Posts Tagged ‘Afzal Guru’

  1. Praful Bidwai
    June 07, 2013 ,

    Kashmir is at a crossroads. The post-2006 transition from insurgency to peaceful protests now faces a serious threat, says Praful Bidwai after a recent visit to the valley.

    The security bunkers that stood out like sore thumbs every 50 metres in Srinagar [Images ] for two decades have gone. And the oppressive presence of uniformed men bearing weapons has become less overwhelming. But the shadow of Indian security forces still hangs heavy over the social, economic and political life of the Kashmir Valley.

    During a brief visit to Srinagar, I discovered widespread popular alienation from the Indian State. For the Kashmiri people, the gun remains India’s [ Images ] main face, and coercion or deception by New Delhi [ Images ] dominates their consciousness.

    Sullen anger, discontent, hopelessness and despair lie beneath the calm and normalcy at the surface. The anger is intense among educated young people.

    I wish I were wrong, but my discussions with separatist leaders from both factions of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, mainstream politicians, intellectuals, and above all, articulate young men and women, leave me with no other conclusion. Reading recent publications from the Valley only confirms this.

    It is hard to predict what form the anger will take, and whether it will once again explode into militancy and secessionist violence, as in 1989. But Indian policymakers and the larger public would be dangerously mistaken in ignoring the simmering discontent in the Kashmir valley, or in imagining that it can be calmed or neutralised by incremental or token gestures like the announcement of yet another economic ‘package’.

    The popular alienation is the cumulative result of a number of factors culminating in Mohammed Afzal Guru‘s execution on February 9, and the widespread disgust this provoked in the valley.

    Most Kashmiris believe, like many Indians, that Guru’s trial did not establish his guilt.

    Guru, Kashmiris believe, was killed for ‘political’ reasons — because the United Progressive Alliance [ Images ] wanted to counter the Bharatiya Janata Party‘s [ Images ] charge that it is ‘soft’ on terrorists. They regard Guru’s execution in secrecy as identical with that of Ajmal KasabImages ] — and hence proof that the Indian State equates Kashmir with Pakistan, an ‘enemy’ country.

    They underline the contrast with the right to appeal granted to members of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan’s gang and to Rajiv Gandhi’s [ Images ] assassins, and believe Guru was singled out because he was a Kashmiri.

    Other factors behind the alienation are innumerable human rights abuses, including the continuing detention of more than 1,000 young people for holding peaceful protests, despite the government’s promise to pardon them; and use of the draconian Public Safety Act — which allows detention without charges for two years — against 12- and 15-year-old boys merely for pelting stones.

    No less important is the disappearance of scores of people detained by the security forces, and many unpunished killings by the army, such as that of three boys at Machil in Kupwara district in 2010.

    All this has strengthened resentment at what large numbers of Kashmiris consider as India’s military occupation of the valley, which violates their freedom and dignity.

    Compounding this is the ruling National Conference-Congress government’s failure to address growing unemployment, prevalence of massive corruption, dilution of the Right to Information Act, and police brutality, reflected in the killing of more than 100 peaceful protesters in both 2008 and 2010.

    Instead of redressing the situation, the state government has drafted the J&K Police Bill, which allows it to set up ‘special security zones’ in ‘disturbed’ areas, where the police acquire magisterial and administrative powers — and impunity for their actions.

    It also allows the creation of Salwa Judum-style militias in the form of ‘village defence committees’. This has bred further resentment.

    No less important is the exposure of the joint civilian-military Unified Command as a handmaiden of the army in ‘security’ matters. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah [ Images ], backed by then Union home minister P Chidambaram [ Images ], has repeatedly called for repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from certain peaceful areas, but the army has contemptuously vetoed that demand — just as it sabotaged a settlement of the Siachen glacier dispute with Pakistan, favoured by New Delhi.

    Army commanders have spoken on such policy issues in gross violation of the democratic principle that only the civilian leadership can do so. They even threatened to suspend counter-insurgency operations if AFSPA is repealed.

    They strongly loath any dilution of their power under AFSPA to kill anyone merely suspected to be about to breach a prohibitory order such as Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code which bans the assembly of five or more persons.

    This only proves, say Kashmiri analysts, that the Indian State has no respect for Jammu and Kashmir’s [ Images ] elected government: Democracy is a ‘mere showpiece’ so far as Kashmir is concerned.

    Irrespective of whether this perception is right or wrong, it is widely prevalent. An important element in it is the memory of repeated rigging of J&K assembly elections and imposition of Delhi’s puppets on the state until recently.

    A watershed was the 1987 election, the manipulation of whose results spontaneously provoked fierce anger, leading to the eruption of the separatist militancy in 1989, which Pakistan cynically exploited, to disastrous effect.

    The militancy and ferocious State repression claimed more than 80,000 lives before they declined after 2002 thanks to popular exhaustion with violence. Things further changed with the 2004 Lok Sabha and the 2008 assembly elections, which saw relatively high polling such as 40 percent-plus.

    In 2011, local body elections were held for the first time in a decade, which witnessed an impressive turnout of 79 percent despite the separatists’ call to boycott them.

