Archive for the ‘Draconian Laws’ Category

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

Faced with shrinking revenues, newspapers are going digital and journalists are striking out on their own with digital media start ups
IRFAN QURAISHI reports

 

SRINAGAR: Struggling to survive in the conflict-ridden Kashmir Valley due to financial crises, the legacy media is rapidly stepping into the world of digitisation. Not only are media organisations going digital but journalists who are in the middle of their career and fear job losses are turning to digital media entrepreneurship.

While media organisations see the new age media (digital) as the only option to cut the cost of their news operations and earn money through alternative means, journalists see digital entrepreneurship as the only avenue for creating employment for themselves and others.

Strife-hit newspapers are gradually diverting a major chunk of their resources to digitisation to reduce their print costs. Kashmir Observer, an English daily facing an acute financial crisis, has decided to go digital. Editor Sajad Hyder said the revenue from the market, especially because of the present unrest, is virtually zero. They are diverting their resources for digitisation to generate badly needed revenue from the online virtual market.

 

“Strife-hit newspapers are gradually diverting a major chunk of their resources to digitisation to reduce their print costs.”

 

The newspapers find it hard to pay the salaries of their staff given the turbulent situation in the Valley – first in 2008, then in 2010 and now.  It is obvious that when there is no business in the market, there is nothing that needs publicising with business owners or with the government.

“By going digital, the cost of the print run is reduced. This is being done to use the untapped market, both nationally and internationally, that craves visual media from Kashmir,” said Hyder.

The leading English daily, Greater Kashmir, published by GK Communications, posted on its just-created YouTube channel that, “GK Communications Pvt. Ltd. is pleased to announce GKTV, the Audio Visual Digital Platform that will cater to our fast growing new digital audience.”

Another daily, Rising Kashmir, has also started its multimedia segment, followed by Kashmir Monitor, but they are yet to decide on the complete digitisation of their news operations. However, like many others, they have cut down heavily on their print runs.

Amid this transition, journalists are turning into new age media entrepreneurs, adding momentum to changes that are reshaping an industry known for dismal levels of professionalism, monopolies, and financial crunches. Young journalists are looking for innovative developments in journalism amid the technology boom to secure their future.

Take Tariq Bhat, a local journalist with a degree in mass communications. Bhat has worked with many news organisations such as Munsif TV, 5 Darya News, and 9TV. He says that losing jobs and looking for others actually created the energy in him to think of his own start up.

In 2014, Bhat started the state’s first online, multi-lingual radio app – City FM JK – with meagre resources and just  six colleagues, to transmit folk programmes, entertainment, music, news and information.

The radio app, which is available on the Google Play store, has become very popular among internet users. With the catch-line Panun Radio, Panun Style (Our Radio, Our style), the mobile radio has won Bhat accolades and the spotlight in the national and international media. So far, it has been downloaded over 79,000 times.

“Journalists in Kashmir suffer economically. The industry is drying up. The new generation has to turn to entrepreneurship rather than searching for a job. I took a Rs five  lakh loan from  J&K Bank and 15 lakh from a private financer to start this project,” said Bhat.

 

“This month, Bhat launched the Asia News Network (ANN), the first ever mobile TV station in J&K, and became the talk of town.”

 

Initially, people laughed at his idea of online radio. “Now I have over one lakh daily listeners including international listeners and the diaspora. I am an employer now,” he adds.

This month, Bhat launched the Asia News Network (ANN), the first ever mobile TV station in J&K, and became the talk of town. The BBC, Zee News, NDTV and Times Now portrayed Bhat as an inspirational Kashmiri youth.

ANN is currently being manned by a small team of eight persons but has already made a name for itself with its multi-lingual programmes and songs, news, current affairs and entertainment. “There is no support from the government for innovative start-ups. Even their advertisement policy isn’t helpful in any way to the new age media start-ups. If it had been, the industry would have witnessed many more start-ups”, said Bhat.

On revenue possibilities, he pointed out that he has a small team on nominal salaries. ‘The thing is we don’t have daily huge expenses in digital news, like we have in print. It is a one-time investment. Whatever we earn from online advertisement or sponsorships is at least managing us. You don’t have to live up with fears of crises and expenditures. Instead, we have attracting more and more international market and people to expect some share in global market. Be it advertisement, app hitting or donations.”

