Archive for the ‘Armed Forces Special Power Act’ Category

By Sheshu Babu*

Living with deformity is very difficult. The degree of difficulty varies with the intensity of disability and its impact on people. One of the vital parts of human body is the eye. So, a disease or injury to the eye or eyes has a significant impact on lives of people. The use of pellets in Kashmir has caused loss of sight to many people, specially children and youth who are facing physical and psychological problems.
According to a study by the Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience, Kashmir,at least 85% of pellet victims have developed psychiatric disorders. The study titled ‘Psychiatric Morbidity in Pellet Injury Victims of Kashmir Valley’ puts depression at the top of the list with 25.79% suffering from this disorder followed by adjustment disorder with 15.79%, post-traumatic stress disorder (9.21%) and anxiety disorders (9%).
Doctors examined 380 pellet victims after the uprising of 2016. Among the victims, 92.92% have eye injuries and 70% other injuries.

Serious problem

The study may not be comprehensive but it certainly reflects the gravity of the problem and need for serious attention. The victims are mostly students and youth who dream of bright future. Their aspirations have been cut short by using ‘non- lethal’ weapons and inflicting ‘ lethal’ damage.

The victims who lost partial or total vision need help from parents, close relatives and friends as well as ophthalmologists and psychiatrists. The problems faced by blind from birth and those who lost vision due to pellet injuries are different. The pellet victim has to adjust to new conditions.
The person frequently thinks of the condition when he or she could see the world and move freely before darkness engulfed throwing normal life out of gear. This state causes enormous mental trauma and leads to deep pessimism and depression. Therefore, people close to the victim should keep constant vigil and give assurances and kind words of optimism to cheer and come out of the bouts of deep depression.
Society should come forward and accept the victims by inviting them to parties and meets so that their loneliness is driven out. They should be given training in vocational and non- vocational jobs for independent living with freedom.
Many women affected by pellets face added suffering of patriarchy, oppression, apathy and indifference from society. They need the help of psychiatrist all the more. There have been cases of married women abandoned by their husbands. They need protection and support.

Activists and volunteers

Since little can be expected from the present government, the role of activists, volunteers and human rights organizations becomes very crucial. It is deplorable that pellet guns are still being used despite causing suffering to thousands of Kashmiris. The number of affected persons is rising.

Recently, pellet victims held a protest and demanded ban on use of pellet guns under the banner of the  Pellet Victims Welfare Trust. People from all over the country should join them in solidarity and bring pressure to stop using such methods causing misery to young lives in the state. Rehabilitation and medical care should also be included in the demands by the victims.

By Amnesty International India

On the 27th anniversary of the rapes of dozens of women in the towns of Kunan and Poshpora, Jammu and Kashmir, in 1991, allegedly by Indian army personnel, Asmita Basu, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India, said:

“For 27 years, the lack of accountability for the crimes committed in Kunan and Poshpora has been a festering injustice, and a chilling example of the impunity that surrounds human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Attempts at seeking justice and compensation for the survivors have been blocked by the Jammu and Kashmir state government, the central government and the Indian Army. Five of the victims have died waiting for justice.

“Authorities must ensure a thorough, impartial and effective investigation into the allegations. All suspects, including those with command responsibility, must be prosecuted in a civilian court.”

Previous investigations into the allegations have been ineffective. The J&K police declared that the case was ‘untraceable’ and stopped investigations in October 1991. To date, nobody has been charged or prosecuted in connection to the case.

In October 2011, the J&K State Human Rights Commission directed the state government to compensate victims and re-investigate the allegations. In June 2013, a court in Kupwara district directed the J&K police to investigate the long-standing allegations within three months.

When the investigations proved ineffective, five survivors filed a petition in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in October 2013. The state government, central government and the Army have since filed multiple petitions in different courts, sometimes simultaneously, and secured temporary orders suspending investigations and the provision of compensation.

Students March in Protest Against NIA Summons to Kashmir University Scholar


SRINAGAR: Amid pro-freedom and anti-India slogans, hundreds of students today marched on the campus and later staged a protest demonstration against the summoning of a University of Kashmir scholar by the National Investigations Agency in ‘terror funding’ case.

Aala Fazili, a resident of Srinagar’s Humhama locality who is pursuing PhD in Pharmacy from the Varsity, has been detained by the NIA after he appeared for questioning yesterday in connection with the case, in which separatists, a prominent businessman and a photojournalist have been arrested.

Carrying banners depicting messages of solidarity with Aala, dozens of agitated students marched on the campus and later assembled outside the Humanities Block where they shouted anti-India, anti-NIA slogans and pro-freedom slogans.

