Archive for the ‘Women Rights’ Category

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/

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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

SEEMA MUSTAFA
 

NEW DELHI: Women in war and conflict are the most affected, and yet the most neglected. In the decades of violence that Kashmir has been subjected to the plight of the women has been the most under-written, non-publicised issue not just outside the Valley, but within as well.

In these 100 days the women of Kashmir have been on a roller coaster of emotions, foremost of these being deep grief and worry about their sons , husbands and fathers.

It is this fear and insecurity—not anger as defined by the dictionary–that is now bringing them out on the streets in what they hope will serve as a protective shield for their men. More and more women are joining the men on the streets, at funeral processions which have also been targeted by the security forces, in protests—all in the hope that their presence will restrain the forces from firing at their menfolk.

Women running beside their men on the roads, women coming out in their mohallas to pelt stones, women sitting on dharnas are the new images of protest and protection merging with women crying inconsolably over the bodies of their young sons killed by the men in uniform, and women with worry writ large on their faces sitting patiently for days and nights besides their sons being treated for pellet injuries in hospitals.

 

 

The years of militancy in the 1990’s exposed the Kashmiri women to a trauma from which most have not recovered, and relive on a daily basis. It took over a decade for even the political leaders of India to become conversant with the phrase ‘half widows’ used in Kashmir to describe the hundreds of women whose husbands had ‘disappeared’ and the wives are still waiting, with no closure even now,25 years later.

Instead, currently, the women have been thrust back into the same atmosphere of fear and insecurity as their sons and grandsons now are back on the streets, being killed, ‘disappearing’ as they are picked up by the security forces, with their homes and lives in turmoil again.

The ‘half widows’ of Kashmir seems an easy word for a very difficult and even in many cases torturous existence. This writer has interviewed many of these women, old and young, who start crying even as they speak—the wounds as raw 15 years later—as their sentiments go through the range of “he will come back, he is alive, I am sure” to “at least ask them to tell us, just tell us whether my husband is alive or not.”

Tears stream down their cheeks as they speak of lives that only they have felt. They cannot begin life, as the wait is endless, and societal pressure such that picking up the threads becomes impossible. There is this young woman, with a little girl, whose husband was taken away “a lifetime ago” who had to return to her very poor parental home. The economic stress and burden is evident in the grim faces around, as the young woman says she cannot sleep, she gets depressed, and she cannot even see a future.

 

 

In another house is an old man with two little grandchildren. The little girl looks far older than her years, her little brother clutching on to her hand. The grandfather, eyes moist, speaks out his worry: “what will happen to them when I die, I just do not know. We have no money, we have no land, there is no other family who will look after them.” His son was taken away and ‘disappeared”. His son’s wife could take it no more and after an endless wait left to re-marry. She left her children behind as that was the condition imposed by her new husband. They have not seen her since.

In Kunan Poshpora, a little village in what was then even more a remote area than today, weep as they recount the ‘rape’ that is now a detail in the record books. Perhaps not even there. But while the rape has been written about—some insisting it never happened—for the women of this tiny village it has become a daily travail.Not just because there has been no justice, but also because the village has been branded by Kashmiris themselves as the rape village. A young boy told us how he left school a little distance away, as he was taunted by his school mates. Young girls could not find suitors, and instead of getting justice from the Army and the authorities, the women of Kunan Poshpara found that from victims they became the untoucjables of the area.

Domestic violence in Kashmir is on the rise as violence and economic deprivation subjugates the women even further within the household. Mental depression affects a majority of the women, some local sociologists place the figure at over 70%, but there are no corresponding medical facilities. Doctors in hospitals confirm that more and more women with suicidal tendences are coming in for help, but that the specialised help they need is not available outside the one hospital in Srinagar.

When the RSS and the ABVP men disrupted a meeting at Bengaluru organised by Amnesty International, India about the plight of families who were still searching for missing relatives, the focus effectively shifted to the Hindutva brand of nationalism. And there was not a camera then that captured the weeping women sitting on the side, who were reliving the trauma of the past 15 odd years when their respective relatives had gone missing. They were holding back their tears, stifling their sobs, and left the venue after the fracas clear that the justice they had travelled all the way in hope of, was certainly not going to be theirs.

