans of “Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas” seem to have evaporated. Economy is in doldrums. On the day of the presentation of the budget in the Parliament, most of the markets crashed. Demonetization dealt a body blow to the poor people. It was topped up by GST and the digitization of the entire existence through the Aadhaar Card managed by the Silicon Valley in USA!

In view of this, the development slogans are not going to sell now. The only alternative is Karl Marx’s “Opium of the poor!” That is precisely the reason for the new Hindutva wave starting in Kasganj and many other places. The real show will begin with the starting of the construction of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya!

In a recent video, even a DG of the Police was shown swearing that he will take part in the construction of the temple regardless of the fact that the case is still pending before the Supreme Court of India. The additional boost will be clashes across the Line of Control in Kashmir. The so called “Surgical Strikes” which may go beyond the surgical form.

Colonel Noel Elli wrote an article in the Citizen, titled, “May Day May Day, India Adrift”. The excerpts from the article sum up everything, “I am not a sailor but when I peep out of the Porthole, all I see is beti jalao not bachao, bus jalao not chalao, dukan aur makan jalao not banao, if nothing else is left then burn tyres and effigies of all and sundry. Nothing seems to be hunky dory on this voyage on a ship called India”. “Which way is India going? We can cause mayhem and destruction for a movie or a baba. Hold a city to ransom for reservations. Ignite communal violence for beef, throw petrol bombs on trains and blame it on hurting public sentiment. If I put it the other way around, are we not hurting the national sentiment? It is time for an SOS!”

(Mayday-MaydayIndia-Adrift)

Well, coming to our State the irony is that it is the Kashmir based part of the BJP coalition government which has been made totally impotent by the bear hug of the 56 inch chest! At least they could protest vehemently for all these excesses! Forget healing, they are virtually giving a bleeding wound every day. They should have thrown their hat in the ring long time back. Probably, they feel they have crossed the “Ghar Wapsi” threshold! In that case, God help them!

http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/4/12956/Stop-Demonizing-Kashmiris

NEW DELHI: When there is a vacuum, even a tentative effort to fill it is welcome. At least in theory and in the abstract. But when it is applied to volatile Kashmir, where the students of schools are now leading the protests across the Valley, and local youth-turned-militants are openly appearing to give four gun salutes to slain colleagues the little is so insignificant that it can do more harm than good in immediate terms. As if it fails, as it will without sufficient nerve and strategy, it will close even the tiny option that is available at this present juncture.

2017 has changed the nature of protests in Kashmir with now the separatists barely being heard from, except for the odd statement. Till 2016, despite the deep provocation of pellet guns that killed and maimed young people all across, the Hurriyat leaders were still able to retain control over the protests with their strike calls, and protest calls being heeded. But they sensed they were losing control, and as some of them told this writer, “we have no choice but to follow the mass sentiment and keep calling for strikes, as if we don’t no one will listen to us, and you can imagine what will happen then.” The fear amongst the separatist leaders then, as it is indeed now, is that the rebellion will become armed, and that will lead Kashmir and of course India to a situation far worse than the dark days of the early 1990’s.

Three highly significant shifts have taken place in the last few weeks. And this is major by any standards applied to conflict zones.


One, these columns had earlier noted the increasing attendance of local masses in funerals of militants. Till even two years ago such funerals barely drew a crowd. Now in the past weeks, the shift has the masses from not just affected, but also the neighbouring areas, gathering for the funeral of any person killed by the forces in an encounter, or a clash in above the waist firing. But increasingly so the masses are also emerging from their homes to prevent the encounters from taking place, walking determinedly to the spot in a bid to rescue the militants—usually locals now—with the government forces finding it difficult to cope. This is happening repeatedly, even as the spate of ‘encounters’ increase along with the increasing ‘search operations’ launched by the Army.