“India is using NIA as a new weapon of war to intimidate and silence those who are speaking against the brutalities of forces. Such tactics have not worked in past and they will not work now,” a student, who didn’t want to be named, said.

The protest demonstration was organised by the Kashmir University Students Union, “India can’t cow down students. If Aala is not released immediately, KUSU will organise state wide protests and government will be responsible for the outcome,” a report quoted KUSU spokesperson as saying.

The NIA has arrested middle-rung Hurriyat leaders including Altaf Shah, the son-in-law of veteran Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani, Ayaz Akbar, Geelani’s spokesman, Shahid-ul-Islam, the political advisor of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, among other in the case which was registered on May 30.

Police sources said some of the students leaders linked to the two unions running in the Varsity, including the one with links to a legislator from north Kashmir, have also been questioned in connection with “stone pelting incidents” during 2016 unrest and more students will be questioned.

According to NIA, some prominent separatists, including unidentified Hurriyat members, have been accused of collusion with Hizbul Mujahideen, Dukhtaran-e-Millat, Lashkar-e-Toiba and other outfits for “raising, receiving and collecting funds through various illegal means, including hawala, for funding separatist and terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir”.

The Hurriyat has rubbished the charges, alleging that the agency was being “used by New Delhi” to “defame the genuine political struggle” of people of Jammu and Kashmir.

(Cover Photograph: Representational image courtesy Greater Kashmir)

People in Indian-administered Kashmir aim their anger at security forces as death toll and eye injuries mount.

Human rights activists say the security forces enjoy impunity from prosecution [EPA]

Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – For Abdul Rehman Mir, the grief over the death of his son has turned to anger.

He is sitting on the living-room floor of his small family home in the Tengpora neighbourhood of Kashmir’s summer capital, Srinagar, surrounded by nearly 30 neighbours.

His son Shabir, 24, was killed by police on July 10 – two days into the mass protests against the Indian security forces’ killing of Kashmiri rebel commander Burhan Wani.

His neighbours urge him to speak but the 48-year-old is reluctant. “What good will it do to talk about what happened?” he asks. “I only want justice. Whatever happens after that, I don’t care.”

One of the neighbours, Mohammed Haneef, tries to placate him. “He was your son. Only you can know the intense pain you are going through,” says 42-year-old Haneef. “Today it happened to your son, but tomorrow, it could happen to mine. We are with you.”

READ MORE: Amnesty – Stop using pellet guns on Kashmiri protesters

Mir begins to open up, explaining how on the evening of July 10 his family was watching television and drinking tea after returning home from the nearby mosque. He heard shouting outside, he says. From an upstairs window, he witnessed police officers smashing the windows on the ground floor of the house. They broke in and fired tear gas, he says.

“I asked why they were firing tear gas on us. What have we done? We are inside our home. Aren’t you Muslims [like us]?” he remembers.

Abdul Rehman Mir with the only photo he has of his son Shabir, who was killed by police in Tengpora, Srinagar on July 10 [Aarabu Ahmad Sultan/Al Jazeera]

Mir’s face was contorted with anger as he narrated the events that led to his son’s death. He added that the police beat him and his wife, Shahazada Banu, 47. When Shabir tried to step in, “they shot him in his stomach in the corridor near the main door”.

“My son tried to escape through the window, but security forces ran after him and fired a second shot in his stomach. He took a few steps and then fell down,” he said with his eyes fixed on the wall.

“I held him in my arms. He died in my arms.”

‘There was no one like him’

Shabir was the second of Rehman and Shahazada’s five children. As a tile mason, he was the family’s breadwinner.

Rehman recalls how, after he suffered heart problems four years ago, Shabir had told him: “Father, you’ve done enough looking after us all our lives. It’s time for you to rest now.”

Neighbours remember Shabir as gentle and virtuous. “There was no one like him in our neighbourhood,” says Shabir Ahmad Dar, 26. “He always walked with his head down. He never fought with anyone. He was a good man.”

Local men gathered around said that on the evening of Shabir’s death, there were no protests taking place outside Mir’s house but some youths who had been protesting nearby had come to the area to take shelter from the security forces.

Graffiti reading ‘Azadi’ or freedom, and ‘Go India, Go Back’, in Srinagar [Aarabu Ahmad Sultan/Al Jazeera]

The Mir family says they tried to file an official complaint called a First Information Report (FIR) against a senior Jammu and Kashmir police officer, who they say shot Shabir, at the local police station, but the police refused. The state’s high court then ordered a contempt notice against the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Senior Superintendent of Police for refusing to lodge the FIR. But India’s Supreme Court revoked that order a few days later and has since ordered an investigation into the killing.

