Archive for the ‘Violence against Women’ Category

Co-Written by Meer Abass & Aurangzeb Arif

” to ask the victim what lies beneath the misery “

” They say , I was never a part of this world ‘

Ever been to lanes of mockery, then you find what it takes the decorum of disgrace. The infamous rape of a girl child by the demonic 50 year old beast has made me confused ,how to jot down the lines of my anger. I wish to write but it is choking my veins, I try to vent my tears, but they don’t profuse due to the shock. The temporal of sufi tagging to this land has become a notion of namesake only. People curse the technology and modernization for such disgrace ful activities , but within deep everyone knows these brutal structures of rape has a history of purchase from the time of legalized enslaved minds. What makes a old soul to rape a new bud, what tag of lust angle one will put for it, shall I call it a deprived sexual intimacy of old account beast , shall I call it conservative estimate of such doings , shall I call it manic depression episode , shall I call it bad luck of a girl child. I don’t know what to sum or what to put for it, but one thing is that history has been created in the hall of shame in this land. From provisions of Intifada to galore of unfurling islamic flag in this region, how many of we in actual are prepared for such law dominance here, presumably the laws of humanity doesn’t need an introduction for being a religious soul, it needs a simple orientation of mind analysis as what is the supreme goal of one’s soul. I imagine the burst of pain with which that girl child would be having psychologically and the abuse of social norms inflicted on her by the society in coming times. The rabid dog might be punished for such doing , but who will pay for the loss of such child’s life ? A society that gambles and watches porn in the lanes of their lonely planet, a society that rugs the shovels of phone sex and assumes the slogans of religious fervour in the morning.  Time has come to take a stand on child rapes where a male and female child is raped either on the pretext of exorcism by the saints of disgrace or by the beasts of such society. There is no difference between sex incest rape mongering activities and rest of india , where the only difference is , that in kashmir it is crept under the carpet and in rest of india it is raised in open. Introspection is needed for the good riddance of such manic insane beasts from the society.

The incident that sent shock waves across Kashmir came to light on Tuesday when a sopore minor girl narrated her harrowing experience to her family when she was raped by a “Shaitan Numa insaan “who is of his grandfather’s age. As per the complaint, the accused took the minor girl, a Class 8th student, in his Rickshaw and raped her.

Women in Kashmir too are not safe anywhere – at home, the workplace or on the streets. And this is despite the fact that incidents of violence against women regularly make the headlines now a days in newspapers, especially since the brutal gang rape of Asiya and Nelofar.
Rape is completely forbidden in Islamic law and is a crime punishable by death
In Islam, capital punishment is reserved for the most extreme crimes: those that harm individual victims or destabilize society. Rape falls into both categories. Islam takes very seriously the honor and protection of women, and the Quran repeatedly reminds men to treat women with kindness and fairness.

Some people confuse Islamic law by equating rape with sex outside of marriage, which is instead adultery or fornication. However, throughout Islamic history, some scholars have classified rape as a form of terrorism or a crime of violence (hiraba).

During the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, a rapist was punished based on only the testimony of the victim. Wa’il ibn Hujr reported that a woman publicly identified a man who had raped her. The people caught the man and brought him to the Prophet Muhammad. He told the woman to go—that she was not to be blamed—and ordered that the man be put to death.

At a time when every politician, no matter what colour, is crying foul, every judge and lawyer, no matter what their loyalties, is joining the chorus, every policeperson, no matter from where, is adding his/her voice, it is worth remembering some key things. First, more than 90 per cent of rapes are committed by people known to the victim/survivor, a staggering number of rapists are family members. When we demand the death penalty, do we mean therefore that we should kill large numbers of uncles, fathers, brothers, husbands, neighbours? How many of us would even report cases of rape then? What we’re seeing now — the slow, painful increase in even reports being filed — will all disappear. Second, the death penalty has never been a deterrent against anything — where, for example, is the evidence that death penalties have reduced the incidence of murders? Quite apart from the fact that the State should never be given the right to take life, there is an argument to be made that imposing the death penalty will further reduce the rate of conviction, as no judge will award it.

It is important to raise our collective voice against rape. But rape is not something that occurs by itself. It is part of the continuing and embedded violence in society that targets women on a daily basis. Let’s raise our voices against such violence and let’s ask ourselves how we, in our daily actions, in our thoughts, contribute to this, rather than assume that the solution lies with someone else. Let’s ask ourselves how we, our society, we as people, create and sustain the mindset that leads to rape, how we make our men so violent, how we insult our women so regularly, let’s ask ourselves how privilege creates violence.

It is important we raise our collective voice for women, but let’s raise it for all women, let’s raise it so that no woman, no matter that she be poor, rich, urban, rural, Muslim, Hindu, or whatever, ever, in the future, has to face sexual violence, and no man assumes that because of the system and people’s mindsets, he can simply get away with it. And let’s raise it also for men, for transgenders, for the poor.

Meer Abass, Assistant professor, Govt Degree College Handwara

Aurangzeb Arif, Freelance writer.

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.

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.

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.


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 (

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.

Guest Post by SONAM MITTAL

To understand why Kashmir is a feminist issue, let’s take up a hypothetical, or not-really-so-hypothetical-after-all, situation of an abusive relationship.
A woman, gorgeous, graceful and delicate is in need of rescue. A man, mighty, strong and resourceful, offers to help. His only condition is that she should be his and only his for now and forever. She agrees.
It could have been the beginning of a beautiful love story if not for the underlying patriarchy and misogyny threatening to burst out. All it needed was an excuse. See, this woman had an acquaintance, a friend, with whom she had shared a part of her life. Her culture, her values and various elements that added to her charm were influenced by this friend. One fine day, this friend returned to lay claim on her. The man got angry, quite obviously. Fists and punches were thrown around and all three parties were badly hurt. Several grudges were adopted and nursed. Days went by but the memory of this brutality never faded away.
The man started placing restrictions on the woman. For her safety, obviously. Silly girl, he said, what if ‘your friend’ comes back again?
Then came in the taunts and verbal attacks. Are you really mine? Is this how you repay the help I gave you? Is this how you behave for sharing my life? Am sure you must have done something to provoke him and make him feel like he owns you.
The neighbors started talking and debating on who had a rightful claim on her. Nobody asked her what she wanted.
Day by day, the atrocities committed by the man, under the garb of protecting her, became unbearable. It was cruel enough that she had suffered many wounds on her body, some which were still hurting. The man would keep poking her, pinching and questioning her. Every action taken only for her ‘protection.’ It was almost as if he gained some perverse pleasure from her torture, knowing that no one can question him.
 Some people noticed her wounds and started questioning the man. It’s nothing, he said. Don’t worry about it, her safety is my priority. She is an integral part of my life. It’s hurtful that you’d question and think that I don’t care about her. Do you remember how I bled trying to save her from that friend?
The torture continued. She had slowly started protesting, saying, No! stop this, I don’t want this any more.
SMACK. You anti-national!
The slap rang hard across her face. It was insulting, but she bore it silently. Her movements were restricted.
We will have to put you under a curfew, he said. The virus of anti-nationals is breeding on you like ticks on a stinky dog.
The neighbors started talking again. Why is she under curfew? What was her crime? Again, nobody asked her what she wanted from all this debacle.
The man started guarding her at all times. How dare she talk back! She refuses to believe that I’m the best thing that could ever happen to her. All she cares about is that friend of hers. Hmpf. I must not let her leave. The neighbors will say then say that I’m weak and submissive.
She decided to talk to the man. But alas! Words were met with questions of integrity and loyalty. She protested and raised her voice. He put more curfews on her. It’s for the anti-nationals you see, not really for you. Tired, exasperated and utterly desperate under the memories of all her wounds, she picked up a stone and threw it at the man.
Dhut Dhut Dhut Dhut Dhut Dhut.
Pellets and bullets were fired for every stone she threw. She lay there, broken, hurt and bleeding. The neighbors started shouting this time. Mixed opinions overlapping each other. Do you really love her that you fired bullets on her? Why don’t you give her back to that friend of hers. Let us live in peace. 
What kind of a man are you, couldn’t even rein in your woman! Oh, she deserves it am telling you! The audacity she had to question you back, when you have done so much for her!
Again, no one asked her what she wanted.
Such incidents kept happening. Her body was punctured with bullet wounds, but her will for freedom was very strong. Every time she protested, bullets were fired. Every time bullets were used, she just lay there, broken, hurt and bleeding.
What’s her name you ask? Kashmir. Her name is Kashmir.
Feminism works against every structure of oppression and seeks to wipe out patriarchy. Kashmir’s relationship with India has many overtones of an abusive relationship. If we are feminists, then we are against oppression through structures of power. By extension, we are against state oppression in Kashmir. If our feminism demands that we outrage over rape and how patriarchy uses rape as a tool to silence us, then by extension we are against state-sponsored rapes carried out by uniformed agents of masculinity and patriarchy.
When women decides to fight back and question the patriarchal society, they’re told that they responsible. Their tone and methods of protests are in the spotlight instead of the actual issue. They’re told to remain calm and composed. Why resort to violence when you can talk about it? In Kashmir, we are blaming the stones and overturned buses instead of reflecting on the reason behind their protest.
A woman knows what’s at stake when she speaks publicly about her rape and abuse. An unarmed protester knows what’s at stake when they throw a stone at army men loaded with body armour, helmets and bullets.
As many of us know too well, any toe out of our patriarchal laxman-rekha and you’re called a slut, whore or a spoilt woman. The consequences are nasty and grave (RIP Qandeel Baloch). If a woman wants to leave an abusive marriage, she’s often called a home-breaker, a trouble-maker and an anti-marriage woman who just cares about herself.
For Kashmiris, the term is anti-nationals. For when they raise the question of their individuality, just like those women who want to live life on their own terms, they are met with resistance. The question of identity, of freedom to decide for themselves, the right to self-determination in Kashmir, is as relevant as a woman’s right to individuality.
It’s hard for a woman to decide her own life, what she wants to be and do with herself. In other words, she is denied the agency and control over her own existence. With the muzzling of dissent, gagging of newspapers, blocking internet and telephone lines, the Indian state is denying Kashmir it’s agency to voice their opinions and decide about their existence all by themselves.
All a woman wants is to live her life in peace, on her own terms. Kashmir has a right to self-determination, as much as I and other women have the right to individuality.
The denial of an independent voice, the denial of right to self determination, the force being used, the emotional and physical abuse being used to subdue and to get them to comply – are all examples of patriarchy in practice. It’s almost absurd that you’d be against one form of oppression and patriarchy but not against another form of it in Kashmir.
Oppression anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere. If we feminists don’t speak up for the freedom of Kashmir, do we really have the right to expect help for our freedom?
If not you, then who? If not now, then when?
Sonam Mittal is an activist and a writer. She works on issues related to gender, human rights and environment. She is also the co-founder of Spoilt Modern Indian Woman, a feminist initiative on gender and patriarchy. She is currently pursuing s fellowship in Kanthari by Braille Without Borders to establish her dream project on prevention of sexual harassment at workplace.
This article first appeared at