    Since then, Kashmir’s economy has expanded, tourism has boomed, and new enterprises have sprouted, including some in information technology, floriculture and banking. Kashmiris started taking and scored well in the all-India services examinations.

    The number of Kashmiri students in Indian colleges has multiplied four-fold over a decade, according to one estimate.

    However, this doesn’t mean that full normalcy has returned or Kashmir’s wounds have healed. Kashmiris have learnt to use the available democratic space without changing their fundamental stance vis-a-vis India.

    There has been a transition from violent to peaceful protest, which became starkly visible in the 2008 Amarnath Yatra [Images ], and again in 2010. But popular alienation hasn’t abated.

    The Indian State’s response to the protest was twofold: Shoot down peaceful agitators or arrest them on fake charges; and when the protests ebb, make conciliatory moves through committees such as the interlocutors group headed by journalist Dileep Padgaonkar.

    This group is only the latest in a series of ‘olive branch’ offers by New Delhi, including visits by Rajesh Pilot [ Images ] and S B Chavan in the 1990s, the K C Pant committee of 2001, the N N Vohra committee of 2003, several rounds of talks with the separatists, numerous economic packages, and the prime minister’s five J&K working groups set up with much fanfare in 2006. One of these, headed by present Vice-President Hamid Ansari, recommended revocation of AFSPA.

    These initiatives may have temporarily calmed tempers in the valley and even averted a deeper crisis. But none of them produced results. Their recommendations either fell short of a solution, or were rejected outright. That was the fate of the interlocutors’ report too.

    Its story not only provokes derision, but worse, further cynicism in Kashmir and convinces people that the Indian government has no intention of changing course or reforming its J&K policy.

    That was the message from the India-Pakistan back-channel talks too, based on General Pervez Musharraf’s [ Images ] four-point formula. These very nearly succeeded in 2006-2007 and could have clinched a solution which involves demilitarisation, regional autonomy and self-rule without a redrawing of the borders.

    But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [ Images ] didn’t seize the moment. Soon, Musharraf’s position became untenable thanks to his confrontation with the judiciary. The moment passed.

    To return to the present, Kashmir is at a crossroads. The post-2006 transition from insurgency to peaceful protests now faces a serious threat amidst the perception that New Delhi remains as unresponsive to these as it was hostile to the militancy.

    There have been more than a dozen attacks on security forces by gunmen and suicide bombers, as well as armed encounters, in different parts of the valley in recent weeks.

    These attacks were not led or coordinated by organised groups like Hizbul Mujahideen [ Images ], but conducted by educated professionals — engineers, science postgraduates and MBAs — motivated by azaadi (freedom, autonomy, independence, nobody knows exactly which), and convinced that normal, peaceful, dignified life is impossible under Indian ‘occupation’.

    A majority of the young people I interviewed expressed sympathy for the attackers, while admitting that a heavy price would have to be paid for militancy and the State’s retaliatory response.

    Some even said that peaceful protest has exhausted its potential, and armed resistance may be necessary to highlight the cardinal truth that the Kashmir problem remains unresolved after 66 years.

    These are dangerous signs. New Delhi must heed them and correct course — even as it responds positively to Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s [ Images ] welcome offer of talks.


Justin Podur

MAY 28, 2013


Indian Army soldiers at an encounter site with militants in Kashmir on Friday. AP photo

Guest post by JUSTIN PODUR: I spent a week in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, at the end of April 2013, talking to people among whom there was a wide range of opinion. While almost everyone supports freedom, some are resigned to India never letting Kashmir go, others believe that the struggle will go on and take different forms, some are just trying to survive. It seemed to me, at the end of a calm week during tourist season, that India is bringing about all of the things that it fears: Pakistani influence, violence,  radicalisation of youth, political Islam, and hatred of India.

The Kashmir conflict has been going on for decades. When India and Pakistan became independent in 1947, both new states wanted Kashmir. The ruler of Kashmir acceded to India. India and Pakistan fought their first war over the state that year, establishing a partition of the territory into an area controlled by Pakistan and an area controlled by India. The part controlled by India includes Jammu, Ladakh, and the Kashmir valley. When Kashmir acceded to India, the Indian Constitution made a special provision to allow for Kashmir to have certain national rights, and to allow for the future of Kashmir (in India or Pakistan) to be settled by a plebiscite. The plebiscite never happened. The special autonomy provisions in the constitution have not been honoured. Today, Kashmiris have fewer rights than the rest of the Indian union and they get less respect for the rights that they do have. An insurgency in the 1990′s was brutally suppressed by the Indian army, with thousands killed, tortured, and disappeared. In 2010, a series of popular protests in the valley were also suppressed. Most recently, the government shut all communications down and imposed curfew for several days after the political hanging of Afzal Guru in February 2013. It has taken many different forms, but the conflict between the aspirations of Kashmiris and the Indian state has remained.

When a conflict seems intractable, it is because someone is benefiting from it. Those who proposesolutions to the conflict are therefore inevitably proposing to take some benefit away from someone – in this case, from those who are benefiting from it and who have the power to end it. Any proposed solution can then be dismissed as infeasible. In the case of Kashmir, this has been the most reliable way to keep the conflict going. Propose greater autonomy within India? Infeasible, India says, because the rest of India won’t tolerate it. Propose independence? Infeasible, India says, because India would never allow it. Propose demilitarising the area somewhat? Infeasible, India has security concerns.