The list does not end here. Irfan Ahmad, a mass communication post-graduate who has reported for national and local media organisations for seven years, is working on his ‘digital media and news podcast’ start-up titled Kashmir Patriot and KP TV.

Pradeep Kumar, the Delhi-based programming head of Kashmir Patriot says that the idea developed when Ahmad was looking for a job after the channel he worked for shut down. “Though he had this idea earlier, he was quite hesitant in turning to entrepreneurship, that too in the uncertain Valley. Fortunately he got an international fellowship on the same subject in Europe and on return he decided to give it a try,” Kumar said.

The start-up is seeking finance from the J&K Entrepreneurship Development Institute as the first of its kind digital news platform in the state, according to Kumar. “We will be introducing new tools of mobile journalism. The start-up will be formally launched soon.  The test run is already on. Besides news, views, it would be featuring debates, chats and live feeds,” he said.

For revenue Kashmir Patriot will be focusing on income from YouTube channel by featuring stories for international audiences. ‘The revenue from Google ad sense and website hits may be insufficient initially, but after some time we are hoping with the growing followers and subscribers on social networking, it may rise.  After all, there is no print cost involved in it, which is the most difficult thing to manage in the local market,” said Kumar.

Whatever the platform gets as revenue from the local market and the government will be in addition. “You get something from everywhere on a global platform. Sustaining with a daily newspaper publication or journals in crises-hit market is difficult, but a widening reach on the global market may fetch some more sums,” he said.

Umar Nisar, another journalist with sound information technology skills, developed his own FM station, Pannun FM International, in 2015. He believes the crisis in Kashmir stymies the talent. “No support, besides meagre revenue resources, kills the media industry,’said Nisar. He is currently working on upgrading his FM radio to a Digital Media & Broadcasting Network.

A group of three other journalists, Sameer Showkin, Mir Farhat, and Zahid Maqbool, recently founded a news portal, News Despatch, a family-run news organisation. Showkin’s first sentence in his bio, uploaded on his portal, speaks volumes about what he went through before launching the portal. “Thanks to all those who said ‘no’ to me, it is because of them I did it myself”.

Braving the odds, these start-ups and trendsetters deserve applause. The making of a new media industry in the Kashmir Valley amid all the troubles is something to celebrate.

 

Irfan Quraishi is a Kashmir-based broadcast & multimedia journalist. He has previously worked for Day & Night News and Kashmir Times. He tweets @ irfanquraishi85.

http://www.thehoot.org/media-watch/digital-media/kashmir-unrest-gives-push-to-digitisation-9862

We know the Kashmir crisis. Or do we?

Written by Jean Dreze |

kahsmir-shutdown-759The first thing that strikes the visitor on entering Kashmir is the massive military presence. (Illustration by C R Sasikumar)A historic popular uprising is happening in Kashmir, but the Indian public is barely aware of it. I was unaware of it myself before I went there in October and travelled across the Kashmir Valley. I had read, of course, about some sort of “shutdown” happening there since early July, and also about the stone-pelting and pellet guns. But nothing I had read did justice to the situation on the ground.

The first thing that strikes the visitor on entering Kashmir is the massive military presence. Heavily-armed soldiers and paramilitary forces are all over the place. Their number is estimated at 6,00,000 or so, for a population of six million — that’s one soldier for 10 civilians. In sensitive areas such as Sopore, Shopian and even parts of Srinagar, there is a heavily-armed soldier in front of almost every house, at least on the main roads.

Why are these soldiers there? Clearly, they are not there to repel a possible attack from Pakistan — that would require them to be near the border. Nor are they watching for terrorists: Standing at street corners in full battle gear is not the way to hound underground militants. Perhaps the soldiers are there to counter stone-pelters? That makes no sense either, because the simplest way to clear a neighbourhood of stone-pelters is to demilitarise it: The stones are directed at army personnel, not civilians.

We are led to conclude what every Kashmiri knows: The purpose of this massive army presence is to control the civilian population, and especially to prevent so-called “anti-India protests”, however peaceful they may be. It was a revelation for me to learn that all forms of peaceful protest in Kashmir are banned in one way or another, if there is any hint of a demand for “freedom” (azadi). The authorities have ample powers to prevent protests, not only under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), but also under Jammu and Kashmir’s draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) as well as Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). These and related powers are used with abandon to prevent any expression of the popular aspiration for freedom — not just stone-pelting but also processions, vigils, assemblies, pamphlets, graffiti, or just undesirable statements on social media.