Two, students have taken over the protests all across the state. Young school children, including girls in large numbers, have taken over literally, clashing with the armed police and the Army, throwing stones, being injured or killed, and yet continuing the fierce demonstrations. This was not so earlier with the stone pelters young adults, with only a few young teenagers visible in the protesting crowds. Now young school students are in the lead, or active participants in direct clashes with the armed government forces. The defiance and the absence of fear for their own lives is the part of the new, more lethal resistance that is building—or indeed has been built—in Kashmir in the absence of even a minimalist ‘reach out’ strategy by the ruling political powers.

Three, as the photographs attached to this article show, the young militants are appearing without masks as such funerals to give a ‘gun salute’ to their fallen comrades. Sources said that militants are now largely local, with the Kashmir protests acquiring a local resistance hue.

Retired Army generals with experience in Kashmir have been writing about the need for a dialogue. The apprehension in the forces is of the return to a situation where the political masters sit back, and actually preside over a direct confrontation between the people and the Army, a situation that most democracies would like to avoid. The Army in India has never been happy about such situations, and even during counter insurgency operations in Kashmir in the 1990s the push was always to get the political leadership to take over control of the areas cleared by the troops. A senior General, now retired and close to the current dispensation in Delhi, told this writer earlier of how necessary dialogue was, and how essential for the political governments to take ownership of the state “instead of leaving management to the Army.” He has not repeated these words in recent months. But others have, with some generals being attacked mercilessly by right wing trolls for even suggesting dialogue.

It is clear that the BJP government is clinging on the sledgehammer as the only approach in its strategic bag. The Opposition knows this, and is making some tentative moves to come together on the issue of Kashmir. The Congress that had completely dropped the idea of the talks—started initially by former Prime Minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee with all sections of Kashmiris—has set up a panel to explore the resumption under Dr Manmohan Singh. Others are in talks with the Congress, including BJP leader Yashwant Sinha who has been insisting on talks as the only option. However, it remains to be seen where this effort goes, as many involved, are still hesitant and tentative about their own position on the border state.

If the Opposition steps in it will have to carry its intervention to its logical conclusion, as a start-finish operation will add to the alienation and the despondency in the Valley. It will make it apparent that even the Opposition parties have no strategy for talks, and are not prepared to think out of the box in dealing with the state that is now literally in the throes of what many young people there believe, a ‘do or die’ battle.

(Photographs AASIF SHAHI: 4 armed militants offer a gun salute to slain militant Fayaz Ahmed Ashwar alias Setha from Reshipora Qaimoh in Kulgam district of South Kashmir.)http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/NewsDetail/index/4/10652/Kashmir-Fast-Turning-Into-a–Do-or-Die-Zone-3-New-Indicators

Kashmiri Muslims have suffered 27 years of military rule, all kinds of atrocities by India’s security forces.

The bitter cold in the Kashmir Valley cuts through the bones, but yet it fails to chill the public’s spirit. Right through the winter, when hundreds of Indian security forces come to a locality to kill less than a handful of militants taking shelter in a house, the local population come out in support of the militants to prevent the security forces from conducting their operations, at times even managing to help the militants escape. For the security forces, of course, the local population supporting the militants are “anti-national” and they have no qualms in dealing severely with the civilians.

The fact is that many in the local population readily risk their very lives to save the militants. The killing of every militant—and they are all Kashmiris, mostly from East Kashmir, administered by India, with a few from West Kashmir, administered by Pakistan—is deeply resented. Each “encounter” killing of a militant or militants, and especially when civilians are killed, sparks public protests, despite the bitter cold outside. And when such protests gain momentum, the security forces fire into the crowds, triggering a wave of further protests.

The Kashmiri people have now faced what is akin to military rule for 27 years; practically the whole area is claimed to have ­remained “disturbed,” with the armed forces enjoying immunity from prosecution for harm done to civilians, whether of rape, torture, disappearance, or killing. According to a statement dated 10 January 2017 of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), in the ongoing uprising from 8 July last year, more than a hundred civilians have so far been killed. More than one thousand civilians have either been blinded or have sustained serious eye injuries as a result of the firing of pellets by the security forces. There have been mass arrests and detentions under the draconian Public Safety Act, 1978. Official government figures put the number of arrests under different criminal charges at around 8,000. Prolonged curfews, media and internet blackouts, suspension of the fundamental rights to freedom of speech and ­expres­sion and of peaceful assembly, have been the order of the day.