Then, having dismissed any of the obvious solutions, we can throw up our hands in frustration and ask: But what do the Kashmiris really want?

Although the parallel has been over-used, and there are a dozen ways to break the analogy, there is an instructive comparison to Israel/Palestine. For many years, advocates for Palestine were divided into one-state and two-state advocates. The one-state advocates, who argued that Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza should all be a single state with equality for Israeli Jews and Palestinians, were accused of utopian dreaming, since Israel would never be willing to sacrifice its Jewish character and become a democratic state for all its citizens. The two-state advocates, who believed they were advocating a world consensus, had to watch Israel continue to grab more territory and tighten the noose that was suffocating Palestinian life. Every few years, Israel would massacre some Palestinians. Israel and its backers would throw up their hands and say: but what do Palestinians really want? One state, two states, an Islamic state?

In the Palestinian context, this intellectual impasse was broken by the movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Inspired by the struggle against South African apartheid, one of the BDS movement’s greatest contributions was not in its selection of BDS tactics. Instead, it was the advocacy of a rights-based program, instead of a solutions-basedprogram. The argument was simple. If Palestinians have the same rights as everybody else – freedom from military occupation, equal rights to live, work, study and travel, the right to return to homes from which they have been displaced – then any solution that accommodates these rights is acceptable. Conversely, any proposed solution has to respect the rights of the people, or it is a false solution.

What if the Kashmir conflict were re-framed in the same way? What if we thought about Kashmir in a rights-based, as opposed to a solutions-based, framework? It seems to me that if India wanted to respect the rights of Kashmiris, it would have to stop doing several things immediately. Whether India thinks that territorial control is paramount (and therefore wants to keep Kashmir in the union at all costs) or decides that the democratic principle is more important (and therefore wants to give Kashmiris the space to decide for themselves) there can be no progress without respecting the rights of Kashmiris.

I am not going to suggest things that many states are incapable of doing anywhere, like ending corruption or following its own laws consistently. I am just going to suggest things that are allowed and routine in other states. So here are eleven things that India should do to protect people’s rights in Kashmir.

11. Stop using soldiers as police. Troops are for borders. If the army deployment is because Kashmir is the border with Pakistan and China, then army troops shouldn’t be seen in Srinagar or other valley towns. They should be at their border posts. Let the state police do the policing, and leave the troops at the border.

10. Stop messing with Kashmir’s communications. The refrain that ‘Kashmir is an integral part of India’ is constantly heard. But Kashmir is not an integral part of India’s communications network. I have traveled all over India, and paid fairly low roaming fees with my Delhi-based SIM card. When I didn’t want to pay them, I got myself a local SIM card by giving my passport, visa, and a photo ID (all of which seemed excessive to me). But prepaid SIMs from outside Kashmir simply don’t work in Kashmir. And you can’t just get a SIM card the way you can elsewhere. And you can’t send SMS messages within Kashmir, much less out of Kashmir. And of course, when the Indian state does something that they know will horrify Kashmiris, like executing Afzal Guru in secret after denying him legal rights and admitting that he’s being hanged not because of evidence against him but because ‘the conscience of the nation’ demands it, the Indian state also shuts all communications down inside Kashmir.

Kashmiris have taken to Facebook and other social media to communicate, but they feel that they can be hunted down if they write things the state doesn’t like.

9. Stop suppressing student politics. One complaint I heard many times was that the Kashmir University Student Union (KUSU) was banned, while the campus Congress Party was allowed to organise. I asked a University administrator why student politics were not allowed. He told me that it was because students were vulnerable to being used by off-campus elements, and that student politics would be extremely disruptive on campus. Until the situation calms down, he said, they could not allow campus politics. And anyway, he added, there was no tradition of campus politics, unlike say, in Delhi.

I disagree. Administrations always have adversarial relationships with student movements, and if student politics were allowed, there would no doubt be times when the administration suspended students or gave academic punishments for disrupting classes, etc. – but there are ways of dealing with all of this, of negotiating it, that every other campus knows.

8. Stop banning and deporting people. Allow free movement. Arundhati Roy wrote about this in 2011. When I told people I was going to Kashmir, I was told, “Hope they don’t ban you from India like they did with David Barsamian”. A US-based activist and radio personality, Barsamian has a long connection with India and comes very often, interviewing people and doing journalism on a wide variety of topics. He was deported in 2011, supposedly for doing professional activities on a tourist visa. Richard Shapiro (see this piece where he makes the argument for demilitarisation), an American professor, was deported from Kashmir in 2010, with the same pretext. These pretexts are flimsy. There are probably millions of visitors who come on tourist visas and write things about India. I doubt anyone has been deported for writing about saris, handicrafts, or even for complaining about pollution or noise. But write about Kashmir, and suddenly you are in violation of your visa. In any case, leaving Barsamian and Shapiro aside, what visa terms do Indian citizens violate? When Gautam Navlakha, an Indian citizen, tried to enter Kashmir in 2011, he was stopped at the airport and put on the next plane back to Delhi. Effectively, he was deported, something that should not be possible from one ‘integral part of India’ to another.