Despite these restrictions, there have been continuous protests or attempted protests all over the Kashmir Valley ever since Burhan Wani was killed on July 8. Stone-pelting was part of the protests, but the uprising also included a wide range of non-violent activities. In fact, the main protest was a general strike: During the last four months, shops have been closed in Kashmir, traffic has been halted and schools have been deserted. This is called a “shutdown” in the Indian media, with calculated ambiguity, and often confused with curfews that have occasionally been imposed by the authorities. But it was a general strike — one of the largest and longest in Indian history.

There is something puzzling about the ability of Kashmir’s economy to withstand such a long strike. This was possible for several reasons. First, Kashmir has a vibrant and relatively egalitarian rural economy, a feature that owes much to the land reforms of the 1950s. The strike did not prevent self-employed farmers, artisans and apple growers from continuing with their work to a large extent. Second, migrant workers from Bihar and elsewhere left Kashmir en masse soon after the strike began. Kashmiri workers, therefore, continued to find work, that too at relatively high wages by Indian standards. Third, Kashmir has a strong tradition of mutual support. For instance, neighbourhood relief committees (often associated with the local mosque) were active after the 2014 floods, and again on this occasion. Indeed, relief work was an integral part of the Hurriyat’s “protest calendars” during the strike. Finally, living standards in Kashmir are quite high. Unemployment is certainly an issue, but poverty and hunger are rare, except among migrant workers. Anyone who thinks that the Kashmir problem is due to lack of development is severely deluded.

In the absence of any space for peaceful protest, stone-pelting became the highlight of the uprising. The security forces responded with overwhelming force. More than 100 civilians (including many children) were killed, at least 1,000 were victims of blinding or other eye injuries from pellet guns, and thousands were thrown into jail. Much larger numbers were harassed by the security forces in one way or another.

On October 18, I joined a fact-finding team of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). We visited the family of Faisal Akbar (name changed), a young lecturer who was said to have been beaten to death by the Rashtriya Rifles last August. According to witnesses, there was a “crackdown” in the village that evening. This means that soldiers barge into people’s homes, beat them up, smash their belongings, and generally spread terror — typically by way of retaliation against stone-pelting. One officer apparently told the terrified villagers, “we know that you are innocent, but if we don’t beat you up, you will never learn”. Interestingly, the local Station House Officer (SHO) agreed with their account of the event. Faisal, as he put it, “succumbed to his injuries”. One rarely hears such consistent accounts of human rights violations from the police and the people. The SHO promised a fair enquiry, but hastened to add that requests for permission to prosecute army personnel were routinely turned down by the home ministry in Delhi.

Every incident of this sort intensifies the rage of the Kashmiri people against the Indian Army, and against India itself. This rage, and the passionate desire for “azadi” (freedom), were already evident 16 years ago, when I visited Kashmir for the first time. They are even stronger today. In fact, the recent uprising, and the repression that followed, have turned almost every Kashmiri into an active participant in the struggle for freedom.

The government of India’s sledgehammer response, aside from being inhuman, does nothing to solve the problem. If the root of the problem is the alienation of the Kashmiri people from India, then state repression can only make things worse. It also undermines Kashmir’s peaceful traditions and pushes Kashmiri youngsters towards armed resistance and radical Islamist groups. The possible consequences, not only for Kashmir but also for India, are too horrible to contemplate.

None of this is to say that there is a simple solution to this situation. Any solution would have to address multiple complexities such as the status of Ladakh, the rights of minorities in Kashmir, the injustice done to Kashmiri Pandits, how to take Pakistan on board, and more. Perhaps the important thing for now is not to devise a ready-made solution, but to initiate a process that might lead to a solution. The status quo is certainly intolerable.http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/kashmir-valley-shutdown-hidden-uprising-indian-army-militants-4410627/

prison

Taking note of the report filed by the SP State Human Rights Commission regarding the ill-treatment given to the Kashmiri political prisoners in Baramulla Jail, Chairman SHRC Justice Bilal Ahmed Nazki has directed Deputy Commissioner Baramulla and Chief Medical Officer Baramulla to ensure that a doctor should visit the jail at least once a week.

