Archive for the ‘Women Rights’ 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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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.

 https://amnesty.org.in/news-update/no-justice-yet-kunan-poshpora-rapes/

Image result for Munaza Gulzar kashmir activist Sarposh Management Service


 SRINAGAR: Activism in Kashmir has usually seen men at the forefront. Women — who are perhaps the biggest victims of the protracted conflict in the valley — have remained on the sidelines, treated as passive victims and confined to the four walls of their home.

In recent years, however, there has been a slow and gradual yet noticeable change, as brave young female voices have emerged from the patriarchal and conservative mindsets and raised their voice against the challenges and difficulties that make up the lives of people in the valley.

Munaza Gulzar: A post graduate gold medalist in social work from the University of Kashmir, Gulzar is a United Kingdom registered social worker. She deals with mental health & child issues with more than 15 years of experience in Kashmir and abroad. Gulzar has exclusively worked on mental health for 4 years. She has also worked for differently-abled people, and vulnerable women groups and their needs.

Munazah has worked in almost every district of the Kashmir region. Currently she runs her own mental health clinic in Srinagar under Sarposh Management Service.

“Activism to me is putting into action a fight against injustice and recognition of rights”, says Gulzar.

Gulzar shifted her career from journalism to social activism the moment she visited Kunan Poshpora rape victims. To her, listening to their narrative was a decisive factor in the shift in profession.

Asked how difficult it is to work in Kashmir, she said, “Conflict affects every aspect of our life. Be it the mental state or a choice of your profession, the regular sense of insecurity prevailing in the state is a very disturbing element”. “Conflict is a major insecurity tracking you all the time. It curbs your freedom making you unable to do justice to your work”, she added.

Kashmir lacks a joint forum for social and political activists. There is no proper process of registration by the system. Activists lack a common platform to speak out as everyone does it at an individual level.

Natasha Rather is a young human rights defender, who currently works as a researcher for the Jammu & Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). She started her activism in 2014 and her work is centred on human rights abuses perpetrated by the Indian state in Kashmir.

Rather is one of the five authors of the book “Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora?” which was published as a part of Zubaan Series on ‘Sexual Violence and Impunity in South Asia’.

She has been a part of the campaign seeking justice for the survivors of Kunan Poshpora Mass Rape and Torture case. She is seeking justice for the Handwara girl who was allegedly molested by army personnel in Handwara in April 2016.

She has also helped pellet victims. In 2016, she along with her association ran a campaign against the use of pellet guns which led to blinding of 100s of young people in Kashmir.

She said, “Indian state’s displeasure and dislike for human rights issues to be discussed, curfews, restrictions, Gag on social media and communication, pose obstacles in my work”.

Ather Zia: The Citizen spoke to Ather Zia, a Kashmiri journalist who was formerly with the BBC and is currently an Assistant Professor in Anthropology and Gender Studies Department at University of Northern Colorado, Greeley. She works on militarization, gender, and enforced disappearances in Kashmir.

Asked how conflict poses challenge to the activists here, she said, “The obstacles one faces in a situation like Kashmir is the state surveillance, which impedes mobility, and gathering data”.

She defines an activist to be the one who raises a voice against injustice, and makes sure it is heard and is constantly engaged with the ground, pursuing the cause one has taken up.

A number of people came forward post 2010 and 2016 raising their voice not only on the ground but on social media platforms as well. Some people effortlessly create awareness in the form of poetry, prose and art.

Sabiya Dar joined the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in 2008 when she was in her 12th standard. Dar says she finds a sense of purpose in helping half widows.

She said, “We face too many challenges from the state whenever we try to help them financially, legally, psychologically, medically or even educationally. Now we are used to it and have stopped reacting because we know we have been doing a great work. We feel the pain of the victims and hope for justice. At the end truth prevails”.

There are some individuals and organisations who have helped pellet victims but they want to remain anonymous. Several people told The Citizen that they face constant repercussions from the state and the army. They also said that they do not want these victims to face the wrath of the state, and hence, rather remain under the radar.

Zia, reacting to this reality, said, “Issues such as Human Rights violations are not palatable issue for the government. Many HR defenders prefer being unnamed since it helps them work in anonymity and without being unduly penalized by the state agencies, which can include routine harassment or even incarceration”.