7. Let Kashmir control its water resources. The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) controls the water and sells it back to the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The J&K government wants several power projects returned to it, and accuses NHPC of retaining these projects illegally. In these joint ventures, the NHPC gets the power, which it then distributes according to its own logic, which includes selling some of the power back to the state. From the NHPC perspective, this is efficient allocation of resources. From Kashmir’s perspective, it is internal colonialism, and given the physical geography of the state, leaves people freezing in the dark when they have ample hydroelectric capacity. Let Kashmir control its own water resources and sell to the centre, as other states have negotiated.

6. Regulate the yatras. The Amarnath yatra brings Hindus from different parts of India to Kashmir to worship. The yatra has grown immensely over the years and, like many other religious festivals, has become politicized. In the context of Kashmir, it has also become militarized. The yatra is controlled by a board that is ultimately controlled by India. Even though the board was constituted in 2000 by the governor of J & K, the composition of the board is heavily weighted towards the Centre, effectively disenfranchising the locals in an event with an increasingly high impact. The growing size of the yatras has become a grievance. Why generate the perception that India is trying to change the demographics of Kashmir? If other yatras can be regulated on ecological grounds, why can’t the Amarnath yatra? Why can’t the board be controlled from within the state?

5. Punish crimes, not people. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) means that (as activist Vrinda Grover has argued instead of being held to a higher standard, representatives of the state have more privilege than others. This has to be repealed. Crimes are crimes, whether they are committed by security forces or citizens. Instead of punishing crimes, the government punishes people. Soldiers are immune from prosecution even for torture, murder or rape. Kashmiris who aren’t committing crimes, whether they are shouting slogans, attending demonstrations, or just are in the wrong place at the wrong time, can be punished. If the Indian state doesn’t know what a crime is, why would anyone want to be a part of it?

4. Count the dead. Hundreds of unidentified and mass graves have been uncovered throughout the state in the past few years. Families whose children have been disappeared want to know if these mass graves contain their children. But instead of testing all of the bodies and identifying them, India has demanded that the families submit to DNA tests. What should have been the Indian state apologizing and trying to make repair for ghastly violations has thus turned into a further ghastly violation, a further intelligence gathering exercise. India should do the DNA tests on the mass grave and provide the information. The denial of what everyone knows is true is insanity-inducing. Nothing good can come of it.

3. Make amnesty meaningful. India wants former militants to surrender, but surrendered militants’ lives become surreal and horrifying. Afzal Guru’s ordeal since he surrendered is perhaps the most dramatic example, but there are many others. In order to demonstrate progress in counterinsurgency, India’s military forces have used surrendered militants as ‘false positives’: men are killed and arranged to look like they were insurgents killed in encounters. Their lives are expendable, their corpses a resource. This must stop.

2. Increase connectivity. Allow people to travel. India is supposedly worried about ‘cross-border terrorism’. The phrase has two parts. The ‘cross-border’ part is not a crime in itself. Anything you can do that is a crime on one side of the border is also a crime on the other side. It is the crime that is the problem, not the border-crossing. The same goes for terrorism. The entire framework of anti-terror legislation that was enacted around the world after 9/11 was basically unnecessary. The crimes that terrorists commit – mainly murder – were defined as crimes in the law before the anti-terror laws were passed. Terrorists can be punished for crimes, and efforts to prevent violent crimes can take place, while trying to minimize disruption of people’s freedom of movement. Instead, India’s approach is to besiege the population and deny them freedom of movement unless they can prove that they are not criminals.

1. Allow separatism. One of Canada’s major provinces, Quebec, has a different official language (French) from the rest (English) and the majority of its French-speaking inhabitants want independence. It has a provincial party, the Parti Quebecois, that is devoted to independence, and a federal level party, the Bloc Quebecois, that, while seeking independence, also seeks to press Quebec’s interests at the federal level. Demographically and in terms of voting blocs, Quebec is much larger relative to Canada than Kashmir is relative to India (Quebec and J&K have about the same population, but the whole of Canada, with about 30 million people, has the population of one of India’s smaller states). But the point is that in the past few decades the Canadian state has not taken an iron fist approach to separatism, and the Canadian state has not collapsed.

Indeed, during one of the Quebec referenda (Quebec has had 3 of the plebiscites that have been denied Kashmir), a very intelligent urban thinker, Jane Jacobs, pointed out that Norway had peacefully separated from Sweden through a referendum in 1905, and the world didn’t end. Obsessed with Pakistan, the Indian establishment is looking in the wrong direction for examples. Kashmir doesn’t have to be Bangladesh. It could just as easily be Norway or Quebec.

(Justin Podur is a Toronto-based writer and professor at York University, and was recently a visiting professor at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi. His blog is and twitter is


Despite the call by human rights organizations to stop the use of weapons such as pellet guns and chilli grenades in tackling riots or mob fury, security forces in the Kashmir Valley continue to deploy the same with impunity. This has led to debilitating injuries and even death, reports Freny Maneksha. 