A KL file ImageHe said that arrangements should be made for visit of a lady Doctor at least twice a week as there are number of women prisoners also.

Pertinently, SHRC had taken a suo moto cognizance of a case titled ‘High Court Bar Association Decries Use of Force on Baramulla Jail Inmates.’

This case was listed on Friday before the SHRC Chairman Bilal Ahmed Nazki.

After going through the report filed by the SP SHRC, Justice Bilal Ahmed Nazki said that it appears from the report that proper medical care is not available in the Jail.

“As an interim measure, DC and CMO Baramulla are directed to ensure the visit of male and lady doctors in the Jail. The directions should be complied forthwith by Wednesday (Nov 16) and the response shall be filed by SP District Jail Baramulla within four weeks.”

HCBA while expressing serious concern over the plight of detainees in Baramulla jail had said that Jail authorities have been crossing all limits of atrocities and the atrocious behaviour of Jail authorities have turned the life of prisoners hell in the Jail. (CNS)

Electroshock weapons have potential to kill: DAK
electroshock-495x309

Srinagar, Nov 9, CNS:  With electroshock weapons approved for crowd control in Kashmir, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) today said that these weapons have the potential to kill.

Terming these weapons lethal, President DAK Dr Nisar-ul-Hassan in a statement said that these devices pose a significant and fatal risk to human life.

Electroshock weapons are incapacitant devices that discharge high voltage electrical current.

Hundreds of deaths have been reported in reliable studies due to the use of these weapons.

A study published in “American Heart Association Journal” has linked these devices to cardiac arrests and deaths.

Amnesty international has documented over 500 deaths that occurred after the use of these weapons.

Another Canadian study revealed that these devices trigger ventricular fibrillations and the threshold for these deadly arrhythmias decrease with repeated shocks.

They are particularly dangerous to those with underlying heart condition and implanted pacemakers.

Studies have shown that these devices can cause eye injuries, seizures, collapsed lungs and head injuries when the victims hit the ground.

These weapons have been banned in many countries.

United Nations has also raised extensive concerns about the use of electro-shock devices.

Even the manufacturing companies of these devices no longer claim them non-lethal.

Long Range Acoustic Device (LARD) has also been approved for use against protestors in Kashmir that can cause permanent hearing loss.

Originally developed as military weapons, these sonic devices can produce an intensely loud sound of greater than 140-decibels.

Sounds greater than 85 decibels can leave a person permanently deaf. (CNS)

manzar
By Sai Bourothu

Mr. Bashir Manzar, Editor of the Kashmir daily Kashmir Images,
condemned the Indian Government for betraying the trust and goodwill
of the Kashmiri population and the use of brutal authoritarian force
to thwart peaceful democratic dissent in the valley. Mr. Manzar spoke
on the “Current Situation in Kashmir” in a study circle event
organised by Centre for Study of Society and Secularism.

The politics of Kashmir cannot be looked at in isolation from that of
Jammu and Ladakh. Jammu is a predominantly Hindu region, Kashmir is
predominantly Muslim and Ladakh is home to a majority Buddhist
population. With different demographics and political situations, the
aspirations and needs of all three regions are also diverse and often
contradictory to each other.

Though the current political unrest in the valley is seen as a
reaction to the killing of Burhan Wani, a militant of Hizbul
Mujahedeen, it would be oversimplifying the distress of Kashmiris.
Kashmir is reacting to communal politics of right wing Hindutva
forces, be it the controversy over beef, ghar wapsi or love jihad
which have instilled a fear and insecurity across the country. The
valley never faced any instances of tensions over these issues, but
recently, a Kashmiri truck driver in Udhampur was murdered by cow
vigilantes for allegedly transporting cows for slaughter.