  1. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
  2. Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
  3. Juan Ernesto Mendez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  4. Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  5. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression




Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society [JKCCS]

Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir

July 16, 2016

Re.: URGENT ACTION / APPEAL regarding deteriorating political and humanitarian situation in Jammu and Kashmir



  1. With grave concern and urgency we write to you today to bring to your immediate attention the ongoing State violence and repression against civilians in Jammu and Kashmir including repeated attacks on medical services, particularly hospital ambulances, carrying the dead and critically injured civilians. Jammu and Kashmir once again faces a humanitarian crisis that requires urgent international attention and intervention.
  2. With the presence of an estimated 7, 00,000 armed forces, Jammu and Kashmir is today the most militarized zone in the world and its civilians have faced widespread and systematic attacks at the hands of Indian State forces over the last 26 years. Thus far, the region has seen the commission of human rights violations, including war crimes that have resulted in70,000+ killings, 8000+ enforced disappearances and innumerous cases of torture and sexual violence. The armed forces, through special legislation but more importantly due to direct political support of the Indian state, enjoy total impunity and to date not a single armed forces personnel has been prosecuted for criminal actions in civilian courts of law. The people of Jammu and Kashmir have consistently demanded the end of Indian military occupation, recognition of their fundamental human right to self-determination and the institution of an international, independent justice mechanism to investigate and prosecute the Indian State and its forces for international crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed in Jammu and Kashmir. It is in this context of historical injustice, targeted state violence and despair that the present violence in Jammu and Kashmir must be seen and its urgency understood. 
  3. Following the killing of Burhan Muzaffar Wani, Commander, Hizbul Mujahideen [armed rebel group operating in Jammu and Kashmir] by Indian armed forces on 8 July 2016 in South Kashmir, civilians of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in the Kashmir valley, have been subject to a brutal crackdown by State forces who have attacked those mourning the killing of Burhan Wani and thus far 42 civilians have been killed and more than 1500 injured. In the present state of crisis an accurate number of the dead and injured is difficult to ascertain and everyday more civilians enter hospitals dead, maimed and beaten. A majority of the Kashmir valley is under unlawful curfew with physical and electronic [including mobile and internet connectivity] freedoms curtailed, and in the districts of South Kashmir completely shut down. Numerous persons, including minors, have been subject to arbitrary detention. Since Friday, 15 July, Srinagar, the capital city has been caged with mobile networks shut down. Today, 16 July, the leading newspaper office of the Kashmir valley was raided and papers seized. Jammu and Kashmir is under siege.
  4. As repeatedly seen over the last 26 years in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian State has effectively curtailed all expressions of dissent. Every attempt is made to isolate the people and ensure that the nature and extent of war crimes and unlawful violence is not brought to the attention of the international community, particularly the United Nations and its various human rights bodies. Human rights defenders have been denied free movement and access in order to ensure immunity for state forces as they operate with absolute impunity. Due to the prevailing state restrictions on communications and mobility, the following accounts of state atrocities are based on credible information received from local volunteers, health professionals, hospital visits and news agencies rather than comprehensive independent field based fact finding.
  5. From 8 July 2016 to date, Government of India through predominantly Indian para-military and Jammu and Kashmir police personnel, has disallowed all demonstrations, public gatherings including funeral prayers, protests and other public and private expressions of dissent, through the use of brutal and lethal force. In addition to 42 civilians killed, innumerable cases of grievous injuries, from bullets, brutal beatings and other lethal use of forces, have been reported. Further, more than hundred civilians [men, women and children] have been subject to horrific eye injuries, caused by the use of “pellet guns” by the State forces. Pellet guns, contrary to government claims, are fundamentally lethal weapons with limited ability for discrimination and distinction of targets and proportionality in relation to force used. More importantly, pellet guns have been used by forces with a clear intent to punish and maim civilians. Two civilians are reported to have died of pellet gun injuries. Over a 100 eye-surgeries due to pellet gun injuries have been reported thus far. In a majority of these cases it is reported that the civilians will suffer permanent loss of sight in at least one eye.
  6. The situation in Kashmir is of utmost urgency as it is clear that state violence is specifically targeted at children and youth. Shahid Gulzar, a 13 year old boy from Shopian, is the youngest civilian killed thus far, and Zohra Majeed Gilkar, a 4 year old girl from Srinagar is the youngest victim of pellet gun injuries as she receives treatment at a Srinagar hospital for pellet injuries in her abdomen, chest, both legs and forehead.
  7. A disturbing feature of the state violence has been the attack by state forces, particularly the para-military Central Reserve Police Force, on medical services, including hospital ambulances. Attacks by state forces have been reported at the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, Srinagar [the largest hospital in the Kashmir valley, which has seen the largest intake of victims], Anantnag District Hospital [the primary hospital in South Kashmir], Sub-District Hospital, Bijbehara, and Primary Health Centre Lalpora. These attacks have included tear gas shelling inside the hospital building and state forces arresting injured persons receiving urgent medical treatment. Further, it has been widely reported that State forces have attacked ambulances [an estimated 90 thus far] carrying injured civilians to hospitals. Medicins Sans Frontier, based on Srinagar, has in an official press release noted reported attacks on medical services but declined to comment further as they have been unable to independently verify these reports. These attacks, seen during past uprisings by civilians in 2008, 2009 and 2010, on medical services are a means of “collective punishment” for the civilians of Jammu and Kashmir and are directly responsible for the morbidity of injured civilians who are not provided immediate treatment.
  8. The violence of the Indian State forces, including through the use of pellet guns and attacks on medical services, is a clear violation of Indian and international law. State forces are acting against civilians in Jammu and Kashmir as a means to collectively punish the civilian population for their continued demand for the right of self-determination. Consequently, in the context of a military occupation, the Indian State is in violation of individual sections of the Geneva Conventions, 1949, and Additional Protocols, 1977.Its actions fundamentally violate the international humanitarian law rules on distinction between civilian and non-civilian targets, prohibition on indiscriminate attacks and the rule on proportionality of use of force. In their use of force against civilians, state forces are in violation of other international guidelines such as Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, 1990, and Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, 1979.The wounded and sick, and medical units, establishments and their personnel, are expressly protected by international humanitarian law, in particular the Geneva Conventions, 1949, and Additional Protocols, 1977. It has been expressly stated that they are to respected, protected and must not be objects of attack.
  9. We appeal for your urgent intervention by demanding from Government of India the following immediate measures in Jammu and Kashmir:

i. Prohibit and ban the use of pellet guns with immediate effect,

ii. Prohibit and temporarily ban the use of live ammunition and any other lethal weapons against civilian demonstrators,

iii. Prohibit any and all attacks on medical services including by prohibiting any state forces personnel from entering any hospital premise in Jammu and Kashmir,

iv. Immediately lift the unlawful curfew and ban on peaceful public demonstrations including the holding of funerals or public tributes organized,

v. Immediately lift the unlawful mobile phone services and internet ban,

vi. Ensure freedom of press and prohibit any interference with the work of news agencies,

vii. Allow immediate and unhindered access to Jammu and Kashmir to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and special procedures of the Human Rights Council,

viii. Allow immediate and unhindered access for fact finding to international organizations, particularly those already stationed and/or operating in Jammu and Kashmir such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, Medicins Sans Frontiers and Amnesty International,

ix. Immediately register criminal cases for every instance of violence by state forces, including on medical services, and make public such registration of cases, and carry out investigations,

x. Immediately, in the form of reparations, make payment where sought to victims of violence.



Khurram Parvez,

Programme Coordinator, JKCCS,

Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir

Handwritten notes featuring the names of Asiya and Neelofer were posted on over 300 chinar trees in the campus

On May 30, the seventh anniversary of the alleged rape and murder of Asiya and Neelofer in Shopian, Kashmir, students at Kashmir University organized a unique protest against the “continuous denial of justice to the victims.” The students at the university plastered the duo’s names on heritage chinar trees inside the campus as a mark of protest.

On the intervening night of May 29 and 30, 2009, Nilofar Jan (22), and her sister-in-law Asiya Jan (17), were allegedly raped and murdered in south Kashmir’s Shopian district and their bodies were found by the side of a local stream outside the town. Neelofer and Asiya’s family alleged that they had been abducted, raped and murdered by members of the security forces.

Hand-written notes featuring the names of Asiya and Neelofer were posted by the students on over 300 chinar trees inside Kashmir University. Talking to The News Minute, a group of students said, the idea behind putting Asiya’s and Nilofer’s on the chinar trees was to create awareness about the “continuous denial of justice” in Kashmir.

“Chinar holds a particular significance in Kashmir’s history and it has been a witness to grave human rights violations and suppression that has taken place in the valley. We wanted to speak through them because our cries for justice are not being heard time and again. We hope the mighty chinar will get our message through,” said a student, who helped in posting the names on the trees.

A signature campaign was also held in the university demanding justice for the victims. Over 200 students signed a poster that students want to send to the first woman Chief Minister of the state, Mehbooba Mufti, seeking a fresh probe into the case.

“While in the rest of India, media and civil society is demanding swift justice in cases of rape, the same standards are not being applied when it happens in Kashmir. In fact, sexual violence is systematically denied here – Kunan-Poshpora and Shopian are just two examples of it,” said Tabinda, a second-year law student at the university.

Neelofar and Aasiya went missing on May 29, 2009 from their orchard. The next morning, their bodies were found in Rambair Nallah, a stream in Shopian.  The police initially dismissed it as a simple case of drowning but two subsequent post-mortem reports confirmed sexual assault and ruled out death by drowning.

Omar Abdullah, the then chief minister of the state, ordered a one-man commission headed by retired High Court judge, Justice Muzaffar Jan, to probe the incident. Simultaneously, a special investigation team (SIT) of the police was also probing the case. While the SIT never came out with its report, Justice Jan, in his interim report, held the Shopian district administration guilty of “destroying vital evidence and not preserving the scene of the crime, interfering with post-mortem report and dereliction of duty.”

The finding of the inquiry led to the suspension and arrest of four police officers, including a Deputy Superintendent of police, an Inspector, and a Sub-Inspector, for negligence of duty and destruction of vital evidence. The case triggered unprecedented public outrage across Kashmir. Five people were killed and hundreds were left injured in street protests that were fuelled by anger against the police.

In the following months, the investigation was handed over to the CBI which held that neither rape nor murder had been committed on the duo. In December 2009, the CBI charged 13 persons, including the doctors who had earlier confirmed sexual assault on the victims and ruled out death by drowning, for “fudging and fabricating evidence.” All four policemen were also released and reinstated.

But many in the valley including human rights activists and civil society members believe that the CBI inquiry was an institutional cover-up by the state to protect the guilty.

“The people in Kashmir have lost all faith in these sort of inquiries that are ordered by the state after human rights violations and sexual assaults are carried out by its security apparatus,” said Khurram Parvez, a valley-based human rights activist. “What was the result of the findings of Justice Jan’s report? The questions raised by that enquiry were never reconciled by the CBI enquiry.”

However, even the powerful yet subtle way to protest for justice was not allowed to exist in Kashmir University, where student politics has been banned since 2009 following protests against the Shopian rape and murder case. The ban on student politics was first imposed in the university during the late 80s and was only removed in 2007.

Within a few hours of the students posting the names of Asiya and Neelofer on the chinar trees in the campus, all of them were removed by the university administration. The students were also “advised” by the administration to cancel the signature campaign and not to indulge in “activism.” But the students went ahead with the planned signature campaign anyway.

Adil Mir, one of the signatories of the campaign said, “This is not an act of defiance. We are exercising our right to dissent. And, we will continue it till justice is delivered.”

All Images by Syed Shahriyar

Reflecting popular opinion, Sheikh Abdullah was against Kashmir’s accession to India. Reflecting Indian opinion and his own preferences, Nehru would have nothing but accession. Both knew how the Kashmiris felt, hence India’s initial hesitation in forging the accession. By A.G. NOORANI

Nahi kuch subha-o-zunnar ke phande mein girai/wafadari mein sheikh-o-brahaman ki aazmaish hai (The loop of the rosary and the sacred thread cannot hold any one/ The real test of the Sheikh and the Brahmin is in their faithfulness).

Mirza Ghalib’s couplet accurately sums up the roots of the Kashmir dispute. It also provides a clue to the ever deteriorating situation in the State. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s Kashmiri nationalism clashed with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s Indian nationalism. The clash was inherent in their relationship even at the best of times. Nehru arrogantly spurned conciliation and resorted to brute force, with the aid of the army, by ousting Abdullah from the office of Prime Minister of Jammu & Kashmir on August 9, 1953, and imprisoning him for 11 years. What is little known is that he subjected his prisoner and erstwhile friend to hardships; denying visitors access to him and foisting a conspiracy case which he knew to be false—plotting for accession to Pakistan and waging war against India.

To all outward appearances, India riveted its control over the State after the Sheikh’s ouster. But today, more than ever before, grim realities have surfaced, to the shock of many, to demonstrate that Kashmiri nationalism is very much alive and kicking despite New Delhi’s repressive policies and the army’s sustained record of outrages. India’s government, much of its media, especially television, and academia, and its stooges in Kashmir who have feasted on the crumbs New Delhi throws at them from the high table prefer to envelop themselves cosily in a state of denial. The reality is unbearable to witness—India governs Kashmir against the wishes of its people. They reject the very legitimacy of its rule. As Mir Qasim, installed as Chief Minister by elections which he admitted were rigged and who had supported Abdullah’s ouster in 1953, wrote: “They clearly say that they would not like to remain in India. They would like to go out of India. They ask for a plebiscite so that they will be allowed to answer whether they want to remain in India or go out of India” (Mir Qasim, My Life and Times, page 298).

It was left to one of India’s foremost public intellectuals, Ashok Mitra, former Finance Minister of West Bengal, to rip apart the veil of falsehood and expose the havoc that India’s policies have wreaked. “Behind the façade of the constitutional apparatus rests the nitty-gritty of rude fact: the Valley is an occupied territory; remove for a day India’s Army and security forces and it is impossible to gauge what might transpire at the next instant. Some of the stone-pelters may nurse illusions about Pakistan, some may think in terms of a sovereign, self-governing Kashmir, but they certainly do not want to be any part of India … the great Indian nation, with its load of civilisation stretching 5,000 years, is extraordinarily mum.

“The debauching of civilisation in Kashmir, no matter what its underlying reason, creates no ripples. One is suddenly hit by a fearsome realisation Indians by and large do not perhaps feel at all, this way or that, about the Valley’s people. In other words, the Indian nation is alienated from Kashmir” (The Telegraph, August 27, 2010).