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25 April 2013 – “Killing us is better than making us blind.” This cry in total despair by a Kashmiri youth, who recently lost his vision, after a pellet gun injury, highlights the devastating manner in which seemingly “non lethal” weapons are continuing to be deployed in the Valley. In 2010 when security troops used pellet guns to quell protests and incidents of stone pelting, at least 45 youths suffered loss of vision because of pellet gun injuries, according to the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital in Srinagar.

Media reports estimate that in the current 2013 protests, following the execution of Afzal Guru, there have been at least 12 such cases of youths receiving very serious eye injuries with slim prospects of regaining vision. The youngest of them is a 13-year-old boy, Muzammil Qayoom Rather, who was hit in the eye as he stood at the window of his home in Baramulla district, North Kashmir. On 12 February, according to media reports, he leaned out of the window of his home in Sheeri to shout slogans even as protests were taking place in the streets below. He then received a hit in the eye by security forces who aimed at him.

Air gun pellets can cause serious eye injuries and can penetrate the skin, bone and even internal organs. Pic credit: Wikimedia

It was also on 12 February that nineteen-year-old street hawker, Tariq Ahmad Gojri of Sheeri, Baramulla district, received a hit in the eye. Gojri told the media he had ventured out only to buy bread for the family. He adds that he was unable to seek proper medical attention because of the curfew that was clamped then. By the time he got to a hospital, the tiny pellets had spread through the eye. His entire eyeball had to be removed. Doctors say that these types of penetrating injuries cannot always be treated effectively in district hospitals. But, patients from remote districts are hindered from seeking prompt or timely medical attention because of the oft-prevailing curfew and also because, they say, security troops detain ambulances and vehicles ferrying the wounded.

It is this kind of deliberate and inappropriate use of non- lethal weapons that has evoked widespread criticism by human rights organisations including Amnesty International. Pellet guns, which use hydraulic force to pump hundreds of bullets, can cause widespread injuries across the body. When aimed upwards they can cause serious eye injuries. Besides piercing the eyeball, pellet guns can cause penetration of skin, bone and even internal organs.

One major problem for doctors and medical teams treating such injuries is that since the pellets come out in scores, it hits large numbers of persons in many parts of the body. In 2010 Dr Syed Amin Tabish, medical superintendent of the Sher-I-Kashmir Medical Institute (SKIMS) Srinagar, explained to this correspondent that pellet injuries necessitated a big team of doctors attending simultaneously to a single person who may have suffered hits in the head, abdomen and limbs.

According to media reports, at least three people died in March because acrid fumes of the pepper gas grenades used to disperse crowds in many parts of old Srinagar exacerbated their medical conditions.
•  Maimed by the state, quietly
•  A death in the family

In the same year a medical study on pellet gun injuries was brought out by SKIMS based on the 198 patients who were brought in with pellet gun injuries. The study notes, “Whilst the pellet wound itself may seem trivial, if not appreciated for the potential for tissue disruption and injuries to the head, chest and abdomen, there can be catastrophic results.” Significantly it observed, “Patients should be evaluated and managed in the same way as those sustaining bullet injuries.” The study cautioned that pellet guns should not be used unless extremely necessary and personnel using them may be better trained so that people do not receive direct hits.

Other “non lethal” weapons like pepper gas and pepper grenades (also called chilli grenades) have also been deployed in the latest round of turmoil in Kashmir. According to media reports, at least three people died in March because acrid fumes of the pepper gas grenades used to disperse crowds in many parts of old Srinagar exacerbated their medical conditions. Among them was a sixty-year-old woman from Bemina, named Hazira. Her family members say that on 8 March, a stray pepper grenade landed in her home which worsened her asthma. She died the next day. Another pregnant woman reportedly suffered a miscarriage after she stumbled and fell ill on inhaling the fumes. Whilst these grenades may be aimed at youths protesting on streets, the elderly and young children can be particularly vulnerable to the gas that engulfs the atmosphere, according to doctors.

A doctor at the Soura Institute of Medical Sciences in Srinagar told the press that while they did not know the exact chemical composition of the gas its effects were particularly lethal for people with acute asthma or allergy.

Uzma, a young woman told this correspondent that the intensity of the gas was such that its effects can be felt within a radius of up to three or four kilometres from where it is deployed. �Your throat starts burning and itching and you can go on coughing violently for almost an hour and a half. The eyes start watering and this, too, continues for hours. It is really a horrific and frightening sensation.�

The use of pepper gas and resulting deaths rocked the assembly and the opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, staged a walkout on 11 March. The Jammu & Kashmir State Human Rights Commission castigated the police and state. In its order, it said the “state is duty-bound under constitution and law to protect the lives of the citizens and in no case are at liberty or have license to adopt such measures which would endanger the health of its subject in the name of maintaining law and order.”

On 21 March, Amnesty International told the government to suspend the use of pepper spray grenades until rigorous independent investigations have been carried out to assess its effect. It has also asked for a proper investigation into the cause of deaths of the three persons. Shashikumar Velath, programme director of Amnesty International India, said the J&K government and police departments have clearly not established any guidelines for monitoring the use of this gas and it is yet another example of “unregulated and excessive use of force by police in J&K.”