The elections of 2014 unified the valley to give a mandate to PDP
which fought the election under the slogan of keeping the BJP out of
Kashmir. However, the coalition that formed after the elections in the
form of the PDP-BJP alliance that presently holds power in Kashmir led
to great dissatisfaction in the valley. At present, the most affected
areas of the valley are from South Kashmir, which gave an unanimous
mandate to PDP, and hence feels most betrayed. This alliance of
convenience did not fool anyone as the BJP had been strongly
campaigning for the removal of Article 370 in mainland India, while
simultaneously joining hand with PDP that stood solidly for the
Article to remain. The agenda of alliance that was drafted by the two
parties tried to resolve the differences by majorly two points:
1.      There will be no debate or discussion on section 370.
2.      Laws applicable in the valley such as the Armed Forces Special
Provisions Act (AFSPA), Public Safety Act will be reconsidered.

The pro-active targeting of Kashmiri sentiments in the form of
anti-Article 370 campaigns, proposed plans for Sainik colonies and
separate colonies for Kashmiri pandits has simmered to reach this
point of outburst. Apart from the fact that Kashmir valley has been
highly militarised, the proposed Sainik colonies seem to be an
indirect way of attacking Article 370. The attempts to rehabilitate
Kashmiri pandits are also targeted towards a form of segregation which
will never be able to mitigate communal tensions but instead add fuel
to it. The use of pellet guns to counter “violence” caused by Kashmiri
stone pelting can never justify 95 deaths and more than 3000 people
injured. Mr. Manzar also pointed to the violence that was resulted by
the Jat and Patel agitations. Despite massive loss of property and
violent crimes of sexual assault against women, we did not see the use
of pellet guns by the government to maintain law and order. The use of
brutal force to suppress agitations in Kashmir is not solely an issue
of maintaining law and order but is aimed at instilling the feeling of
subjugation within the valley. Another distressing situation is the
attitude of the Government of India which holds no regret for the
plight of Kashmiris that they have caused.

The attitude of the Government of India towards the Kashmiri people
also becomes evident with an example of 2010, which saw the killing of
four innocent Kashmiris by the armed forces on allegations of being
terrorists followed by a series of protests, rallies and gathering
condemning the murders. The violence that pursued saw the death of
almost 123 people by the close of it. As a response to this, the
Government of India appointed a committee under the Ministry of Home
Affairs headed by Mr. P Chidambaram. After an expansive study of the
region for two years which covered various cross sections of people, a
report was submitted. The report was however, shelfed and forgotten.
This is the attitude and extent of willingness the GOI is ready to
commit to peace in the valley. There were many committees that were
assigned similar tasks in the years to come, but ended in the same
fate as its predecessors. Moreover, the only time GOI responds to the
plight of Kashmir in the otherwise numbing silence around the issue is
when Kashmir erupts in protests and violence.

While on one hand Kashmir faces the brunt of Indian Government’s brute
force and apathy, the Hurriyat leaders of Kashmir have crippled the
economy of the valley completely.  The weekly calendars of strikes and
bandhs that have been announced have halted the valley for four months
till now. Schools, trade and local businesses, transport etc. have
been come to a still. With winter knocking at the door and the
examinations for schools just across the corner, the situation in
Kashmir seems bleak for the coming months as well. The valley has been
paralyzed through coercion by Hurriyat and the Government of India in
an orchestrated and meticulously planned manner, leaving Kashmiris
helpless and unable to cope.

The portrayal of Kashmir in mainstream Indian journalism is disturbing
and enraging. The lived experience of being a Kashmiri is being
appropriated continuously while the voices of Kashmir are being
stifled by local leadership and the GOI. There are also widespread
notions of the Azadi movement being orchestrated by Pakistan, but I
would strongly disagree with the same. The Azadi movement dates back
to pre-independence. The Azadi sentiments existed while the popular
leadership in Kashmir led by Mr. Shaikh Abdullah decided to recede to
India, the Azadi sentiments existed while the same popular leadership
which offered Kashmir to India on a silver platter was jailed for 14
years, and the Azadi sentiments exists now when the unarmed citizens
of Kashmir are meted with pellet guns in return for stones.
Oversimplifying the Azadi struggle is a propaganda which should be
tackled and challenged with facts. Both India and Pakistan have
contributed to the best of their abilities to maintain uncertainty,
violence and bloodshed in the valley.

While the apathy of the Indian government stays resolute on destroying
the valley with unlikely allies in the cause from the Hurriyat
leadership, there is a possibility that the population of Kashmir is
counter-radicalizing. With no efforts from the Indian Government to
engage with the youth and common citizens of Kashmir, I fear what this
radicalization might lead to, Mr. Manzar concluded.