Mehbooba Mufti, head of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition in the State, loftily declared, on April 19, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, that “there is a pain in the heart of Kashmiris and we all have to heal it together”. What she added indicates all too well that the causes of the pain elude her. She cited “several tragic incidents in the past … and more recently in Handwara where innocent people were fatally caught in the vortex of violence” (Yusuf Jameel, Asian Age, April 20; emphasis added, throughout). “Caught”, not “shot at”. Earlier, on March 26, she spoke of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s “mission of development and peace” (Peerzada Ashiq, The Hindu, March 27). She refuses to know why her people are in pain.

Contrast this with Nirupama Subramanian and Bhashaarat Masood’s four reports in The Indian Express (between April 20 and April 23, 2016), among the most honest reports we have had in recent years. “When the Army does an encounter they come in hundreds for one militant hiding in a house. Then they destroy the house. They use heavy shells and mortars,” a girl student in Anantnag told them. The destruction of a whole house to catch a solitary militant is an established practice in Kashmir alone; it was never attempted in Punjab.

A teacher in Tral warned: “Don’t blur the lines between our grievances and our aspirations. Aspiration is azadi. Grievances are like, Centre does not hand over power projects in Kashmir to the State government. Our development needs and separatism are two different things. We vote for development, but azadi will not come without talking with Pakistan.”

A 29-year-old teacher said that the bridges between India and Kashmir “have been burnt forever”. For, the bottom line is, “India does not trust Kashmiris and Kashmiris don’t trust India.” The situation deteriorated steeply since the outbreak of militancy in 1989. But its roots lay in the clash of Kashmir and Indian nationalism in 1947. In a real sense, there is no alienation of people from the Union; alienation implies previous affection, which the people of Kashmir never had for India, not even at the time of the accession, as both Abdullah and Nehru knew very well. Reflecting popular opinion, the Sheikh was against Kashmir’s accession to India, though he preferred its ideology of secularism to Pakistan’s two-nation theory. Reflecting Indian opinion and his own strong preferences, Nehru would have nothing but its accession to India. Both knew what the Kashmiris thought and felt, hence India’s initial hesitation in forging the accession. The record on the views of all three—Abdullah, Kashmiris and Nehru—speaks for itself.

Sheikh Abdullah’s aims1. On April 19, 1946, the Sheikh demanded in a telegram to the British Cabinet Mission “a right to independence” because “the Kashmiri nation” resided in “a unique region in India”. This was asserted when the talk was of a federal union, not partition.

2. After Partition, he was released from prison on September 29, 1947. On October 3, he said: “We will choose the path which will lead to the independence of … the Kashmiris” (Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, The Blazing Chinar, Gulshan Books, Srinagar; pages 256 and 275).

3. On his release from prison, Abdullah said: “If the 40 lakhs of people living in Jammu & Kashmir are by-passed and the State declares accession to India or Pakistan, I shall raise the banner of revolt and we face a struggle.” Since Maharaja Hari Singh was not going to accede to Pakistan, this was clearly a warning against accession to India. As late as on October 22, 1947, Abdullah’s line was: “Freedom before Accession”. It was reflected in Khidmat, the organ of his party, the National Conference, which said on the same day: “What the present moment demands and demands urgently is not accession to Pakistan or India but power to the people. Are we going to sell ourselves to the Indian capitalists or the Pakistan Nawabs?” (Quoted in Chitralekha Zutshi, Languages of Belonging, Permanent Black, page 307; a most insightful work.)

4. Abdullah confided to Phillips Talbot, later United States Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, who was in India from 1939 to 1948. “He told me that Kashmir would be ‘finished’ if it had to join one Dominion and thereby incur the enmity of the other. What he sought, he said, was an arrangement by which Kashmir could have normal relations with both countries” (An American Witness to India’s Partition, Sage, page 378). As we shall see, this was the line he pursued right until 1964.

5. Prior to the accession, Abdullah sent one emissary to Pakistan after another, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed and G.M. Sadiq. Neither was allowed to meet Mohammed Ali Jinnah or Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. Only the Chief Minister of West Punjab, the Nawab of Mamdot, met them. Strangely, neither the admirers nor the detractors of Abdullah care to probe into their brief. What was it? It was obviously to fulfil his plans for independence. He had accepted an invitation by emissaries from Pakistan to meet Jinnah after his visit to New Delhi. The tribal raid from Pakistan was launched while Sadiq was in Lahore.

6. Even after the accession, Abdullah pursued his plans, to the knowledge of Nehru, in a talk with Patrick Gordon Walker, Britain’s Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Commonwealth Affairs, in Nehru’s home on February 21, 1948—four months after the accession. Walker reported to London: “7. At this point Nehru fetched in Sheikh Abdullah and said he would leave us to talk together. Just before Nehru left Sheikh Abdullah said he thought the solution was that Kashmir should accede to both Dominions. I had not time to get him to develop this idea before Nehru left the room but questioned him afterwards. He said Kashmir’s trade was with India, that India was progressive and that Nehru was an Indian. On the other, Kashmir’s trade passed through Pakistan and a hostile Pakistan would be a constant danger. The solution therefore was that Kashmir should have its autonomy jointly guaranteed by India and Pakistan and it would delegate its foreign policy and defence to them both jointly but would look after its own affairs. The two Dominions share a common interest in Kashmir and it would serve to unite and link them. I asked whether Nehru would agree to this solution and he said he thought so. He had discussed it with him. … Since drafting the above I have seen Nehru again with reference to paragraph 7 above. He says that he would be prepared to accept a solution broadly on the lines of that proposed by Sheikh Abdullah.”

7. In New York as a member of the Indian delegation to the Security Council, Abdullah approached the U.S.’ Permanent Reprepresentative to the United Nations, Warren Austin, on January 28, 1948. Austin recorded: “It is possible that [the] principal purpose of Abdullah’s visit was to make clear to U.S. that there is a third alternative, namely, independence. He seemed overly anxious to get this point across, and made quite a long and impassioned statement on the subject. He said in effect that whether Kashmir went to Pakistan or India the other dominion would always be against solution. Kashmir would thus be a bone of contention. It is a rich country. He did not want his people torn by dissension between Pakistan and India. It would be much better if Kashmir were independent and could seek American and British aid for development of country.” (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1948 South Asia, page 292).

8. Abdullah even sought out Pakistan’s delegates. He complained to President Ayub Khan when they met in Rawalpindi on May 26, 1964, that they “would not even talk to him. … When he went to the Security Council the second time, he did meet Choudhry Muhammad Ali and told him that the only way to get the Indians out of Kashmir was to agree to independence of the State” (Altaf Gauhar, Ayub Khan, page 264).

9. The Sheikh spoke to the U.S. Ambassador to India, Loy Henderson, in Srinagar. He reported to the State Department on September 29, 1950: “In discussing future Kashmir, Abdullah was vigorous in restating that in his opinion it should be independent; that overwhelming majority population desired this independence; and that he had reason to believe that some Azad Kashmir leaders desired independence and would be willing cooperate with leaders National Confederation if there was reasonable chance such cooperation would result in independence. Kashmir people could not understand why U.N. consistently ignored independence as one of possible solutions for Kashmir. It had held special Assembly to deal with independence for Palestine, which was smaller in area and population and less economically viable than Kashmir. Kashmir people had language and cultural background her own. Their Hindus by custom and tradition widely differed from Hindus [of] India, and outlook and background their Moslems also quite different from Moslems Pakistan. Fact was that population Kashmir homogeneous despite of presence of Hindu minority.

“When I asked Abdullah if he thought Kashmir could remain stable independent country without friendly support India and Pakistan, he replied negative. In his opinion, independent Kashmir could exist only in case it had friendship both of India and Pakistan; in case both these countries had friendly relations with each other; and in case U.S. through U.N. or direct would enable it, by investments or other economic assistance, to develop its magnificent resources. Adherence Kashmir to India would not lead in foreseeable future to improving miserable economic lot of population. There were so many areas of India in urgent need of economic development, he was convinced Kashmir would get relatively little attention” (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, Volume 5, page 1,434).

10. Abdullah was quite open about his aims, as Nehru well knew. He went public in an interview to Michael Davidson of The Scotsman published on April 14, 1949. “He said: ‘Accession to either side cannot bring peace’. He declared, ‘We want to live in friendship with both Dominions. Perhaps a middle path between them, with economic co-operation with each, will be the only way of doing it. But an independent Kashmir must be guaranteed not only by India and Pakistan but also by Britain, the United States and other members of the United Nations. Would an independent Kashmir, I asked him, a kind of Himalayan Switzerland, be feasible and constructive? Those areas of the present State which bordered India and Pakistan and which had no affinities with the people of the Vale could fall naturally to the Dominion with which they were related by race or religion—the Poonchis, who are Moslem Punjabis, belong obviously to Pakistan, and the Hindus of Jammu, Rajput-Dogras are surely Indians.