Use of pepper sprays is permissible in India and it has been marketed as an effective means of self defence, but it was the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) that in 2008 announced it would begin work on its use as a non-lethal weapon against terrorists. Scientists told the media that they would be using Bhut Jholakia, a chilly grown in the North East, that is recognised as one of the world’s hottest chillies. India’s Defence Research Laboratory rates it as having 855,000 heat units on the Scoville range (which makes it 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce). These scorching chillies are used to make tear-gas like grenades. On ignition the oleoresin or thick, oily liquid which is absorbed in a composition reacts to liberate heat which evaporates and releases irritants in the atmosphere along with smoke.

The DRDO went ahead with its plans for such weapons even though Amnesty International and other organisations had declared that use of pepper sprays against peaceful protesters was “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” It described the severity of its effects as “tantamount to torture.” Its use has been rejected in the United Kingdom because of potential carcinogenic properties.

In May 2011, according to a report in India Today, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) placed an order for as many as 10,000 chilli grenades at a whopping cost of Rs 1.51 crore to be deployed in Kashmir to disperse mobs. Besides the CRPF, the UP state police last year applied to the ministry of home affairs to purchase these pepper grenades which had not yet been tested. Kashmir is the first state in India where these untested grenades are currently being deployed. Interestingly whilst defence personnel and the DRDO have on various blogs and websites held discussions on its efficacy for crowd control, there has been little evaluation of its lethal effects and the fact that its use on unarmed civilian populations is considered a transgression of human rights in many other parts of the world.

Freny Maneksha 
25 April 2013

Freny Manecksha is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.


ByM Saleem Pandit, TNN | Mar 14, 2013

A 24-year-old youth was killed

when CRPF personnel returning from the hospital after donating blood for their wounded colleagues in Wednesday morning’s fidayeen attack fired at a crowd of protesters in Saidpora area here, said the police.


Altaf Hussain died on spot as a crowd of protesters demanding the return of Afzal Guru‘s body ran into the CRPF vehicle, the police said. When angry people began pelting stones, the CRPF personnel fired at the crowd which resulted in the death of Altaf Hussain, son of Abdul Ahad Wani of Saidpora. Doctors at SKIMS said the boy was brought dead with a bullet wound in the chest.The youth’s death led to a fresh wave of protest with thousands of people from the old city taking to the streets with Altaf’s body. The anger of protesters led the National Conference to condemn the killing, with a senior party leader describing Altaf’s death as “murder without provocation” and demanded an inquiry.

Former home minister Nasir Aslam Wani, who is provisional president of National Conference, termed Saidpora killing as “cold blooded murder”.

The police was absent in the entire old city areas in an attempt to reduce tensions but residents carrying Altaf’s body raised anti-India slogans, as well as against the security forces and Omar Abdullah.

Kashmiri separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani called for a complete shut down on Thursday against the “unprovoked firing by the CRPF on the common people” after the fidayeen attack on their camp in Bemina.

APHC chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq condemned the killing of the youth. Expressing serious concern, he termed it a “barbaric act” on part of the security forces.

Sensing trouble, the administration imposed section 144 in the entire Srinagar district. Authorities are likely to order curfew on Thursday morning to avert any violence in the Valley.

NC expressed deep sympathies with the family of the bereaved. Nasir Wani assured the family that the party will ensure justice to the family and stand by those dependent on the deceased.

Meanwhile, several activists of Panthers Party held a massive protest in front of parliament in New Delhi demanding the immediate dismissal of the J&K government saying it had failed to protect the lives and property of the people.


Dawn |  | 16th February, 2013

WHETHER Afzal Guru’s execution was just is for the jurists and legal experts to debate and decide. But let’s look at some other issues.

Perhaps, a more significant matter it brought to light is that while India and Pakistan remain wedded to old positions, dissent in the Kashmir valley has taken a new turn.

The Kashmiri was convicted of being involved in the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 based on circumstantial evidence and was hanged in considerable haste and interred in the grounds of Delhi’s Tihar jail last Saturday when even his family hadn’t been intimated.

Many observers have pointed out that while those convicted of murders much before the attack on Lok Sabha in 2001 such as those held responsible for Rajiv Gandhi’s murder in 1991 are still alive because of the judicial review process, Guru was denied such relief even if it were to be temporary.

This, coupled with the imposition of curfew in Srinagar and elsewhere in the valley and a media shutdown, was attributed to the Indian authorities’ mindset in dealing with Kashmiris where, simmering Kashmiris alleged, a different yardstick is being applied compared to Rajiv Gandhi’s Tamil killers whose ethnic group is seen as part of the Indian mainstream.

While the Indian government’s ‘muscular’ stance is consistent with its policies over the years, across the border Pakistan officially refrained from commenting on the judicial process though it ‘reaffirmed’ solidarity with the Kashmiri people.

It wasn’t a surprise that the more vocal response came from the ‘semi-official’ Jamaatud Dawa (banned militant group Lashkar-i-Taiba) leader Hafiz Saeed and a senior leader of the Jaish-i-Mohammad. Both of them condemned ‘martyr’ Guru’s execution and vowed to avenge it.

All these voices, of course, represented forces ‘external’ to Kashmir. External but not disinterested. However, these views, positions seemed caught in a time warp: the Indian state muscle, Pakistan’s ‘principled stance’ and the militant groups’ blood-curdling vendetta threats.