FAST FACTS: Origins of the conflict
  • In 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh, the king of Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir state, requested India’s help to repel an invading Pakistani tribal army
  • In return, Singh, a Hindu, signed an instrument of accession with New Delhi
  • The Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, himself from Kashmir, promised that the Kashmiri people would be allowed to decide their future in a plebiscite
  • In 1948, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution asking for the withdrawal of Indian and Pakistani forces and a plebiscite. That hasn’t happened

Shabir’s body has now been exhumed and a post-mortem completed as part of the investigation. The results have not been made public yet.

Al Jazeera called the IGP, Syed Javaid Mujtaba Geelani, several times, but he refused to comment and hung up after saying, “I don’t have time to talk to you right now.” Repeated attempts by Al Jazeera to reach him over the phone were unsuccessful.

Human rights activists say the security forces enjoy impunity from prosecution.

“The [successive] governments [India’s federal government] have made it impossible for justice to be delivered,” says Khurram Parvez, the programme coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).

“The violence that was perpetrated in Jammu and Kashmir and continues to be perpetrated today is institutional,” adds Parvez, whose organisation documents human rights violations in the state and provides litigation for its victims.

In its report, Structures of Violence, JKCCS documented 313 cases involving alleged abuses by 1,000 police and security force personnel between 1990 and 2015. None of those allegedly involved have been prosecuted, Parvez says.

The legend of Burhan Wani

Shabir is one of the 77 people, including seven security forces personnel, killed in the biggest anti-government protests in Kashmir in six years. They erupted after the killing of Burhan Wani, a 22-year-old rebel commander who had become a household name because of his use of social media.

Wani’s story has become legend. He was a 15-year-old high school student with good grades when the security forces approached him and his brother Khalid. Although Khalid bought them cigarettes, as requested, they still allegedly beat him and broke his bike.

Wani stopped his studies and joined the armed group Hizbul Mujahideen, which wants the region to become part of Pakistan and is designated a terrorist organisation by India, the United States and the European Union.

Khalid was killed by the security forces last year, allegedly for recruiting Kashmiris for Burhan, but his family says that he was tortured and killed for being the brother of a rebel leader.

Young protesters in Bijbehara town, Anantnag district, seen confronting the security forces [Aarabu Ahmad Sultan/Al Jazeera]

Tens of thousands of mourners attended Wani’s funeral and protesters poured onto the streets.

“Wani will recruit more people from his grave than when he was alive,” says Umair Gul, who has been researching India’s armed groups at Jamia Millia Islamia’s Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution in New Delhi.

FAST FACTS: Who claims what?
  • Both India and Pakistan lay claim to all five regions of water-rich Jammu and Kashmir
  • Pakistan controls Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir
  • Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh fell under Indian control
  • The two countries have fought three wars – in 1947-48, 1965 and 1999 – over the disputed territory
  • The 700km Line of Control, which was demarcated in 1972, separates Indian-administered Kashmir from the Pakistan-administered part of the Himalayan territory

His name is seen and heard all over Kashmir, in the graffiti that declares “Burhan Bhai [brother] Freedom Fighter” and “Burhan [is] still alive” and from the loudspeakers of mosques that blare songs extolling him.

Nineteen-year-old protester Umer explains: “Burhan Wani wasn’t a terrorist. He was a freedom fighter.

“He was to us what your Gandhi was to you,” Umer, who used one name for the fear of being identified, told Al Jazeera in the Nowhatta area of downtown Srinagar.

‘Another country’s propaganda’

Another protester from the same area, 19-year-old university student Faizan, is one of about 20 boys and men throwing stones at the security forces. When asked why, he responds: “For freedom.”

Boys as young as four join in; older men look on, smiling.

“There’s no other solution,” Faizan, who also uses one name for security reasons, says.

“They’ve been committing crimes against us since 1947. So many boys have been martyred, injured. These [security forces] are the supporters of the Indian government. They come to our mosques. They break our windows. They come into our homes when we’re praying. They beat our mothers. They beat our sisters. We want to take our revenge against the Indian government.

Faizan’s target is a group of about 20 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) paramilitary personnel standing a few hundred metres away with polycarbonate shields to protect them from the stones.

Nineteen-year-old university student and protester Umer, who was throwing rocks at security forces in Nowhatta, downtown Srinagar [Aarabu Ahmad Sultan/Al Jazeera]

Sub-Inspector Hari Om says: “They don’t understand the real situation. Those people who are calling out ‘Pakistan’ have forgotten history. Pakistan once attacked, then we came here to protect them, and today we are standing here to protect them.”