Srinagar/Delhi, 24th October, 2016

An all India team of the PUCL visited the Kashmir valley after the 100th day of people’s protests beginning 9th July and the government clampdown that were taking place there. The team was led by Dr. V Suresh, General Secretary of the PUCL and included Kavita Srivastava (National Secretary), Ramdas Rao (National Council Member) and Pragnya Joshi (National Council Member). PUCL member Prof. Jean Dreze was with the team briefly. Also accompanying the team were two independent persons: Parul Abrol (independent writer and journalist) and advocate Mustafa. The team stayed in the valley between 14th to 22nd October, with maximum members staying between 17th to 22nd October 2016. The team visited and met the injured and families of the deceased in Batamaloo and Idgah area of Srinagar, Batingu and Veesu in Anantnag district, Churhat in Kulgam district, Khrew in Pulwama, and Shopian town.

The team members, had lengthy interactions with families of people booked under Public safety Act, (PSA), families of the deceased who had had lost their lives in firing or other use of force by the security forces, survivors of violence, doctors of Shri Motilal Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital, some of the injured people, either admitted in the hospital or outside, Human rights workers of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) along with independent activists including RTI activists, academics and student leaders. The FFT also met several ordinary people including young protestors. The team met the office bearers and senior lawyers of the thousand member strong J & K Bar, several press and electronic media persons, young entrepreneurs and big businessmen, retired bureaucrats and Government personnel, Anganwadi workers and daily wage earners.

The team also met with a few Kashmiri Pandit families and a prominent leader of Pandits in the valley. The team members interacted with policemen of the police station of Pampore and visited the office of the IG Kashmir but could only talk to him over telephone. The team was not allowed to meet with Syed Ali Shah Gilani, the Hurriyat leader under house arrest, by the police guarding his house nor by the Inspector General of Police whose permission was formally sought. The team could not also get an appointment with the Chief Minister of J &K, Ms. Mehbooba Mufti, despite attempts to do so.

 

 

Some of the important facts of the last hundred days are as follows:

Following the alleged extra judicial killing of Burhan Wani on the 8th of July, protests characterized mostly by stone pelting demonstrations broke out throughout the valley. The government responded by heavy and forceful military clampdown which resulted in a continuing spate of killings, injuries and arrests of people which continues unabated almost every day till the present.  In fact, the PUCL team was devastated by the scale of all round human suffering it witnessed in Kashmir.

The team learnt from JKCCS reports, the media, through lawyers and doctors, that from the 9th of July to the 15th of October, the total number of civilians killed by the police and the security forces was 101 with the largest numbers of those killed coming from Anantnag district. It was reported that 12 people died due to pellets fired by the forces. It was also learnt that 1 policeman too was killed in mob violence.

Reportedly, a total of 15,000 persons were injured in this period with 12, 344 being admitted in various hospitals. About a thousand persons were injured in the eye due to pellets resulting in 300 cases of blinding, which included a large proportion of school going children. According to the same list, 4500 persons suffered injuries in other body parts due to pellets and shelling and 4664 were injured by bullets. Over 8000 people have been reportedly arrested, including 1000 from Srinagar city itself. More than 2300 FIRs were registered by the police against the people; in contrast complaints lodged by civilians against security persons numbered only about 7.

It was learnt that 382 individual petitioners have challenged their detention under Public Safety Act, 1978 in the J & K High Court. It is estimated that about 434 people were detained under PSA, including human rights activist Khurram Pervez and lawyer Zahid Ali. The FFT was informed that 12 J & K government employees were sacked for allegedly supporting the protests.

Reports of vandalism and violence during raids by the police, security forces and the army were reported by many. Beating of residents, firing at transformers and making them dysfunctional, cutting of water supply as for example in district Bandipora, setting ablaze fields and burning of a school by the security forces were also reported by the people.