Unfortunately, women’s organisations have left the Kashmiri women on their own. Except for a couple of piecemeal efforts, not a single woman’s organisation in India has worked to help women in perpetual conflict. Not a single national woman’s organisation has a state subsidiary, despite the fact that in the Valley the majority of women are in need of dire help.

The ‘first woman chief minister’ publicity given to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is clearly bereft of substance. Women are certainly not in her priority of her government.



(PHOTOGRAPHS BASIT ZARGAR)

Generation after generation in Kashmir are crushed in slow motion, and the longings of a people are inscribed on the scars and burns of their young.

A man rows his boat in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. Credit: Reuters

I have been visiting Kashmir since my childhood. Over the years, the valley has taught me many hard lessons about the world. With my early trips to Kashmir, the terrain between history and reality blurred. It was the first time I realised that tragedy was not a foreign country. Its proximity was too intimate and too intense for me to ever return home again to that feeling of comfortable distance. I learnt how most of the world’s greatest crimes are executed without fuss in darkness and silence. I learnt that pain can bleed into the most beautiful things and great horrors are inflicted in the name of flags. I discovered that childhood is not always innocent, that news is not always the news, justice is never passive, laws aren’t always intended to protect, just as terrorists are not always terrorists and freedom fighters are not always freedom fighters.

Though I have travelled all over the world, I keep returning to the Valley. Sometimes I ask myself why. In spite of the many forces that vie to possess it, for me Kashmir endures as one of the most wretchedly forsaken places in the world. Though fiercely desired, the people remain monumentally unloved. Perhaps that is why I love the valley so much. Approximately 135 km long and 32 km wide, it is the site of the world’s largest and most intransigent conflicts. There are no exact figures of the dead, but by any account they number in the tens of thousands, whether a low estimate of about 20,000 by the Indian government to around 100,000 by those living there. Thousands are simply missing, many more displaced or exiled. Few know much about the lives of the soft-spoken people that dwell there, where curfews, torture, rape, detention without charge, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and mass graves have simply fallen into a way of life. In Kashmir, there are no hydrocarbons or diamonds buried in the soil, just roses and apple trees. And corpses.

Over the years, I have experienced the curfews, the checkpoints and the garrisoned townships. I have seen the entrails of orphanages, the countless fatherless children and the crippled bodies. I have found myself inadvertently sipping tea in national conferences observing every Kashmiri in the room silent whilst the Indian national anthem was sung. I have watched paid crowds come for staged political rallies and disperse as soon as the broadcast was over. I have seen the broken glass and bombed-out homes rotting in urban wasteland, whilst army abodes luxuriate on the choicest of locations. I have travelled behind military convoys and had my taxi battered by the batons of men riding tanks. I have spent time with the youth, played basketball with teenagers and listened to the way they speak of the artillery fire in the distance and their catalogue of beatings. I have consoled a boy whose best friend bled to death in his arms. Over and again, I have watched an entire population supplicate to men in uniform. In all of these occasions, I have seen no shred of love for the people that reside in the Valley’s folds. In fact, I have never seen such an unloved population, where the reach of compassion evades even the infant, the elderly and society’s most vulnerable.

It is for this reason that when I think of Kashmir, I do not think of polemics between good and evil. I do not think of India and Pakistan. It is of no consequence to me whether Kashmir falls under the aegis of one flag or another, or whether it gains independence. I do not see politics. I see real people and real suffering. I see the orphans and the bullet-riddled bodies of children. I see the sad eyes of wailing mothers. I see the taciturn teenagers watching, remembering. I see generation after generation being relentlessly crushed in slow motion. Somewhere even now a child is being silently broken. The longings of a people are inscribed on the scars and burns of their young.