FAST FACTS: An uprising in the valley
  • Following the alleged rigging of the 1987 state election, some groups in the Kashmir Valley took up arms
  • The armed rebellion against the Indian state began in 1989
  • Hizbul Mujahideen and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) emerged as the leading armed groups during the 1990s
  • The first wants integration with Pakistan, the second favours an independent Kashmir
  • Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed, mostly by the security forces since 1990
  • Hundreds of thousands of Hindus fled their homes in the early months of 1990 after rebels killed prominent Hindu officials they accused of being Indian agents
  • By the mid-2000s, the Indian security forces had crushed the armed rebellion, but not the political aims behind it

The sub-inspector’s words echo the mainstream Indian view of Kashmir’s history and the current government line.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in power in New Delhi, is part of the coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir for the first time in the state’s history. It draws its support from the Hindu majority population of southern Jammu region of the state.

The BJP’s Nirmal Singh is the state’s deputy chief minister. “Pakistan has not accepted the reality that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India,” he tells Al Jazeera.

The Muslim-majority region has been divided between India and Pakistan, but claimed in full by both, since the two countries gained independence from Britain in 1947.

When asked how he feels about the graffiti that reads “Indian Dogs Go Back”, Sub-Inspector Hari Om, in a softly spoken manner, says: “This may be another country’s propaganda to misguide people.” He is referring to Pakistan.

“And even local politicians are imparting bad ideas to the children,” he said as he nodded his head towards the group of protesters. “Like in this group, a five-year-old is throwing stones, a three-year-old! What you are taught as a child, you can never forget, and yet, we think of these people as our own.”

‘An integral part’

The Indian government often refers to Kashmir as its “atoot ang” – an unseverable limb or an integral part. Most Kashmiris seem to feel differently.

In his partially shuttered newspaper stand in central Srinagar’s Lal Chowk area, 40-year-old Ahmed Mizgar says he has lost a lot of money since July 8.

“The central government says you are an integral part, but it doesn’t consider us their own people. It doesn’t care about Kashmiris. It wants the land, not the people,” he told Al Jazeera as he looked despondent.

Lal Chowk would usually be teeming with activity on a Sunday afternoon but the government imposed a strict curfew after Wani’s killing to keep people off the streets.

The National Highway, which links the Kashmir Valley to the rest of India, has been closed. Phone and internet services have either been cut off or only work intermittently. Shops remain closed throughout the day.

A Kashmiri man walks past security forces in central Srinagar, as the curfew is eased [Aarabu Ahmad Sultan/Al Jazeera]

On days when the curfew is eased, children come out to play on the streets; young boys ride bicycles; old men venture out to buy newspapers; groups of men play carom on the pavements, but they tell Al Jazeera that they do not want their photographs taken as that might give the impression that things are normal in Kashmir.

FAST FACTS: The world’s most militarised zone
  • India’s offensive against the rebels between 1990 and the mid-2000s has seen the number of rebel fighters decrease from nearly 30,000 to around 200 now, according to Umair Gul, a scholar from from Jamia Millia Islamia University
  • Despite that, Indian-administered Kashmir remains the most militarised place in the world
  • Khurram Parvez says there are more than 650,000 troops stationed in the region – that is one soldier for every 17 Kashmiris. Independent analysts, however, believe the number of Indian troops to be around half a million. The Indian government does not release official figures on the number of its troops in the disputed region
  • Human rights organisations have accused Indian forces in Kashmir of unlawful killings, disappearances, rape and torture
  • But the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which was introduced in the state in 1990, gives security forces virtual immunity from prosecution

“They [the government] impose a curfew and say this is a law and order problem. It’s not. It’s a political dispute. They have to solve it politically. They have to talk to us, but they only kill and injure us,” says Mizgar.

‘What has he got to lose?’

At least 8,500 people have been injured in the unrest since July 9, 5,000 by pellet guns that fire hundreds of tiny steel pellets per round.

Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital is filled with victims. Nearly 500 people have been treated for serious eye injuries since the violence broke out.

Eighteen-year-old Mohammed lies motionless on a hospital bed in the casualty ward. His exposed torso is covered in small bloody holes, where pellets entered his body the day before. His gaze is fixed on the ceiling.

The medical report and X-rays by his bed show multiple pellets in his heart, lungs and stomach. Mohammed’s cousin, 20-year-old Amir, says Mohammed was throwing stones at security forces during protests in the Imam Sahib village of Shopian district, when security forces retaliated by firing pellets.

Amir says Mohammed doesn’t have the energy to speak. When asked if he will protest again, Amir answers for him. “What has he got to lose?” he says.

Like Mohammed, 18-year-old Mehraj was also throwing stones at security forces. His face is covered with pellet wounds. Both of his eyes are bruised and swollen.

None of the injured Al Jazeera spoke to wanted to reveal their full names for fear of being identified.