“Abdullah replied: ‘Yes, independence—guaranteed by the United Nations—may be the only solution. But why do you talk of partition? Now you are introducing communalism and applying the two-nation theory to Kashmir—that communalism which we are fighting here. I believe the Poonchis would welcome inclusion in an independent Kashmir; if, however, after its establishment, they chose to secede and join Pakistan, I would raise no objection.

“I want a solution that is fair to all three parties—Pakistan, India, and the people of Kashmir. But we won’t submit to a communal solution. There has never been a religious problem in the Vale of Kashmir. Hindus and Moslems, we are of the same racial origin, we have the same customs, wear the same clothes, speak the same language. In the street, you cannot distinguish between Moslems and Brahman Pandits. Why, we even have a mosque in the wall of which a Hindu temple has been built. In Kashmir we have Hindu and Sikh refugees from West Punjab and Moslem refugees from East Punjab. …

“When the Kashmir Moslem Conference also turned communally-minded, most of us Kashmiris left to form a National Conference, a non-sectarian movement conforming with the secular principles of the Indian Congress. Naturally we sympathise rather with India than with Pakistan.’ …

“Religions have never been a cementing force, the Sheikh declared. Christians fight Christians in Europe; Japanese fight Chinese; Turkey wants to be Europeanised; Moslems have warred against Moslems. Socially and nationally there are more compelling interests, economic and ideological. The first task for the Kashmiris, Hindus and Moslems, is to win internal liberation from exploitation.” (The writer is indebted to Andrew Whitehead for the text of the interview.) The interview had Vallabhbhai Patel foaming at the mouth (Durga Das, Sardar Patel’s Correspondence, Navjivan Publishing House, Volume 1, pages 266-271).

Nehru’s standIt is important to note that Nehru tried to secure Kashmir’s accession to India while Sheikh Abdullah was still in prison, regardless of his wishes or those of the people of the State. His stand was revealingly summed up in the blunt pithy assertion to Liaquat Ali Khan, “I want Kashmir” (Lionel Carter (Ed.), Weakened States Seeking Renewal: British Official Reports from South Asia, 1 January – 30 April 1948, Manohar, Part I, pages 176 and 416; an invaluable collection of two volumes). Even before the Partition Plan was announced on June 3, 1947, he began his campaign with a mention of Kashmir as “a difficult problem” at a formal meeting with Mountbatten and advisers on April 22, 1947. He followed it by a long note to Mountbatten on Kashmir dated June 17, 1947, in which he concluded: “If any attempt is made to push Kashmir into the Pakistan Constituent Assembly, there is likely to be much trouble because the National Conference is not in favour of it and the Maharaja’s position would also become very difficult. The normal and obvious course appears to be for Kashmir to join the Constituent Assembly of India. This will satisfy both the popular demand and the Maharaja’s wishes. It is absurd to think that Pakistan would create trouble if this happens.” (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru; Volume 3, page 229). Pakistan did not count. He lavishly praised the Sheikh. On July 4, he wrote to the Maharaja, whom he detested, requesting a meeting and suggesting accession: “I appreciate your difficulties” (ibid., page 253). No talk here of releasing Abdullah.

The sinister aspect of the plan became apparent when the Maharaja asked for a standstill agreement on August 12, 1947. Pakistan agreed. India declined and asked for negotiations. Nehru had himself revised the draft standstill agreement with all the States to include “foreign affairs” (item 7); a virtual Instrument of Accession. Had the Maharaja agreed, Abdullah would have been confronted, on his release from prison, the very next month, with Kashmir’s accession to India—carried out behind his back. So much for respect for the popular will.

Nor were Nehru’s later references to the Sheikh justified. His following was confined to the Valley. In Jammu and the present Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas’ Muslim Conference held sway. Even in the Valley Abdullah’s voice was not decisive on the crucial issue of accession (see Ian Copland’s essay “The Abdullah Factor: Kashmir Muslims and the Crisis of 1947”). The people followed him up to Kohala (that is, locally) and Jinnah beyond it.

What led to the ‘accession’Chitralekha Zutshi holds that the Muslim Conference “reigned supreme in Poonch and Jammu in 1946” while the Valley was split. Shops displayed photographs of Jinnah, Iqbal and Abdullah side by side (pages 298 and 303). What is clear is that on the issue of accession the overwhelming view was for Pakistan. India’s leaders knew that very well. The Defence Committee of the Cabinet, Nehru in particular, knew that. Hence his advice to Kashmir’s Prime Minister, Meher Chand Mahajan, even as late as on October 21, 1947, just a day before Pakistan’s tribal raids into Kashmir: “I feel it will probably be undesirable to make any declaration of adhesion [to India] at this stage” (SWJN,Volume 4, page 274). Kashmir’s Prime Minister Janak Singh opined on August 13, 1947, that “the bulk of Muslims will not accept (a) decision to accede to India”. Nehru told the Committee on October 25, 1947: “The question was whether temporary accession would help the people in general to side with India or whether it would only act as an irritant. There was bound to be propaganda to the effect that the accession was not temporary and tempers might be inflamed”—that is, the people would resent Kashmir’s accession to India. The next day, N. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar said that “immediate accession might create further opposition”. Nehru opined that he would “not mind Kashmir remaining an independent country [sic] under India’s sphere of influence”. It was then decided to accept the accession “subject to the proviso that a plebiscite would be held in Kashmir”. The Ministry of States was directed to prepare a letter to the Maharaja on “the temporary acceptance of the Instrument of Accession” (Prem Shankar Jha, Kashmir 1947, Oxford University Press, appendices IV and V).

This explains why Mountbatten told the visiting U.K. Minister Arthur Henderson, on January 9, 1948, that Kashmir’s accession was “on a temporary basis and subject to a plebiscite” (Carter, Part I, page 154).

The Maharaja’s panic can be gauged from a quaint, forgotten episode which his Prime Minister, Meher Chand Mahajan, mentioned in 1963: “On 24 October the Deputy Prime Minister left Srinagar for Delhi carrying a letter of accession to India from the Maharaja” (Looking Back, page 150). In 1997, Alastair Lamb remarked that India has “generally been careful to avoid specific reference to this document” (Incomplete Partition, page 143). It was published for the first time by the relentless researcher Andrew Whitehead in his book A Mission in Kashmir (Viking, page 1,022). I am grateful to him for providing me with a copy of the letter dated October 23. It reads: “I hereby authorise my Deputy Prime Minister, R.B. Ram Lal Batra, to sign the document of accession of the State with the Indian Union on my behalf, subject to the condition that the terms of accession will be the same as would be settled with H.E.H. The Nizam of Hyderabad.”

Patel added his bit to get the ruler to accede to India; significantly even before the Radcliffe Report, which awarded to India the connecting link through Pathankot, was out. “You are aware that on 15 August, India, though divided, will be completely free, and you also know that by this time a vast majority of the States have joined the Constituent Assembly of India. I realise the peculiar difficulties of Kashmir, but looking to its history and its tradition, it has, in my opinion, no other choice” (SPC, page 32).

He played the communal card on June 18. “The Kashmiri Pandits and the Hindus form a very small proportion of the population, and they are comparatively better off. The poorer majority which is getting conscious, is trying to assert itself and the conflict of interest is creating a situation in which the minority finds itself in an unenviable position and lives in a state of perpetual insecurity and fear, resulting in demoralisation. The State being a Hindu State, situated in Muslim surroundings, finds itself in a very delicate and difficult position …” In a letter of June 16, he wrote of Nehru: “After all, he is also a Hindu and that a Kashmiri Hindu” (ibid, page 3). One wonders whether he would have called Hyderabad a Muslim State. Nehru would have been offended by Patel’s remark.

One man, the brilliant Secretary in Patel’s Ministry of States, V.P. Menon, kept his head. At a meeting on May 11, 1947, Mountbatten noted that there were some States “which were geographically and ethnically almost bound to throw in their lot with Pakistan”. Nehru said that “the people of almost every State had openly declared in favour of joining the Union of India”. He asked “what would happen if Hyderabad wanted to join Pakistan”. That is when V.P. Menon fired this deadly salvo. “It would produce a very similar situation to Kashmir joining the present Constituent Assembly of India” (Transfer of Power, HMSO, Vol. X, page 764).