Raids were conducted in the offices of newspaper Greater Kashmir which resulted in all Kashmiri newspapers stopping publication for five days. The Kashmir Reader has been banned since the 2nd of October. Immediately after the 9th of July, all Pakistani news channels were taken off the air and initially the Government also blocked 5 Indian news channels for their reportage on Kashmir, which was later withdrawn. According to complaints by media persons, curfew passes of journalists were not honored by the forces including the army. Many journalists complained of beatings. Two journalists were reportedly targeted with pellets firing guns while doing their professional duty. Senior photo Journalist Danish Ismail’s house was allegedly damaged. A crackdown was conducted on voluntary organisations who were organizing relief work in the premises of SMHS Hospital including providing free medicines, ambulance services and free food and tea. All email and internet services remained closed for most time throughout this period from 8th July till 17th October, 2016.

 

Some of the key observations of the PUCL Team are:

  • The anger against the security forces was simmering since 2008 and 2010, when 67 and 144 killings had happened in a government clampdown. The killing of Burhan Wani, who was a popular militant leader amongst the youth, acted as a vent and triggered this phase of protest.
  • Demand for Azadi, clearly expressing alienation from India with people very vocal about their lack of faith in the Indian State, was an all pervasive voice across villages and cities, professionals and the ordinary, young and old and men and women. This was reiterated by the people the team met in the valley in the light of the continuing brutalities committed by the Indian Forces against unarmed civilians, in which even women and children were not spared.
  • The common people have lost faith in the ordinary democratic modes of redressal as they believe that they are heavily biased against them. For instance no FIRs are registered against offences committed by the armed forces or the police, and even if registered there is never a fair investigation, much less prosecution. They were of the view the view that in the face of overwhelming failure of all the democratic institutions in responding to their political grievances and aspirations, stone throwing has become the only method of expressing their sense of anger and frustration, especially among the youth.
  • There was a majority participation in the hartal announced through the Hurriyat weekly calendar. This hartal is a complete shutdown of all private establishments including public and private transport from 7am to 5pm every day but for 24 hours on Fridays with schools, colleges and other academic institutions completely closed. Courts had partially reopened when we visited. Hospitals, Anganwadis, Pharmacies, PDS shops, media houses were kept out of the hartal, with tea and bread shops being partially open. It was also stated by most that even if the hartal fizzles out in a few days or weeks this time, the agitation which has started will not end but will continue with bigger and more violent eruptions in the future.
  • A difference between the protests and collective action in 2016 and previous protests was said to be over the overwhelming support of ordinary citizens, cutting across class, education, professional and urban / rural lines to the hartal call in 2016 as contrasted to previous protests. Even while the bulk of ordinary Kashmiris supported the protest action, there however remained a small section of people who were getting inconvenienced by the continuation of the hartal.
  • There was acute anger against the loss of lives of people (particularly children, youth and women) and injuries caused by pellets, bullets and shells fired by the security forces, including the Army, Rashtriya Rifles (RR), Central Reserve Police Force and the J &K Police. Most of the firing, according to people, was unprovoked and targeted. The use of pellets as a means to curb protests was looked upon as an instrument of blinding and maiming the young. It was argued as to why in situations of equally violent protests in Haryana and Karnataka, pellets were not used as they were against the Kashmiris. This was cited as an instance of discrimination against the Kashmiris.
  • For the first time in Kashmir as many as six women were killed and several injured. Perhaps for the first time all women public protests (juloos) and the participation of women in Janazas (funeral processions) in large numbers was observed. Young women were very vocal and said that too much bloodshed had happened and that there could be no compromise this time. While older women could not believe that there could be a Government who could repeatedly kill masses of its own people. There was the fear of house raids by the forces and women being violated.
  • It was shocking to learn that security forces did not spare janazas (funeral procession) and the casualty wards / sections of the hospital. Videos were displayed showing shelling on funeral processions.  Doctors talked of shelling inside the casualty area of SMHS hospital, of attacks on ambulances and private vehicles carrying the injured and causing delays which led to patients succumbing to death. It was also unbelievable that many security men were profiling the seriously injured instead of ensuring quick treatment.
  • The loss of livelihood leading to a situation of hunger amongst the poor was being handled byBaitul Maal, the local mosque committees which provided money and food. Some people gathered here for relief did complain of the distress caused by the long hartal that had jeopardized the poor people’s food security.
  • There was a general feeling, with the young being more vociferous, that lodging an FIR or demanding compensation with respect to the killings or injuries of their loved ones was of no consequence as there were no cases where the army or police or CRPF personnel were convicted for their crimes in the past. Some who went to lodge FIRs were threatened with dire consequences and therefore refrained from lodging cases. The paramount vocal opinion regarding engaging with the Indian state apparatus was that we have no trust in them, then why waste time with them. They also felt that in any case Martyrs were above prosecution. Despite this, we met some of the families who had lodged FIRs but were not hopeful of a tangible outcome in view of the SC judgment in the Tengpora case.
  • For the first time human rights activists have been targeted and the arrest of Khurram Pervez of JKCCS shows that they want to silence all dissent and support that human rights activism provides to the victims of human rights abuse.
  • The banning of Kashmir Reader shows the undemocratic functioning of the State which is uncomfortable with free speech, a basic human right and foundation of democracy. It is difficult to avoid the impression that the Indian State seems at war with the people of a region it claims as its integral part. Repression by the armed and other security forces is very visible in the state.
  • The Team observed that the humanitarian crisis was aggravated because the hospitals did not get any support from the Government of India by way sending in medical specialists, especially Opthalmologists, nursing personnel and medicines to the Valley. The lack of support from the Government was despite the observations made by the team of AIIMS doctors who visited in July, 2016 who described the situation as “war like”.