Doctors don’t know whether he has lost the vision in his right eye, which is swollen shut. “If God wishes and my eye heals, I will protest again,” Mehraj says.

The beds in the ophthalmology ward are filled with young men wearing sunglasses. Of the 5,000 people who have been injured by pellet guns, hundreds, including young children and bystanders, have been blinded.

Dr Yousef, 27, says the hospital has treated thousands of pellet injuries since July 8. “Most of them … are above the waist. They’re on the chest or head, the eyes. They have specifically targeted the eyes,” he explains.

Young girls look from the window of their home in downtown Srinagar during the curfew [Aarabu Ahmad Sultan/Al Jazeera]

The CRPF spokesman Rajesh Yadav says the paramilitary troops only use pellet guns when they absolutely have to. “Troops are not here to target innocent civilians. CRPF has maintained the highest level of restraint so far. If somebody’s getting injured or there’s a casualty, that is only when they are getting very close to the camp,” he adds.

“They try to harm somebody physically. They’re trying to snatch the weapons or set the bunkers on fire. Only in these cases are pellets being used.”

Yadav says between 1,600 and 1,800 officers have been injured. But when asked if Al Jazeera could visit the injured officers, he says that won’t be possible.

Pellet guns against protesters
  • Indian security forces don’t use pellet guns anywhere else in the country and are now under pressure to stop using them in Kashmir
  • The Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association has filed a petition at the state’s High Court, asking for the use of pellet guns to be stopped, saying they are a lethal weapon
  • Bashir Sidiq, the association’s general secretary, led a group of lawyers in protest outside the High Court. He told Al Jazeera: “You can never expect a mob to be disciplined, but CRPF have to be disciplined”
  • The Indian government has appointed a committee to review the use of pellet guns. The army has recommended replacing them with less lethal weapons such as sound cannons, pepper shotguns and chilli grenades

Dr Yousef, who didn’t want his full name to be revealed, thinks the injuries won’t deter protesters. “We have even got some patients whose guts are perforated and they are asking when they can go back and join the protests,” he says.

Unlike Mohammed and Mehraj, who admit that they were throwing stones at the security forces, many patients say they were either protesting peacefully, were bystanders or, like the Mir family, were in their own homes when they were hit by pellets or bullets.

Fifteen-year-old Riyaz was shot in the chest during what, he says, was a peaceful protest march in Srinagar’s Beerwah area.

He says the police had given his group permission to protest, but later opened fire on them. Eighty people were injured; two died. When asked if he’ll protest again, Riyaz answers with those words so familiar in Kashmir: “Yes. We want freedom.”

Al Jazeera tried to confirm the allegation with the security forces but they failed to provide details of the incident.

Beyond fear

Away from Srinagar, protests in Kashmir’s southern districts, where most of the remaining rebels are based, are more violent. The town of Bijbehara in Anantnag district sits on the National Highway.

Protesters have built roadblocks with piles of heavy stones, tree trunks and barbed wire to keep out the security forces and the media. Hundreds of angry boys and men hurl rocks and abuse at a large contingent of army and police personnel.

The sound of tear gas canisters being fired pierces the air. The anger on both sides is palpable. One army officer grabs Al Jazeera’s photographer by his collar and asks him to delete his photos. Another yells, “You’re destroying India’s reputation abroad by documenting what’s going on.”

Eighteen-year-old Mehraj doesn’t know if he will be able to see out of his right eye again after being shot in the face with a pellet gun [Aarabu Ahmad Sultan/Al Jazeera]

Thirty-year-old shopkeeper Atif Hassan says he has been arrested or placed in preventative detention nearly 60 times since the 2008 protests against the Indian government’s decision to transfer land for a Hindu pilgrimage site. Kashmiris saw the transfer as an attempt to settle Hindus in the majority-Muslim valley and change its demographics. Hassan was also arrested during protests in 2010, which followed the Indian army’s killing of three men it said were terrorists, but who turned out to be innocent villagers.

When asked why he continues to protest, Hassan answers: “We have to lose something if we demand something. We demand freedom. We demand what they promised us in 1947. When I was young, I used to be afraid of them, but not any more. It is beyond fear now.”

Hassan says he wants complete freedom from India and wants to be given the choice of merging with Pakistan.

Khurram Parvez says: “If you see the trajectory of protests in Kashmir, they are only intensifying. They’re becoming far more desperate, from the Kashmiri point of view.

“There was a time when if security forces fired on the street, people wouldn’t come out for days. Today, people are attacking police stations, attacking army camps. India used fear as a weapon of war, but it overused it, and people aren’t fearful any more.”