During talks with the Secretary-General of Pakistan’s Cabinet, Mohammad Ali, in November 1947, the latter asked whether a plebiscite was really called for as Kashmir had a Muslim majority. V.P. Menon replied that “he entirely agreed that Kashmir would go to Pakistan” but emphasised in view of what had passed, a “formal” [sic] plebiscite was essential. On November 3, 1947, V.P. Menon met a delegation from Hyderabad. The minutes read: “MR. MENON opened the discussions by making reference to the Kashmir problem … the States falling within the Dominion of India should join the Indian Union and those adjoining Pakistan should go with that dominion … he believed that Kashmir should have joined the Pakistan Union and the Government of India never desired the accession of Kashmir to the Union of India. But it was impossible for the Government of India to sit silently when Kashmir and Jammu were being raided and ruined by marauders and freebooters” (Constitutional Discussions, Government of Hyderabad, Volume 2, page 193).

In a taped interview to his predecessor as Reforms Commissioner, H.V. Hodson, in September 1964, V.P. Menon said: “As for plebiscite, we were absolutely, absolutely dishonest.” Nehru had other ideas. Less than a month after Kashmir’s accession and its accompanying pledge to its people of reference to them and of plebiscite, he had decided to back out.

He wrote to Abdullah on November 21, 1947: “You will appreciate that it is not easy for us to back out of the stand we have taken before the world. That would create a very bad impression abroad and more specially in U.N. circles. … If we said to the U.N.O. that we no longer stand by a referendum in Kashmir, Pakistan would score a strong point and that would be harmful to our cause. On the other hand, if circumstances continue as they are and the referendum is out of the question during these next few months, then why worry about it now. … There is no difference between you and us on this issue. It is all a question of the best tactical approach. I would personally suggest to you not to say anything rejecting the idea of a referendum….” (SWJN, Volume 4, pages 336-337). This makes one doubt whether he ever intended to hold plebiscite.

Concurring interestsThe interests of all coincided. Nehru, the Indian nationalist, and Patel, the Hindu nationalist, decided to renege on the nation’s solemn pledges on plebiscite to the people of Kashmir, to Pakistan, and as Nehru himself said, to the world. Sheikh Abdullah, the Kashmiri nationalist, fervently went along because a plebiscite, as all three knew, would have gone in favour of Pakistan. The Sheikh, therefore, sought desperately a settlement with Pakistan other than by a plebiscite and retention of Kashmirs autonomy, meanwhile. The record shows that he was snubbed in both ventures.

On August 25, 1952, Nehru sent him a note that he had written in Sonamarg—finalise the accession through Kashmir’s Constituent Assembly. Both the U.N. and Pakistan were impotent. Kashmiris would submit. “It must be remembered that the people of the Kashmir Valley and round about, though highly gifted in many ways—in intelligence, in artisanship, etc.—are not what are called a virile people. They are soft and addicted to easy living. … The common people are primarily interested in a few things—an honest administration and cheap and honest food” (SWJN, Volume 19, pages 328-329). No Kashmiri would utter those words for his own people. Nehru’s outlook was moulded in the political climate of Uttar Pradesh, to which he really belonged. It was exposed also to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Bogra, when they met in New Delhi on August 17, 1953: “Most people, of course, were hardly political and only cared for their economic betterment” (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Volume 23, page 332).

This is the Development Thesis of today: Kashmiris have no soul. Feed them; they will submit. Abdullah derived his power from the people. If their views on accession to India continued to diverge, without any hope of reconciliation, he refused to act as India’s stooge and lose everything. Nehru, in contrast, was happy with the facade of a popular regime headed by the Sheikh, regardless of the depth or quality of its popular support— a policy being pursued to this day.

Abdullah set up an eight-member committee of his party in May 1953 to evolve a solution that Pakistan could accept. Unbeknown to him, a couple of them had secretly gone over to Nehru. He had the Sheikh arrested on August 9 to replace the Kashmiri nationalist by a succession of stooges, bar an interval (1977-84).

Nehru’s record is seriously blemished by two facts; he knew that the people rejected India’s rule but, nonetheless, kept on promising to abide by their wishes from 1947 to 1954. Indira Gandhi had informed her father in a letter from Srinagar on May 14, 1948: “They say that only Sheikh Saheb is confident of winning the people…” (Sonia Gandhi (Ed.), Two Alone Two Together, Penguin, 2005; the suspension marks, which suppress the rest, are made by the distinguished editor herself for reasons not hard to guess). A host of impartial observers agreed. Two days before Independence, the British Resident in Kashmir reported to the Viceroy’s Principal Secretary, Sir George Abell: “I saw new Prime minister [General Janak Singh] yesterday, and he is aware of the situation and although inclining towards India as a Hindu, realises bulk of Muslims will not accept decision. He therefore wishes for agreement for both” (Transfer of Power, Volume XII, page 696).

Major W.P. Cranston of the British High Commission stayed in Srinagar from October 10 to October 14, 1947, and wrote a report on “The political situation in Kashmir” on October 18, giving his assessment. He wrote: “The future, however, is very uncertain and depends entirely on when the Maharaja makes his announcement as to whether Kashmir should remain independent or accede to either of the two Dominions … it was thought probable that he would then declare the accession of Kashmir State to the Dominion of India. This would cause an immediate reaction throughout the State by the Muslim population which numbers about 80 to 90 per cent and which is strongly opposed to any union with the Indian Government (Lionel Carter (Ed), Partition Observed, Volume 2, Manohar, 2011, page 523).

Carter has also edited Completing the First Year of Independence: British Official Reports from South Asia; 1 May–17 September 1948 (Manohar, 2016). The documents he reproduces tell the same tale.

An official of the U.K. High Commission reported from Srinagar on April 30, 1948: “While everyone considered that a plebiscite would lead to an overwhelming vote in favour of Pakistan, they could not believe that India would voluntarily quit Kashmir. … There was no doubt in the minds of any of the Indians I spoke to that the plebiscite would go in favour of Pakistan. .. I conclude, therefore, that the Indian Army, like most armies of occupation, is strongly resented by the great majority of Kashmiris” (Part 1, page 178).

Sir Terence Shone, the High Commissioner, reported to London on May 24, 1948: “Two members of this High Commission, who recently paid separate visits to Srinagar, came away with the impression that if a fair plebiscite were held in the Vale of Kashmir it would go in favour of Pakistan. Impartial sources also say that the recent Independence Celebrations aroused far less popular enthusiasm than the Indian press suggested.”

John Shattock, ICS, who had served in Kashmir, reported to London on June 4: “British missionaries who live in outlying areas in the Vale of Kashmir all think that a fair plebiscite would go in favour of Pakistan. As these missionaries are very close to the ground and have no axe to grind one way or the other, they must be considered as pretty reliable exponents of public opinion.”

A High Commission official who visited Kashmir (May 14-19, 1948) reported in detail: “It seems that Sheikh Abdullah’s position has been somewhat weakened as a result of: (a) The presence of the army of occupation; the people are said to be terrified of the Sikhs. On the other hand Major General Thimayya said that relations between the troops and the civil population were excellent and that people were coming in from the surrounding districts giving intelligence of the approaching raiders. Their cooperation with the Army was good. (b) The lack of food supplies during the last severe winter owing to the closing of the road to Rawalpindi. (c) Stories of atrocities by the Indian Army brought up by refugees from Jammu. (d) Dislocation of trade by reason of the closing of the road to Rawalpindi. (e) High government officials are going about in cars and generally living at a high standard, whereas the common people are suffering from shortages. The fact that the Indian Army saved Srinagar seemed to be forgotten in view of the winter and present discomforts. …

“Kashmir’s trade outlet is to Pakistan rather than to India and by the road to Rawalpindi. Its export(s) of timber are by river and arts and crafts by road. Imports were also via this road. The road over the Banihal Pass cannot take this traffic and as a result trade is at a standstill.”

Alexander Symon, the Deputy High Commissioner in New Delhi, had easy access to all. He reported on September 12, 1948, on what the U.N. Commission had learnt. “Almost all the members of the [Kashmir] government both individually and in groups had told the members of the U.N. party that they were in favour of an independent Kashmir. They were very apprehensive, however, lest their views might become known to the Indian government. On their return from Karachi the main Commission had been considering this possible solution, but almost all of them were very scared about it. The members of the Kashmir government had also told U.N. party that Sheikh Abdullah on behalf of the National Conference would be prepared to meet and talk with Ghulam Abbas on behalf of the Muslim Conference. Sheikh Abdullah himself and Afzal Beg (the Revenue Minister and a comparative moderate) were the prime movers in favour of this.” A report by Symon directly to Prime Minister Clement Attlee mentioned Sardar Ibrahim, in Pakistan-administered Kashmir’s disclosure that “Abdullah had in fact been making advances to him”.