Kashmir-women_Reuters

In the last couple of weeks, almost sixty more fledgling lives were cut short by violence, with hundreds more children permanently blinded by bullets, among them a five year old boy. All this because the life of another youth was extinguished. Lest it be forgotten, 22-year-old Burhan Wani – whose death was recently celebrated in India as the vanquishing of a terrorist, despite there being no official record of him ever launching an armed attack – chose to confront the army on social media as a direct result of personal persecution by the security forces as a child. For the hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris who took to the streets to join his funeral procession, Wani was David against Goliath, the young cricketing teenager who dared, bare-face, to take on the might of one of the most powerful militaries in the world, knowing full well his trajectory would entail the ultimate sacrifice. In response to the popular mass uprising that took hold of the valley following his death, the government imposed an indefinite curfew with shoot to kill orders for any who defied it, shut down the printing press and switched off the phone lines. This summer in Kashmir, there will be no wedding songs as a people continue to mourn their dead.

At a certain point, aloofness gives over to complicity and becomes a wrong. There is a point when witnessing is no longer an option and one must speak up. The heart grows heavy with the lack of love. It is for this reason that I am writing. But what can you say for a people so comprehensively ignored and misappropriated? When their lives are played out for sport and their stories are constantly misrepresented? When their protests are lethally quelled? When their children are butchered in daylight, and their guardians have turned aggressors?  When there is so little compassion around them?

Come to the valley.

Come to the valley. I do not care what caste or creed you belong to. It does not matter to me if you wear a veil, turban or vermillion on your head. It does not matter if your freedom is painted in emerald, saffron or another colour, only come to the valley. Come to Kashmir.  Come with your open souls. Come with your videos, cameras and pens. Go deeper than the Polaroid shikaras and the colourful picnic spots. Go off the beaten track into the townships, the hamlets and the villages. Go into the homes. Talk to the people. See their lives. Touch their flesh. Bury their dead. Feel as they do. Go deep, deep into their hearts. Witness their pain. Come wherever you are. It is not too late to find all that has been lost. Come to the valley of love. Empathy is the most we can hope for. Perhaps one day before it is too late enough hearts that can make a difference will learn to feel the same.

Shama Naqushbandi, is a British author, her first novel is The White House, winner of ‘Best Novel’, Brit Writers Awards (www.thewhitehousebook.com) http://thewire.in/56062/come-to-kashmir-the-valley-of-roses-apple-trees-and-corpses/

Jameela and her husband Abdul Rashid Khan (60) were drinking tea in their kitchen when they heard CRPF personnel chasing youths outside their house, located near the Srinagar-Jammu national highway.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | Srinagar |

Srinagar: Nurses and paramedics hold placards and shout slogans during a protest rally against the killing of 55 civilians and use of pellet guns by forces, outside SMHS Hospital in Srinagar on Monday. PTI Photo (PTI8_8_2016_000199A)Nurses and paramedics hold placards and shout slogans during a protest rally against the killing of 55 civilians and use of pellet guns by forces, outside SMHS Hospital in Srinagar on Monday. (Source: PTI)A 55-year-old woman died of a cardiac arrest at Bemina in Kashmir after a CRPF personnel allegedly trained his gun at her on Thursday evening.

Jameela and her husband Abdul Rashid Khan (60) were drinking tea in their kitchen when they heard CRPF personnel chasing youths outside their house, located near the Srinagar-Jammu national highway.

On hearing the smashing of window panes, Jameela rushed upstairs. “When she looked through the broken windowpane, a CRPF man pointed his gun towards her. She collapsed right there,” Khan told The Indian Express. She was rushed to a hospital where she was declared “brought dead”.

 

A CRPF spokesperson said stone pelting was going on in the area when the woman died. “She (Jameela) died of cardiac arrest. It has become fashionable for people to blame the CRPF for everything,” he said.

The elderly couple have two daughters, both of whom are married. Khan suffers from diabetes and urinary problems. “She would take me to the hospital and also give me medicine on time,” said Khan, breaking down.

Khan sells blankets and has also rented out two rooms in his house. “He does not have any support now,” a neighbour said. Local residents accused personnel of a nearby CRPF camp of attacking their houses whenever any protest took place on the highway.http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/jk-woman-dies-of-cardiac-arrest-after-crpf-man-points-gun-at-her-2971659/