Mehreen Zafar is advocate who works at the lower court in Srinagar and is associated with J&K Right to Information Act Movement. Zafar said that, “Kashmir is a conflict zone and work atmosphere is very difficult. Due to the presence of draconian Laws in the name of AFSPA & PSA, activism becomes more terrible. There is always a fear of getting arrested arbitrarily”.

Farrukh Faheem from the Institute of Kashmir Studies at Kashmir University said that the moment there is a human rights violation, people pour out on the streets to register their protest. They express themselves through graffiti and other means and those who narrate their stories at the cost of their lives and security are activists too.

To Faheem, categorizing an activist becomes difficult in a place like Kashmir which has a history of unrest and uncertainty. He says these new women emerging in Kashmir are indirectly testing the patriarchal norms as well.

Nadiya Shafi, 28, is a community correspondent for ‘Video Volunteers’ which is a media and human rights organization based in Goa. She also runs a few gender discussion clubs in Kashmir under the Dismantle Patriarchy campaign. She started her work in 2010 and has documented more than 200 cases of half-widows and has made more than 100 videos on different social issues.

Shafi has also given financial assistance to several pellet victims, along with her colleagues.

“Conflict has made us and our family vulnerable. It hinders our work. I am not only concerned about myself but also about the people whom I get to meet”, says Shafi.

She says that while documenting the cases of half-widows, she was being closely monitored by the state police and the forces for which her family had to send her to Delhi for a year.

“I was stopped several times in downtown Srinagar during the 2016 unrest. My equipment was confiscated and the footage was deleted,” she said.

She added,” You never know when you are called up by the armed forces. Working in conflict is overall a big challenge. We work under the shadow of guns”.

Facing all the challenges in an uncertain atmosphere, some new faces prefer to work silently while serving people irrespective of faith and belief. These activists have become the voice of the people, trying their best to bring about socio-political changes in the valley. After generations, women are no longer passive victims, but agents of change.

Raped women in Kashmir have experienced transmutation of suffering — from “victims” to “survivors” to “martyrs” to the cause. These women have pursued lengthy protracted cases in court with no real visible outcome in terms of a judgment. But with their will and drive for justice, they are ensuring that a new generation doesn’t forget. Then there are also women who have been active participants on the streets, Freny Manecksha, the author Of Behold, I Shine, tells Riyaz Wani
me (2)Raped women in  have experienced transmutation of suffering — from “victims” to “survivors” to “martyrs” to the cause. These women have pursued lengthy protracted cases in court with no real visible outcome in terms of a judgment. But with their will and drive for justice, they are ensuring that a new generation doesn’t forget. Then there are also women who have been active participants on the streets, Freny Manecksha, the author Of Behold, I Shine, tells Riyaz Wani

Edited Excerpts from the  •

How do you see the role of women in the resistance and the struggle for Azadi? Has acknowledgment of their contribution been largely rhetorical? What is your book’s aim?

Among the first persons that I met in  was Parveena Ahangar and I learnt of the silent sit-ins at Pratap Chowk every month by men and women demanding state accountability for enforced disappearances. It was my first introduction to the very important role of memorialisation and the way women in  have transmuted their suffering and turned it into a tool against the state’s consistent bid to erase history. This transmutation of suffering into resistance is manifested in many ways, not just by members of the Association of Parents for Disappeared Persons (both groups the one led by Parveena Ahangar and also the one led by Parvez Imroze) but also those women whose husbands/sons have suffered custodial deaths, those who suffered sexual violence at the hands of policemen or militarised personnel and so on. These women have pursued lengthy protracted cases in court with no real visible outcome in terms of a judgment. But with their will and drive for justice that is almost like a “divine mission” they are ensuring that a new generation doesn’t forget.

Then there are also women who have been active participants on the streets. From Zamrud Habib I learnt of their role in the nineties when they would hurl kangris near security camps and protest when the young boys were taken away and of the numerous ways they provided support. In fact the women are still out there. Besides the image of the young college girl giving the finger to the armed forces that went viral, there, are also powerful accounts of women who lay down on the streets in 2016, in an attempt to block the path of Surakshaks (armoured vehicles) from carting away the boys. It was partly to record the role of these “unsung” proponents of azadi that I wrote the book.