We have an impeccable source in Jayaprakash Narayan’s letter to Nehru on May 1, 1956. He warned: “From all the information I have, 95 per cent of Kashmir Muslims do not wish to be or remain Indian citizens. I doubt therefore the wisdom of trying to keep people by force where they do not wish to stay. This cannot but have serious long-term political consequences, though immediately it may suit policy and please public opinion. From the point of view of the desirability of establishing a peaceful social order, it cannot but prove disastrous. I do earnestly wish that this question be considered more from a human rather than a nationalist point of view (Bimal Prasad (Ed), Selected Works of Jayaprakash Narayan, 1964, Volume 7, page 115).

We learn every day from reports from Kashmir that its people’s opinions have remained the same even fifty years later in 2016. They have not acquiesced in, still less submitted to, India’s rule. They still fling in its face the pledges made by Jawaharlal Nehru form 1947 to 1954, when he publicly reneged on them. On a rough tabulation there are nearly 30 of them. Here are a few.

Nehru’s unkept promisesTo Liaquat Ali Khan, on October 26, 1947: “I should like to make it clear that the question of aiding Kashmir in this emergency is not designed in any way to influence the State to accede to India. Our views which we have repeatedly made public is that the question of accession in any disputed territory or State must be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people and we adhere to this view” (White Paper on Jammu and Kashmir 1948, page 46). It was also sent to Attlee.

Further, “our assurance that we will withdraw our troops from Kashmir as soon as peace and order are restored and leave the decision about the future of the State to the people of the State is not merely a pledge to your Government but also to the people of Kashmir and to the world ” (ibid, page 51, paragraphs 5 and 7).

Vallabhbhai Patel’s speech at a public meeting in Bombay on October 30, 1948: “Some people consider that Muslim majority area must necessarily belong to Pakistan. They wonder why we are in Kashmir. The answer is plain and simple. We are in Kashmir because the people of Kashmir want us to be there. The moment we realise that the people of Kashmir do not want us to be here, we shall not be there even for a minute” (The Hindustan Times, October 31, 1948).

Nehru’s speech at Calcutta on January 1, 1952: “If then, the people of Kashmir tell us to get out, we will do so. We will not stay there by force. We did not conquer the territory. There is no doubt about it that he [Sheikh Abdullah] is the leader of the people of Kashmir, a very great leader. If tomorrow Sheikh Abdullah wanted Kashmir to join Pakistan, neither I nor all the forces of India would be able to stop it because if the leader decides, it will happen. … Since the matter has been referred to the U.N., we have given our word of honour that we shall abide by their decision. India’s pledge is no small matter and we shall stick by it in the eyes of the world” (SWJN, Volume 17, pages 76-78).

In Parliament on June 26, 1952: “And I say with all respect to our Constitution that it just does not matter what your Constitution says, if the people of Kashmir do not want it, it [the Army] will not go there. … It might pain us but we would not send an Army against them, we might accept that, however much hurt we might feel … and we would change our Constitution about it” (ibid., Volume 18, page 418).

In Parliament on August 7, 1952: “So while the accession was complete in law and in fact, the other fact, which has nothing to do with law, also remains, namely our pledge to the people of Kashmir. If you like, to the people of the world, that this matter can be reaffirmed or cancelled or cut out by the people of Kashmir, if they so wish.We do not want to win people against their will and with the help of armed forces, and if the people of Jammu and Kashmir State so wish it, to part company from us, they can go their way and we shall go our way. We want no forced marriages, no forced unions like this. I hope this great Republic of India is a free, voluntary, friendly and affectionate union of the States of India. … ultimately—I say with all deference to this Parliamentthe decision will be made in the hearts and minds of the men and women of Kashmir, neither in this Parliament, nor in the United Nations, nor by anybody else” (ibid., Vol. 18, pages 293-296). This puts paid to the resolutions by Parliament.

How is this consistent with his private resolve in 1948, as he admitted to Abdullah on August 25, 1952, not to hold a plebiscite? As India’s forces launched an offensive, Mountbatten, architect of the accession, got alarmed and wrote a stiff letter of seven pages on December 28, 1947 “as your Governor-General” warning him that “it would be morally unjustifiable to try by force of arms to inflict our (sic) will on a predominantly Muslim population”. Did not this apply also to the entire State? Nehru riveted Central control over the State once he put the Sheikh behind the bars. Jinnah was as culpable in this tragedy. He it was who fired the first shot, immediately after the Partition, to launch a Cold War with India by accepting Junagadh’s accession. He went on to continuously egg on Hyderabad not to accede to India and eventually sent the raiders into Kashmir on October 22. They came with his full knowledge. On November 1, 1947, at Government House in Lahore, Mountbatten presented him with a written proposal for plebiscite in States where the rulers did not belong to the same religion as the people. Jinnah rejected it demanding exclusion of Hyderabad. The proposal envisaged “that a joint India-Pakistan force should hold the ring while the plebiscite is being held”. Pakistan’s troops would have entered Srinagar. In 1965, Pakistan launched a war. Had it won, would it have held a plebiscite? How can it demand a plebiscite after it lost at its own chosen forum, the battlefield? The 1971 war led to the Shimla Pact of July 3, 1972.

Impact of India-Pakistan warsThe impact of the wars on the Sheikh’s leverage is little understood. The 1947 war extinguished the option of independence; the 1965 war extinguished plebiscite; the Shimla Pact buttressed the status quo. He signed a pact with Indira Gandhi in 1975 in an abject surrender and went on as before to preside over a corrupt and authoritarian regime. In 1947, he had thrown people across to Pakistan-administered Kashmir, invoking the dreaded Enemy Agents Ordinance. Eminent Kashmiris suffered this fate. The Centre gained. In 1975 he accepted its terms. In 1982, his son Farooq Abdullah emulated the example of his predecessors in the years from 1954 to 1975.

The outbreak of militancy in 1989 found an inept separatist leadership surcharged with ego and bereft of sense and statesmanship. We owe it to the brave lawyer Parvez Imroz and his team who have fought for redress against the Army and the paramilitary’s outrages since 1990. He set up the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons. Those who persist in denial should read the 804-page volume, Structures of Violence: The Indian State in Jammu & Kashmir (Khurram Parvez, The Bund, Amira Kadal, Srinagar, Rs.400). The J&K Coalition of Civil Society pursues cases in court. The report documents in detail extra-judicial killings of 1,080 persons and enforced “disappearances” of 170 people, besides cases of torture and sexual violence. There are detailed case studies of extra-judicial killings and disappearances. A particularly useful part of the report is its description of the army’s set-up in J&K. It is a massive document based on irrefutable evidence.

Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora? by Essan Batool, Ifrah Butt, Samreena Mushtaq, Munaza Rashid and Natasha Rather was published in the Zubaan Series on Sexual Violence and Impunity in South Asia (Zubaan, page 228, Rs.395). Zubaan, which means the tongue, is an independent feminist publishing house. This book, published with the support of the International Development Research Centre, is a thorough exposure of rape as a weapon to silence people. The book concerns “the mass rape, in the two villages (Kunan & Poshpora) of 31 women by the 4th Regimental Rifles regiment of the Indian Army on February 23, 1991” and is based on documents and interviews. The late B.G. Verghese and his Press Council’s report is not the only one to be discredited in this episode. (See also Seema Kazi’s expose, “Sexual Crimes by State Personnel and Kashmir’s Case for Self Determination”, in Narrator, April 2016). She cites a report by Medicins Sans Frontieres entitled “Kashmir: Violence and Health”.

Such misdeeds fuel popular wrath. The Army responds by refusing real accountability. Its demand for the retention of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) reflects its distrust of civilian authority. For, even without AFSPA, no proceedings can be launched without the government’s sanction. What AFSPA guarantees is total immunity from accountability.

Two more factors have come to the fore, the Modi government and the Pandits. On New Year’s Day, 1952, Nehru said: “Just imagine what would have happened in Kashmir if the Jan Sangh or any other communal party had been at the helm of affairs? The people of Kashmir say that they are fed up with this communalism. Why should they live in a country where the Jan Sangh and the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh] are constantly beleaguering them? They will go elsewhere and they will not stay with us” (SWJN, Volume 17, pages 77-78).