Atif Hassan claims he has been arrested or placed in preventative detention nearly 60 times [Aarabu Ahmad Sultan/Al Jazeera]]

All around Kashmir, the chant most often heard is “Hum kya Chahte? Azadi!”, or “What do we want? Freedom!” but the problem for the many Kashmiris who are asking for the right to choose between being a part of India, Pakistan and an independent nation is that the Indian government will not allow it.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which runs the state government in a coalition with the BJP, does not seem willing to talk.

“A referendum is not on our list of priorities,” a spokesperson for the PDP, Nayeem Akhter, told Al Jazeera. “Somebody’s slogan is not a resolution.”

Nirmal Singh, the state’s BJP deputy chief minister, echoes that point: “The referendum is not acceptable under any conditions. That’s the stand of the BJP government at the centre, the government of Jammu and Kashmir and all the mainstream parties, including the Congress and the National Conference.”

Separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq addresses supporters at a protest in June against a government plan to build a residential colony for the army in Kashmir [Aarabu Ahmad Sultan/Al Jazeera]

The separatists

The movement that does call for Kashmiris’ right to self-determination through a plebiscite is the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference – an alliance of political groups formed in 1993. Hurriyat is widely supported by Kashmiris, but has never been part of a government because it doesn’t contest elections, saying it won’t recognise the Indian constitution’s rights over Kashmir.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is the head of the Awami Action faction of Hurriyat. Farooq, who had been confined to his Srinagar house since July 8, was arrested on Friday. Separatist leaders such as Farooq are often put under house arrest in an effort to keep them away from their supporters.

Speaking on the phone from his home in Srinagar, Farooq says: “The government of India does not want to acknowledge Kashmir as a political problem because if they do that, they are on a weaker wicket because India’s political case is very weak. That’s why the government says it’s terrorism, it’s extremism, it’s Islamic fundamentalism.

“Maybe the government is much more comfortable dealing with an armed resistance rather than a peaceful resistance. They don’t have 600,000 troops to fight the 100 militants. They have troops to fight the people because that’s where the real power is,” he adds.

Despite Hurriyat’s popularity, Kashmiris largely ignored its call for a boycott of the 2014 state elections and turned out in record numbers to vote. The PDP-BJP coalition says this is proof that Kashmiris support their alternative of “dialogue” over the separatists’ call for a referendum. Hurriyat says elections are only for administrative purposes, and don’t address the root of political problems.

“When people vote in elections, this is a vote for day-to-day issues – infrastructure, roads, water, electricity, hospitals. It is never a vote for India,” Farooq says.

When asked why Hurriyat doesn’t contest elections instead of calling for protests and strikes, Farooq answers: “If there’s an election under the ambit of the Indian constitution where the only aim is to form a government that will ratify India’s claims on Kashmir, obviously Hurriyat has a problem with that because we have always maintained that our position on Kashmir is, it’s a dispute. Even the UN resolutions are very clear – that no election in Kashmir can be a substitute for self-determination.”

Where the government and Hurriyat agree is their fear that things will only get worse.

The PDP had traditionally been the defender of human rights in Kashmir. It had, according to Akhter, “galvanised those people who were living in the grey space – who believed in peaceful methods, but who did not believe in the constitution”.

But as the death toll and injuries have climbed, the PDP’s popularity seems to have declined.

“Our worry is the people who have come back to the mainstream, who had developed a stake in the democratic system, they should not go back into the same whirlpool, from which their retrieval will become more difficult,” Akhter says.

Follow Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Kashmir unrest

Farooq reflects: “In the 90s when the movement started, in 2000, there was anger, there was alienation among the youth, but today’s generation, there is absolute hate vis-à-vis India and that is something which is pushing the youth towards extremes. Every Kashmiri identifies himself with the story of Burhan because every Kashmiri boy or young man has suffered at the hands of Indian security forces.”

“So in that context, a new generation of these young, educated boys are being pushed against the wall, pushed to take up the gun, to take up violence once again, which obviously we don’t want.”

The Indian army may have all but crushed the armed rebellion, but the cries of ordinary Kashmiris are now louder than ever.