Indeed, one can sense the agony of the parents and other loved ones of the disappeared persons. For the period from 1989 onwards, the APDP has estimated that 8,000 to 10,000 Kashmiris—the earlier Omar Abdullah-headed Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) ­government had admitted to a figure of 3,744 in the J&K legislative assembly—were subjected to enforced disappearance and subsequently killed in fake encounters. But the Indian state and the establishment have been in a state of denial of the enforced disappearances and subsequent killings, blaming the very victims of the violence for the violence. On the 10th of every month, the APDP stages silent sit-in protests against the enforced disappearances in J&K, and has been bringing out a memory calendar. It has taken on the “responsibility of not allowing the memories of the sufferings of (the) families (of the disappeared persons) to pass into oblivion.” Indeed, the callousness of successive state governments in J&K is also evident in the fact that the state ­assembly is yet to pass a law on protection from enforced dis­appearances. Successive central governments have also been utterly insensitive in not ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Basically for 27 years, India has been using military force against the people of the Kashmir Valley many of whom do not want to be part of India. New Delhi justifies all of this in the name of “territorial integrity” and “secularism.” It blames Pakistan for what is happening in the Kashmir Valley—all the mass protests and the militancy are supposed to be “Pakistan-sponsored.” Yet, the nationalism of the present union government is not even all-Indian; it is a communal Hindutvavadi nationalism representing a section of the Indian population. The Hindutvavadi nationalists in power currently have no qualms in forcing their rule on the Kashmiri Muslims in the name of secularism. Needless to say, the Congress version of nationalism was no less in this respect. Not that Pakistani nationalism is any better. Now the Hindutvavadi nationalists, clearly not out of any real solidarity, have claimed that they support the Balochi national liberation movement in Pakistan; the Pakistani nationalists, on their part, claim that they are for Kashmiri azaadi from India, even as they have made of Azad Kashmir a virtual colony. But given New Delhi’s use of military force in the Kashmir Valley over the last 27 years, Kashmiri azaadi is, indeed, among other things, principally a cry from the heart of the Kashmiri people for freedom from Indian oppression.

– See more at: http://www.epw.in/journal/2017/7/editorials/azaadi%E2%80%94freedom-indian-oppression.html#sthash.lqp6Xw3G.dpuf

‘They dragged me by my hair, beat me with their baton, then shot me with a pellet gun,’ says 14-year-old Ifra.

There are some things about October 31, 2016, that Ifra Shakour says she will never forget. And then there are the hours that she was unconscious.

She remembers hunching over school books, cramming for her eighth-grade exams. She recalls hearing bursts of tear gas shells coming from the local market. And she definitely remembers that feeling of dread when she realised that her little brother wasn’t home.

They caught me by my hair and dragged me. And then they beat me with their baton on my arm. But still they weren’t satisfied so they shot me with a pellet gun

Ifra Shakour

“I asked my mother what was happening outside,” the 14-year-old told Al Jazeera in this 101 East documentary

“I didn’t know what was going on. I closed my books and went out.”

Ifra only made it to her front gate. The last thing she saw were two uniformed policemen running towards her.

“When I saw them, I got scared. That’s why I ran,” she told Al Jazeera.

“They caught me by my hair and dragged me. And then they beat me with their baton on my arm. But still they weren’t satisfied so they shot me with a pellet gun.”

This pump action shotgun has been the weapon of choice for security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir for years. It’s classified as “non-lethal”, used to maim rather than kill its victims.

Each cartridge carries lead pellets the size and shape of mustard seeds. With the pull of a trigger, the gun sprays hundreds of these tiny balls indiscriminately into the air.

Ifra said the policemen shot her at point-blank range.