The PUCL team makes the following interim recommendations

  1. The GOI should ensure the release of Human rights defender Khurram Pervez immediately and withdraw all criminal cases against him.
  2. The GOI and J & K Government should release all Hurriyat leaders and hold unconditional talks with them and representatives of the other sections of the people, including the youth, in order to break this impasse and move towards a permanent resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
  3. All political leaders, activists and young protestors detained under the Public Safety Act, 1978 (PSA) and other criminal charges should be released immediately and all cases against them should be withdrawn or revoked.
  4. The Government and security forces should lift curfew and other restrictions throughout the Valley and cease all hostilities against the civilian population. There should be demilitarization of the Valley including withdrawal of security forces from civilian areas.
  5. PSA, 1978 and AFSPA must be repealed from the statute books.
  6. Facilitate the filing of cases against members of the security forces who indiscriminately killed and injured and committed other atrocities on the people.
  7. Set up a judicial commission headed by a sitting judge of the SC to look into the alleged extra judicial killing of Burhan Wani and other similar cases.
  8. The ban on Kashmir Reader should be immediately withdrawn and the publication be allowed to function normally. The government must also stop all persecution of media, including by means of denying giving advertisements by the State and Central Government as a means of pressurizing the media to toe the government line.
  9. There should be no curtailment of the right to freedom and speech expression of the media and also of civil society organisations and people. All peaceful protests should be permitted.
  10. The Government of India and J & K Government should immediately approve all files related to granting `Sanction to Prosecute’ government, police, security and army personnel found guilty of having committed offences based on criminal investigation in cases pending in criminal courts and which have not been cleared for long periods of time.
  11. The Government of India should immediately ban the use of pellets guns on protests and demonstrations.
  12. The current approach of the State is premised on the fact that they can militarily subjugate the Kashmiris by causing suffering and crushing them economically and politically. The ground situation, as observed by the FFT, reveals that far from silencing the ordinary Kashmiri people, such brutal military methods have only resulted in alienating the local population by increasing their sense of anger and injustice on one hand and on the other hand making them, especially the youth, more resolute and determined to continue the struggle for political resolution, irrespective of the price they may pay. There is thus an urgent need for the Government of India to revise this militaristic policy and for Indian leaders to demonstrate greater statesmanship in dealing with the Kashmir issue by recognising the political aspirations of the people of Kashmir and charting a policy which ensures the welfare, well being, rights and dignity of the Kashmiri people. As a first step, the government should initiate confidence building measures to build a sense of trust and confidence in ordinary residents of Kashmir

The PUCL will continue to dialogue with the people of Kashmir through visits and other means. It will also raise awareness regarding Kashmir in other parts of the country. It will also campaign for the release of Pervez  Khurram. The full report will be released in November, 2016.

Sd/-

Dr. V. Suresh, General Secretary, PUCL

Kavita Srivastava, National Secretary, PUCL

Ramdas Rao, National Council Member, PUCL

Pragnya Joshi, National Council Member, PUCL

Jean Dreze, Member, PUCL