Graffiti on a wall in the southern Anantnag district shows all five regions of Kashmir under Pakistan [Aarabu Ahmad Sultan/Al Jazeera]

Thursday, August 11,2016
SRINAGAR: Kashmir remains under curfew and restrictions on 34th day on Thursday with fresh reports of protests received from across the valley.
Officials said curfew and restrictions will continue in ten districts of the valley which have been on the boil following the killing of Burhan Wani last month.
Although vehicular traffic has started appearing on the roads in almost all parts of the valley, except south Kashmir districts, there is palpable fear in the air due to the heightened presence of police and paramilitary forces. The strategic national highway has also been handed over to the Army.
“Tomorrow (Friday) is going to be a crucial day due to which restrictions will be continued in parts of Srinagar, Pulwama, Baramulla, Kulgam, Shopian and Anantnag districts,” a senior police official told The Citizen.
Clashes broke out in summer capital Srinagar where government forces lobbed teargas shells at a rally marching towards Mazar-e-Shouhada to pay homage to slain Hurriyat leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz who was shot dead in 2008 during a march to Muzaffarabad.
According to reports, dozens of civilian protesters and Hurriyat activists led by Hurriyat leader Masroor Abbas Ansari took out a march from Khanqah-e-Sokhta in downtown and headed towards the Martyrs’ Graveyard at Eidgah. Moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwai Umar Farooq was also detained when he tried to march to the area.
Forces intercepted them on Nallahmar road and stopped them from marching ahead, sparking clashes which were going on at the time of filing of this report. “We were peacefully marching to the Martyrs’ Graveyard when forces fired teargas shells. Some of the demonstrators suffered injuries,” said a witness.
All roads leading to Mazar-e-Shouhada were sealed by the authorities to prevent the march called by the separatists to pay tribute to Aziz who was shot dead during a march in 2008 uprising called by Kashmir fruit growers to Muzaffarabad, the capital city of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Separatists had urged people to march to Mazar-e-Shouhada after Zuhr prayers to pay homage to Aziz and others who died in 2008 and 2010 agitations.
Reports of protests were received from other parts of the alley as well including Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Budgam with educational institutions, shops, public transport and other businesses suspended since the ciil uprising broke out on July 9.
The Hurriyat trio, Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, remain under preventive detention or in custody while the mobile internet services have also been curtailed to prevent “law and order problems.
(Cover photo by Saqib Majeed)

Verses and images that mourn the violence.

Poetry and photographs for Kashmir: Is this or is this the dream I came home to?
Image credit:  Amit Mehra

this long ailing night
left to die
like an aging raven
to flying failing
its wings
this cagelessness

flame of candle
between thumb
and forefinger
charred night

burst into flame
solitary flower immolate
your petals detonating
like suicide vests
making pale
the glitter
of the stars the sky
shredded raining fire
scorching an earth
already weary
of its own blood
take it back
the night

shatter stillness
the night
on crutches
the sun
in a cloak of night
point blank
to rise

bird stripped
of sight
in a sky
of bullet wounds

the ashes scatter
the ashes
into the wind

the silence
death’s soft whisper

ash coloured
the cobblestones

above my head
smoke from
a distant dream
a sky
in flames

voiceless scream
as leaves drop
from trees
by one

stitched from clouds
in red
the sky
reluctant shroud

smeared grey
across the sky
its ash visage
by the death
of the sun

is this
or is this
the dream
I came home to?

dogs sniffing blood
on chinar leaves

watermelon heads
every single day

in tiny heaps
in mourning

sheet of light
in a room made vacant
made lonely made fiction
by what else
dappled shadow
white black white white
blurry motion windswept
ricochet across room
slamming headfirst
into the wall
also white
into a shivering
daze on spinning floor
with a bang and
a crash
breath panting
for breath breathlessly
gasping air gasping
for breath out of breath
eyes wide rolling over and
over before closing shutting
down clanging
like shutters ungreased
metal rusted with years
the light no longer white yellow
age yellow with age
hinges squeaking
for oil remembering
gaze fixed
on unseen further point
in the fog dense
remember leaves
losing sheen
at the moment of their passing
falling falling sheet floating
light as light weightless
crumpled shadow of light
in room emptied
of thought
all of it

in a fragile landscape
ash coloured
seeking refuge
from the fire

shiver death
in the cold
light of the sun

full of rage
grappling with fists
to bleed

their eyes shut tight
dead men learning
to dream

the children cycle madly
under a sky hurling

of the candle
a dream in ashes

vast and silent
the oars precise
its stillness
a different rhythm
that of gunfire
in ears
made deaf
by a silence
with roadside graves