In the media and the political space, the conflict in  has largely been articulated by the men. Does women’s articulation nuance this narrative? Does Azadi mean the same thing to Kashmiri women too?

Women’s accounts certainly nuance the narratives. They bring in all the variations and types of violence that has been inflicted on society by occupation and how it is then compounded by patriarchal norms. It is the women journalists and writers who have spoken about the horrific impact of violence on children. They have explored the innumerable ways people’s privacy and dignity is deliberately violated with crackdowns and search operations. I just read an account of how soldiers had once deliberately hung bras and panties of a young woman in the room they searched because she had been outspoken.

And, I am now hearing accounts of the huge surveillance in border towns where not only do you have huge towering checkposts but men with power binoculars. I learnt how toilets were swiftly constructed inside the homes in the nineties because women did not dare to go outside for nature’s call unless it was really dark. In many parts of  they are now employing drones.

Women’s voices articulate all these concerns and in addition they also speak out against the way society reacted to victims of sexual violence, of how widows and half widows were treated. Some young women are now speaking of intersectionality_ of how one must talk about the oppression of an occupation but the necessity as well to also counter oppression of patriarchy. I guess it is the women who are trying to expand the concept of azadi, of what freedom means even as there are some radical forces that are seeking to lay down diktats.

Why in your opinion is national media so indifferent to the complexities of the situation in  and determined to project everything in black and white?

When I was researching for the book I found that the conflict in the nineties was covered by the nationalist media with some amount of sensitivity and sense of balance, or at least compared to the coverage today. I am not sure how and when the complete reversal of truth came about but it probably has to do with the increasing hardening of the state, the current geo political climate and Islamophobia. Over the past few years the electronic media has completely demonized the Kashmiris and is also manufacturing so many myths and fiction. Imagine talking about the love lives of militants! And, not based on any real recordings of people. In a sense this kind of crazy coverage and criminalising people is being extended to all forms of dissent even in .

In past also, you have written extensively about the women in , their trialsand tribulations. For example, you have reported on the mass  in Kunan Poshpora and in your conversations with the people you have noticed that they no longer talk about the raped women in terms of stigma but see them as martyrs to the cause. This is such a leap of faith in a conservative patriarchal society.

I was in  and attended the first hearing in court in 2013 when the asking for opening of the probe in the Kunan-Poshpora case was admitted and I have been following the case ever since. The trajectory from victims to resistance fighters is indeed remarkable. What is equally significant is that this was facilitated by a new generation of young women and the legal team that wants to emphasise that a crime never dies and must not be forgotten. The case is now stuck in the  but there have been some significant outcomes of the struggle for justice. The book “Do you remember Kunan-Poshpora?” is an outcome and it lays bare the ways the state sought to cover up the case — the mysterious ways early medico legal reports by the Block Medical Officer went missing, the bold statements of former District Commissioner S M Yasin and so on. I think this really shows the transmutation of suffering. Of how “victims” can forcibly prove they are “survivors” and yes then “martyrs” to the cause.

Behold I Shine Cover final (LRS) (2)Since you have travelled across the Valley to interact with the women and child victims of the ongoing conflict, what sense did you get of the suffering in the Valley. How endemic is it?

I returned to the Valley earlier this year after the 2016 uprising. I am just so overwhelmed by the horrendous violence that is almost endemic. How does one justify the deliberate targeting of protesting youths with pellet guns? In the month of August alone this year, there are at least 35 youths who have received serious pellet injuries. A senior eye surgeon speaking to the press told of how 16-year-old Sahil Hamid, son of a labourer, in Shopian received perforations through and through in the eyes leaving him totally blind. Is this standard operating procedure? In Kellar a 13-year-old received injuries. Ellen Barry former correspondent of the New York Times wrote last year of “an epidemic of dead eyes.” That epidemic is still raging. Just now I am reading about Shahid Mir, 19, of Handwara whose body with horrendous wounds and a scarred face was handed to his shocked parents. The army claims he was killed and he was a militant, his parents point out he was a student who was picked up by an army convoy. Such horrendous violence is unconscionable.

http://www.tehelka.com/2017/09/women-play-crucial-role-in-jk-struggle/

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

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


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