If you look at the valley itself you can see how the mood there has evolved over the past decade and how it has moved away from armed resistance to what writer Mirza Waheed, who won acclaim with The Collaborator, calls the “new age of dissent”.

The gun of the 1990s has been replaced by unarmed yet massive peaceful demonstrations and more so by the pen, with an explosion of writers, researchers, columnists dedicated to writing Kashmir’s history, documenting human rights abuses with a ‘we’ll not forget’ philosophy as the central theme.

Powerful fiction and non-fiction is emerging from the valley with Basharat Peer (Curfewed Night), Mirza Waheed, and Siddhartha Gigoo (Garden of Solitude) writing poignantly heartrending prose, informed as it is by their experiences of the bloodshed there in the 1990s in particular.

And the one common denominator which screams out to be seen, heard and acknowledged is that those representing this so-called new age of dissent, mainly through unarmed defiance, reject the mediation of Pakistan and Indian narratives.

A lawyer, Pervez Imroz, who has followed and documented cases of human rights abuses including disappearances and extra-judicial killings blamed on the state is seen as a hero. One writer says: “His unarmed defiance has done more for the Kashmir cause than all the attacks by armed groups.”

Imroz was the central figure in the British TV Channel 4’s chilling documentary, Kashmir’s Torture Trail, detailing cases of torture and other excesses against Kashmiri civilians suspected of involvement in militant activities. In December last year Imroz co-authored an eye-opening report.

The report, published under the aegis of People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in the Indian-Administered Kashmir (IRTK) and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), says it is based mostly on government documents and witness testimonies.

It names 500 ‘perpetrators’ including senior army and paramilitary as well as police officials in 214 specific cases. Such reports may not have caught the fancy of the mainstream Indian media but have been read by most Kashmiris who are able to and that cements their defiance.

The growth of the writing and new media has also given a substantial voice to these new age dissenters. There is a staggering array of bloggers and online writers. How this generation of writer-dissenters is coming of age is easily understood if one googles their names and sees their work.

Kashmir-based young lawyer and writer Arif Ayyaz Parrey who addresses the issue of beheadings; Ather Zia, PhD candidate at the University of California at Irvine, a poet and a telling short story writer; Wasim Bhat, who has written a significant book on the cultural and historical density of Srinagar.

Sameer Bhat, journalist and sharp satirist, who is currently with Khaleej Times; Parvaiz Bukhari, one of Kashmir’s finest journalist-writers and a great political thinker, is working on what is already being seen as a seminal book on the militarisation of Kashmir.

Then there is UK-based scholar-poet Nitasha Koul; and Mohamad Junaid, a Kashmiri anthropologist at City University of New York, whose essay Stone Wars on the uprising of 2001 is enough to give one a chill. The list goes on and on and this was by no means exhaustive.

Even a hurried read through a selection of their work leaves one with the distinct impression that their love of their land and their people is infinite; and that their Kashmiri identity shines through. They are writing their own distortion-free history and documenting how they have been wronged.

And this extends to all Kashmiris including Hindu Pandits on whose plight and exodus Gigoo was the first to write. Rahul Pandita’s recent book (Our Moon has Blood Clots) is also part of this effort, though many people in Kashmir disagree with his account.

One wishes Islamabad and Delhi’s civil and military establishments would take a leaf out of the Kashmiris’ new age struggle and genuinely abandon the quest for a solution by force. A historical wrong may be righted. Perhaps, it is time to revisit the formula of soft borders and demilitarisation again.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.


15th feb guardian

First, Kashmiri Afzal Guru was hanged and now the region is under curfew in India‘s heartless display of retributive justice

Curfew Imposed Following Execution of Mohammad Afzal Guru
Indian policemen enforce a curfew in Srinagar, Kashmir, after Afzal Guru was executed in India for his involvement in the attack on India’s parliament in 2001, when nine people were killed. Photograph: Yawar Nazir/Getty Images

A curfew is like a collective strangulation. You proscribe movement, talk, communication and assembly. You cut off the very sustenance of life: food, milk, medicine. You choke a people, because you fear, no, dread, what the curfewed other might say to the world. Indian-controlled Kashmir has been under curfew for the last five days; everything is shut down, locked up, besieged. Newspapers have been seized, editors verbally instructed by police officials not to print, TV channels, except of course the government-run ones, have been blocked. People are not allowed to travel except if you have a bullet in your body and are still breathing inside an ambulance. This latest imposition – Kashmir’s modern history is bookmarked by chapter after chapter of sieges and martial-law like curfews – came soon after Mohammad Afzal Guru was hanged by India for his involvement in the attack on India’s parliament in 2001 in which nine people were killed.

In a case widely criticised for its dodgy investigation, the absence of a fair trial and most crucially, the lack of evidence beyond reasonable doubt, the supreme court of India, upholding sentences of lower courts, sentenced Afzal Guru to a double death sentence in 2005. There was only circumstantial evidence against him, the court admitted, but the “collective conscience of society” could only be soothed with this execution. As soon as what many call a miscarriage of justice was performed in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, the Indian government effectively shut off the Valley from the world. It was almost automatic, a reflex, and why wouldn’t it be, for the powerful and increasingly militaristic Indian state is well rehearsed in dealing with the oppressed and weak of Kashmir.