blackened forever
the night

all night long
the smell
of tyres

full of tree trunks

at sunrise
the women
to bury the night

stab each hand
one by one

smash the clocks
one by

a landscape of green
the fresh
fresh smell
of blood

crushed underfoot
daring to breathe

from the corner of my eye
a blur of grey

leaking fugitive

made naked
the bitterness
of shadows

beneath the stones
and reams
of poetry

they bury shadows
every night
under a moon
known for its brazenness

widowed sky
its own drowning

giant sieve
in its own blood
the sky

the keening of widows
muffled by the shadows

on some days
on most days
all that remains
is for the night to end

yesterday’s words
like stale bread
posing as poetry

the blood-coloured flowers
to bloom

the women silent
watching refusing
to shroud their heads
their heads

a sky
to shrug off
its greyness

there where
the shadows
in quiet whispers
the restlessness of

the sound
of bare feet

anointed in their own blood
the shadows refusing
to weep

slice the vein
and let the poem bleed
all over the white
all over

bloodied fists
smash the night

cold wet street
strewn under
a flickering lamplight
like freshly plucked flowers

low rumble
deep tumbril
from well of throat
the cry rising
thick like smoke
on its own fire
burn the devastated land
strewn with stumps
as mighty trees
one by one by
one fall prey
to what?
what? was it
that caused this
blind blind
rage blinded
impossible then
to extinguish
sparked by
of faces trapped
in rooms full
of shadows
staring staring
at reflections
of flames
ricocheting off the walls
before collapsing
into a heap
of ash rotten
rotting from within
their hearts
so full
so full of anger
drained of blood
the landscape
waiting for winter
and snow

into the night
solitary shadow
hide your shame

strangling silence
the night
its leaves
singing hoarse
its songs out of tune
broken voiced
like bent reeds underwater
snarled in discord
the distant sighing
of the flute wind
whispering rustling
in harmony
shrill piercing
the sound of a car horn
loud lament

Assisted by hands gripped
firmly around its neck. Pushing
down. Splashing wildly.
The darkness
once and for all
into the pool of light.

Poems by Naveen Kishore, photographs by Amit Mehra.


The expected healing touch has eluded Kashmir too long
Youth at Burhan’s funeral procession

So why are the youth of Jammu and Kashmir chanting, ‘Hum kya chaahte? Azadi!’ Kashmiri youth are well-informed, including through social media, of their constitutional rights and privileges as well as the government’s social delivery systems. They are aware that in a democratic society like India, people do not have to constantly live in fear of draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFS­PA) and Public Safety Act (PSA), which give unlimited powers to security forces and have led to umpteen cases of rights violations in the Valley.

The promises to Kashmiris have been belied. Leaders said people’s aspirations would be fulfilled within the framework of “insaniyat and Kashmiriyat”; that the state would be given the desired political autonomy, for which “the sky is the limit”; and that, vis-a-vis Pakistan, int­erna­tional borders will be made irr­elevant. Lack of satisfactory progress on this has caused a new ali­enation. Through the 2008-10 protests to now, it has spurred support for militancy on a scale and int­en­sity last seen in the ’90s.

Maybe a window was opened with the present BJP-PDP alliance—though it was a post-election tie-up, it had the capacity to blend the  arc of local aspirations with the promise of development and good governance. On his three visits to the state, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to address the problems caused by the recent floods and the prolonged militancy. They expected the Centre would apply the healing touch. The outcomes are however disappointing.

In the last decade, a number of task forces have been constituted to recommend confidence-building mea­sures. New Delhi-appointed interlocutors submitted a report titled ‘A New Compact with the People of J&K’ in 2011. The Centre launched at least three program­mes: i) Special scholarship scheme for post-secondary education ii) Udaan for on-the-job training and placement iii) Himayat, for promoting self-employment.

Unfortunately, the Centre and the state governments have not implemented the recommendations in letter and spirit, which is why the youth vent their anger in whatever forms that are available to them. The youth are frustrated due to the lack of empowerment and opp­ortunity. Sabka saath, sabka vikas is a distant idea.

Kashmiris would have liked their governments to provide economic and social security by neutralising internal or external disturbances. Since Indepen­de­nce, they have suffered due to wars and militancy in the region. The state’s territory has been used as a battlefield by two nuclear countries. Such objectives should not be pursued at human cost—that too to people who live in allegiance to the Indian state.

Modi has righty said that all political differences can be resolved through an active engagement of the stakeholders in a meaningful dialogue. Both India and Pakistan should therefore resolve to adhere to the principle of maintaining and promoting the process of uninterrupted and uninterruptible dialogue between the two countries. If it does not happen, as the experience of last two years shows, the Indian state would be responsible for the breach of trust posed in it by the Kashmiri when he chose India to live with rather than Pakistan.

The crisis must be seen as opportunity. India and Pakistan must cooperate with each other in dismantling terror training camps as well as to ensure their fin­ancers are brought to book. The realisation of the Kashmiri’s political rights and economic entitlements largely depe­nds on the extent to which bilateral relations improve. In the process, all the stakeholders must be engaged to ensure effective democratic governance. The magnitude of financial support provided by the Centre to the resource-deficient state of J&K must also be substantially increased. India’s success on these accounts is dire­ctly linked to peace and tranquility in Kashmir.

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