Yet, when, on April 10, 1952, Abdullah gave his famous speech at Ranbir Singh Pora in Jammu, Nehru resented it. “Kashmir’s accession to India will have to be [of] a restricted nature so long as communalism has a foothold on the soil of India.” The Sheikh was alluding to the rise of the Jan Sangh established a few months earlier. The Modi government is pledged to Hindutva. It has nothing to offer to Kashmir except promises of development, or to Pakistan except conditional promises of a dialogue—no substantial concessions to either.

It is a dismal situation. After 1965, secession is ruled out. Is continued oppression the only alternative to it? The Modi government’s stand on the Pandits is in glaring contrast to its indifference to the plight of Kashmiris within Kashmir and outside within India; especially of Kashmiri students.

Mridu Rai, who teaches history at Yale University, has described their behaviour in her acclaimed book, Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects(Permanent Black, page 297). She writes: “It was the tendency of the Kashmiri Pandits to turn to India, with its comfortable Hindu majority, when in trouble in Kashmir that earned for them the honour of being secular nationalists. … In contrast, the Kashmiri Muslims’ demands for a similar protection of rights, denied to them as a religious community by both a Hindu Dogra and a ‘secular’ Indian state, has been all too easily misread as engaging in an illegitimate politics of religious fundamentalism. This duality in nationalist treatment is born, in the ultimate analysis, of the fact that Kashmiri Muslims have, by and large, chosen to tread a path all their own and certainly one that leads them neither to Delhi nor to Islamabad. Above all, the clamour by Kashmir’s Muslims is for a legitimate government. It is the helplessness in which they were placed first by their Dogra rulers and then by Indian politicians, each neglecting to negotiate their legitimacy with the popular constituency of Kashmir, that has provoked a militant response.”

Omar Abdullah said twice, on October 28, 2009, and July 2, 2010, that “the youth of Kashmir did not pick up the gun for money”, or jobs, but for “political reasons”. It is perfectly possible to conciliate Kashmiris as well as Pakistan. Maximum autonomy, or azadi, for both East and West Kashmir, in agreement with the people and with Pakistan is a possible solution.

A former Research and Analysis Wing chief told this writer what he found in track-two diplomacy: Pakistan is a country with a grievance. Pakistan feels wronged by a more powerful neighbour’s breach of commitment to hold a plebiscite which it was powerless to prevent. That explains why it makes Kashmir a “core” issue. This grievance will not vanish. It must be addressed. There will be no peace in South Asia without a settlement of the Kashmir dispute acceptable to all the three parties. Neither the people of Kashmir nor Pakistan will acquiesce in a status quo established by armed force as envisaged in Nehru’s Note of August 25, 1952. The people will not accept an accord with India unless Pakistan is also a party to it; for Pakistan is not only a party to the dispute, it is also a party present in Kashmir itself. On April 21, even Farooq Abdullah testified: “Here in Kashmir people love Pakistan. Even if you [New Delhi] throw all your treasures upon them, you can’t take away the sentiment from their hearts” (Greater Kashmir, April 22).

Failed alternativesThe alternatives that have been tried are ineffective and sordid. A.S. Dulat, former RAW chief, tells us that the Intelligence Bureau “was most active, most feared and most denounced in Kashmir. The ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence]… knew exactly how key the I.B. was to the Central government’s hold on Kashmir” (Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years, page 61). Is this how a Union should hold a State? The I.B. does not collect intelligence in Kashmir. It bribes politicians and others, besides playing other sordid games. (See the writer’s article, “Bribes and spies”, Frontline; October 30, 2013).

Operators like Dulat have a tunnel vision. He boasted to Tehelka, on August 26, 2006, how he had wooed Shabir Shah and “set up a meeting … in Kathmandu” but the Prime Minister’s Office backed out. For all his years in Kashmir, he does not realise that if the PMO had not resiled, Shabir Shah would have been stripped of all worth as a defector (Shah contests Dulat’s version). This is the nub of the matter—New Delhi simply refuses to reckon with the people’s views. The harsh reality is that both Jinnah and Nehru coveted the land of Kashmir; neither cared for its people.

Jinnah wanted Kashmir, without Abdullah; Nehru wanted Abdullah without his people. The Sheikh wanted a third way but failed and accepted defeat. The people bitterly recall the Sheikh’s abject surrender but also remember his sacrifices and his treatment by Nehru. It was he who held a vision before them for forty years, from 1935 to 1975. That vision moves the people despite memories of his wrongs.

In 1989, the latent wrath of the Kashmiri flared up. Pakistan supplied the gun; India built up the wrath, and that wrath will not subside now. It cannot be crushed by bribery or force. Indian nationalism must come to terms with Kashmiri nationalism.

By Jahnavi Reddy

Kunan Poshpora 2
At the launch of ‘Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora?’ Authors Essar Batool (left) and Natasha Rather (centre) in conversation with journalist Rohini Mohan. Photo courtesy Karnataka for Kashmir Forum via Facebook.

At book launch of Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora? on May 23, at the end of the conversation between two of the book’s five authors, Essar Batool and Natasha Rather with journalist Rohini Mohan, a middle-aged gentleman raised his hand to ask the authors, “Kashmir is not a new problem. It’s been going on since 1947. I want to know, what is the fundamental problem in Kashmir? It is not the Army. It is not the Government of India. You drive away Pandits from there. You fight among yourselves. But, fundamentally in any society, it’s the power within the people that matters. I don’t think external people can do anything about that. What is it that you are doing internally?”

Batool replied “The biggest problem with Kashmir is narratives like yours. As you told us, you came in late, and you did not even listen to what we were saying. You ask what the problem is. It would be very stupid of me to answer this question, not because I don’t think it’s a valid question, but because I seriously think you lack a lot of information on Kashmir. Please come visit us if you have time and we would love to discuss this with some Kashmiri friends.”

It was to counter narratives like these, and to voice stories documented by insiders about the pervasive violence and injustice in Kashmir that Batool, Rather and three more women decided to write a book on the Kunan Poshpora incident. Natasha Rather is a researcher and development sector professional from Kashmir. Essar Batool is also a social worker from Kashmir, and a human rights activist. The other three authors are Munaza Rashid, Ifrah Butt and Samreena Mushtaq. All the authors are young women from Kashmir involved in human rights activism in the region.

On the night of February 23, 1991, troops from the 4th Rajputana Rifles of the Indian army raped and tortured the women and men of two villages, Kunan and Poshpora, in Kupwara district, during an anti-insurgency search and interrogation operation, as the village residents were suspected to be militant sympathisers. According to accounts taken for this book, nearly 31 women were raped that night. Since the mass rape happened 25 years ago, the numbers may even be higher.

Twenty-one years later, in 2012, during the widespread movement against sexual violence across India, one of the authors of the book, Samreena Mushtaq, called her friend Essar Batool and asked her “Do you remember Kunan Poshpora?” The authors say that they realised that it was one of the incidents that had been overlooked, similar to several daily massacres, disappearances and extrajudicial killings that happen in India occupied Kashmir on a regular basis. These women wanted to bring this incident back to public memory, to stop such incidents from recurring and to provide a platform for dissent for survivors of such attacks through legal institutions.

When more than 100 women filed a PIL in March 2013 to re-investigate the case, they were asked to provide their IDs for the PIL to be accepted. Yet, nearly 50 women (including the authors of this book) persisted, and the PIL was filed. The authors then visited the villages, to find out the stories of the survivors, and to make sure people heard them through this book.

The re-opened case was eventually moved back to Kupwara sessions court, nearly 100km away from Srinagar, to deter the petitioners from following it. The survivors and the petitioners from various human rights organisations were accused of lying and maligning the army. The petitioners were called ‘suspicious agents who needed to be investigated’. The case has now moved to the Supreme Court.

Batool says that the Indian Armed Forces has managed to keep up the image of being a hallowed force, of being infallible, and of not being able to do anything wrong, enjoying the impunity given by the state. The authors say that they don’t expect justice as a result of this book, considering the impunity that the Indian army has and the number of crimes and massacres in Kashmir that have failed to receive justice, but the PIL and the book are meant to tell the state and the people that they will not forget these war crimes.

At the launch, after the man tried to tell the authors that it wasn’t the fault of the Indian Army or the Government of India, several voices in the crowd began to mutter in disagreement, nodding their heads side to side or face-palming. An audience member immediately stood up and said “Thank you for coming to the occupying territory. It takes a lot of courage. I want you to take back that a lot of people here are also in solidarity with you, and do not agree with the state that does this to you. I would also like to condemn the question that was asked right before I spoke. I think it is an offensive question to ask to people who have been occupied for a long time.” This was followed by enthusiastic applause. The authors say that they hope to create a space for dialogue around violence in Kashmir through such platforms, as a middle ground between the more common narratives of militant separatism and nationalistic jingoism.

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