“After I was hit I couldn’t see anything. Blood was coming out of my eyes,” she said.

“All I could think about was seeing again so I can study, go out with friends, teachers, my family and neighbours. I used to pray to God to make me see again so I can be a doctor.”

OPINION: Kashmir and the myth of indivisible India

Protests triggered by the death of Burhan Wani

The shooting of Ifra came during the worst protests Indian-administered Kashmir has seen in six years. They were triggered by the killing of Burhan Wani, a young rebel commander who had joined an underground network of separatist guerillas.

Wani was an icon and a social media star with thousands of online followers. His death sent shockwaves through India’s only Muslim-majority state. Angry protesters flooded the streets, throwing rocks at security forces and demanding independence.

READ MORE: Kashmiris decry world’s silence over killings

The subsequent crackdown by the government was swift and violent. Hospitals struggled to cope with the dead and injured. Some had been severely beaten, others suffered pellet wounds.

Ophthalmologists in Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital said they operated day and night, treating at least 1,000 patients with pellets lodged in their eyes.

Some, like Ifra, were completely blind.

“She was screaming,” said her aunt, Rubeena Banu. “There was blood coming out of her eyes, her ears, her nose. I was so stressed. I couldn’t look at her. I thought she would die.”

Ifra had three pellets in her right eye and two in her left.

“She had gone out to bring her brother home because there was firing and fighting going on,” Banu told Al Jazeera. “What did she do wrong? She didn’t have a rock or a gun in her hand. She had just gone to get her brother.”

During protests the hospitals struggled to cope with the dead and injured [Karyshma Vias/Al Jazeera] 

‘No rule of law here’

The Indian government has resisted increasing pressure to ban the use of pellet gunsagainst protesters and civilians.

“Banning it would take us straight to using bullets, so it’s the lesser evil,” said Naeem Akhtar, a senior minister in the state government.

Every time [there is a protest] the reaction is brute force. Kill the Kashmiris, maim them, blind them

Umar Farooq, separatist leader

“Use of disproportionate force is a problem, crowd control is a problem,” he admitted. “We want to create an atmosphere where we should not use it. It should be the last resort because it’s not for human beings.”

But activists and political leaders have accused the government of being disingenuous. For decades, human rights lawyers have been recording a catalogue of complaints against security forces, including cases of extrajudicial killings, torture in custody and rape. They believe abuses in Kashmir are systemic.

“There is absolutely no democracy here, there is no rule of law here, there is no accountability here,” said Umar Farooq, a separatist leader and the religious head of Kashmiri Muslims.

“Every time [there is a protest] the reaction is brute force. Kill the Kashmiris, maim them, blind them.”

Akhtar, the government minister, said the state takes these allegations seriously and is committed to protecting civilians in this 30-year conflict.

“The government is looking into specific cases of it and wherever we find that there has actually been an established case of disproportionate use of force, we will certainly take action,” he told Al Jazeera.

“They will be investigated, compensated.”

But when pressed about when these investigations will take place, he said: “I can’t put a time frame on that … I don’t know.”

IN PICTURES: Pellet guns cause severe eye injuries in Kashmir

Al Jazeera also requested interviews with the police, the military and the federal government, but none agreed to be interviewed.

Ifra’s family does not hold any hope that her case will be investigated. They haven’t lodged a complaint with the police.

“If we complain, who knows? Maybe they’ll pick up my little nephew and put him in jail,” said Ifra’s aunt, Rubeena. “That’s why we’re scared and we won’t complain.

“Today this happened to my niece. Another day it will happen to someone else, and someone else the day after that. That’s why we say we want an independent Kashmir.”

Ifra has had three surgeries to restore her vision, but her sight is still limited. Her relatives say she has stopped studying and barely eats. She spends most of her days sitting alone in the courtyard outside her home.

“My friend used to come to see me every morning but now she doesn’t come,” she said. “I don’t know what has happened. She’s busy studying and going to school. She’ll graduate but what will I do?”

Source: Al Jazeera News


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