So the run of play in this heartless display of retributive justice was this: you hang a Kashmiri in Delhi and then, to complete the picture, to make the performance full, immediately put Kashmir under a military siege. A country that needs to impose a curfew every time it fears what it calls “unrest” in a region that it claims as an integral part should by now have learned that it is not an integral part. It never was.

It was not just the hanging but also the manner of it – executed while the world slept, in secret and in great haste, as thieves do when they embark on their dark deeds – that makes this execution a symbol of the deep moral rot at the heart of the Indian state. Indian authorities chose not to inform Afzal Guru’s family prior to the hanging and quietly buried him in prison. His brother has said they learned of his execution on TV. A letter sent by the government of India to Afzal Guru’s wife reached her two days after the execution. Even the public prosecutor responsible for Afzal Guru’s trial has admitted that it was a violation of his rights as well as of India’s prison manuals that state a person on death row must be allowed family visits.

What kind of state makes sure that the wife and young son of a man it is about to execute, do not see him, touch him or hear him talk, one last time? Kashmiris, in mourning and in fury, erected a tombstone over an empty grave in the main martyrs’ graveyard in the Kashmiri capital, Srinagar. The text of the epitaph was the same as that of another epitaph, erected in memory of Maqbool Bhat, the founder of Kashmir’s main pro-independence militant group turned political formation the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, who was hanged in the same jail 29 years ago. The epitaph reads, “The martyr of the nation, Mohammad Afzal Guru, Date of Martyrdom: 9th February 2013 Saturday, whose mortal remains are lying in the custody of the Government of India. The nation is awaiting its return.”

On the morning of 13 February, Kashmiri news websites reported that the police had removed and destroyed the tombstone and then, after the news spread via Twitter and Facebook, a replacement tombstone mysteriously reappeared. The Kashmiri phrases, Qabr Chhoor and Kafan Chhoor, titles for those who rob graves or shrouds are deployed to describe the basest of thieves. The swiftness of the execution, and the macabre theatre that followed, which included an offer by the Indian government that Afzal’s family will be allowed to pray once by his grave in prison that the family promptly turned down, is disturbingly reminiscent of Franco’s Spain.

I learned of the execution in London and struggled to make sense of it. I still do. It was, for reasons moral and legal – judicial review is available to even people denied a presidential pardon – somehow unbelievable, although by no means unexpected. Does the world’s so-called largest democracy really want to be seen as a nation revelling in a retrograde, made-for-TV bloodlust?

I began to think of Ghalib, Afzal Guru’s 14-year-old son, who, accompanied by his mother a few years ago, went to the head of the Indian state with a mercy petition, begging the president to pardon his father’s life. Clearly, the president wasn’t listening. He had to, as the judge had decreed in the supreme court of India’s verdict, satisfy the “collective conscience of the society,” which will “only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender”.

It is of course impossible to understand the complex moral arithmetic necessary to arrive at the perfect potion needed to assuage the collective conscience of a billion people. I began to think of writing about it, answering an urge to say what I, and many others, felt. I struggled, despairing about the powerlessness, and perhaps pointlessness, of an op-ed or essay. I also began to feel lonely, for in spite of the proliferation of conversations on social media, a solidarity of the oppressed and the besieged is hard to find amid the buzz of the internet or a postmodern metropolis.

What was the Indian state trying to say, one must ask? Surely, it can’t simply be explained, as some analysts have done, as merely a hideous expression of the compulsions of electoral realpolitik in which political parties in India become eager to sink to new moral lows to outdo their rivals. It’s a message to the Kashmiri people, an occupying power yelling at the powerless natives that you must bow and genuflect, that the hangman’s noose can extend beyond the gallows, casting its dark shadow over children’s milk and medicines for old couples.

Two moments seem to have entered history. Kashmiris creating a hollow grave as a mausoleum to memory and resistance and India making a craven declaration: that a Kashmiri corpse can be seditious. It must remain in prison.


There is no post office, but the martyrs dispatch

In your country, I heard

There is no rail network, but the courage moves

In your country, I heard

The nights are cufewed, but the dreams wander

In your country, I heard

The hills and mountains stay in poets’ heart

In your country, I heard

The trembling sky finds the lyrical smile

In your country, I heard

The brightness is uncertain and darkness is oblivious

In your country, you say

The numbers have no meaning, counting has no history

In your country, you say

You all are poets, of loss, of memory, of madness

In your country, you say

The murders are guarded by law, tyrants govern

In your country, you say

There are no doors; windows only open for numb hope

In your country, you say

The filthy boots trample the saffron fields, ruin innocence

In your country, you say

The heart subsists summer, the eyes bear the winters

In your country, I say

Thousand worlds live together, geography bows

In your country, I say

The empires tremble, million marches don’t sway

In your country, I say

Aroma of spring bring paradise on our ways

In your country, I say

Martyrs don’t rest, their soul calls for complete freedom

In your country, I say

Being stands for beauty, time stands for envious messenger

In your country, I say

All oppressors will suicide, dignity will be the end fate

– 18th February 2012.

By- Musab Iqbal