Posts Tagged ‘Kashmir Valley’

  1. Praful Bidwai
    June 07, 2013 , Rediff.com

    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.


 

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ZAHID MAQBOOL

 

greaterkashmir.com

 

 

Srinagar, Mar 22: Biometric census, which constitutes the second phase of the National Population Register (NPR) project, will commence in Kashmir Valley from next month.

 

 Officials associated with the NPR in J&K told Greater Kashmir that biometric census will commence from second week of April from Kulgam and Ganderbal districts.“We have completed the collection of basic data under the first phase. Now we will start holding camps to gather biometric data in valley from next month. Headquarters of Census Operations has already initiated tendering process in this regard,” said Joint Director, Census Operations J&K, Chander Shekhar Saproo.

 

 Official sources said a meeting has been scheduled this week between census officials and District Development Commissioners of Ganderbal and Kulgam.

 

 “We will start from districts that are less in area comparatively. It will help officials associated with Census to gain experience in the work which will help them in other major districts later,” officials said.

 

 Meanwhile government has already started biometric census in J&K from district Samba in Jammu.The government had launched NPR project in the year 2010 with a motive to provide National Identity Cards to each and every citizen of Jammu and Kashmir. The form filling and house-listing process was started by Census department in August 2010.

 

 NPR will be an exhaustive database, listing all residents in the state, district, block, village, and household. The register will include any person who stays or intends to stay in an area for six months or more, both citizens and non-citizens, and the data will eventually be replaced by a National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC).

 

 Pertinently the State government was asked by the Centre to replace the Aadhar project with NPR as has been done by various other states across the country.

 

 “The process is basically aimed to give every citizen a unique mode to identify himself in front of the governing body. For this purpose, a Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was formed by the Planning Commission last year,” sources said.

 

 

 

Vol – XLVIII No. 08, February 23, 2013 | Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal

There have been numerous allegations of rape by the police and armed forces in the Kashmir Valley ever since insurgency began in the late 1980s, but very few cases were ever investigated, prosecutions have taken place in a negligible number, and justice delivered in none. Even when cases are registered, the legal sanction required for prosecution, as per the provisions of laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act, is never accorded. The Justice Verma Committee Report has addressed sexual aggression in confl ict areas such as Kashmir, Chhattisgarh and the north-east, where women’s bodies have been used as instruments of war by paramilitary forces, but can we hope for a change on the ground?

Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal (anusaba@gmail.com) is Executive Editor, Kashmir Times and a human rights activist based in Jammu and Kashmir.

Last month when the 600 page- Justice Verma Committee Report, suggesting not just the amendments in the criminal laws dealing with sexual assault, but challenging the very core of patriarchal power structures came out, it kindled some hope among feminist groups and groups working for rights of the marginalised communities including in the conflict areas.

In Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), barring the Sangh parivar and the armed forces, the report was by and large welcomed for its path-breaking recommendations on amendment of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to exclude personnel accused of sexual offences from immunity, from being prosecuted in a civil court, provided by this special law and also for recommending a complete review of the AFSPA. However, there was also a guarded scepticism with which the state, particularly the Valley, the worst hit by the impunity provided to men in uniform under AFSPA, responded. The social networking sites were filled with discussions with phrases like “too good to be true”, “doesn’t look like it will be implemented” or “don’t forget, Justice Verma is also the man who upheld the legal constitutional validity of AFSPA in a Supreme Court judgment in 2011”.

Historical Scepticism

The scepticism has a historical background as Kashmiris have been witness to promises and lip sympathy that never get translated into action in the last over six decades. From Nehru’s promise of plebiscite to Narasimha Rao’s “sky is the limit” assurance, from Vajpayee’s peace process to Manmohan Singh’s promise of zero tolerance to human rights abuse, in the collective memories of people in the Valley everything that sounds good is followed by disaster on the ground.

The historical inherent scepticism apart, there were valid reasons why the Justice Verma Committee Report would not generate enough optimism in the Valley. The state has always responded with a kind of obsessive protectiveness when it comes to saving the neck of the security personnel including the local police which does not enjoy impunity under AFSPA as happened in the Shopian rapes and murders of 2009 and the over 120 killings in 2010, in which police stand indicted but unchallenged by instruments of law. There is a belief that the government will find a way to wriggle out of at least this part of the Verma panel report to keep up with the tradition of going out of the way to protect men accused of human rights abuse including sexual offences. And so when on 1 February 2013 the central government came up with a hurried ordinance without the major provisions of the Verma report, given the presidential nod two days later to become a law for the next 18 days till Parliament could debate it, for the sceptics in the Valley it was a vindication of their cynicism. The Valley slipped back into its pessimism after a short-lived glimmer of half-hearted hope.

Sealed Fate of Rape Cases

At the core of this pessimism lies the sealed fate of the cases of rapes and molestations at the hands of security forces and the untold stories of similar harassment, buried behind the fear of stigma and ostracisation or lack of access to institutions of justice as also the shoddy legitimisation of such acts of sexual violence in the name of “national interest”, “counter-insurgency”, “in the line of duty” and “upholding the morale of the security forces” who enjoy blanket impunity for acts that cannot be justifiably defended. From the infamous gang rapes of Kunan Poshpora in 1990 to Shopian’s spine-chilling double rapes and murders, and the equally shocking cover-up by official investigating agencies, two decades of insurgency and counter-insurgency period in J&K are littered with cases that exemplify the victimisation and vulnerability of women in a militarised conflict.

There is a complete denial of the same in official circles and according to a former J&K director general of police (DGP), as stated in 2009, there are only 10 cases of rape reported by security forces. A publication of the United Nations, however, puts the number of rapes by security forces at 882 in 1992 alone. A report of the Human Rights Watch in 1994, stating that there was high incidence of rapes in Kashmir, documents the use of rape as a means of targeting women whom the security forces accuse of being militant sympathisers. The report also gives a detailed account of how in raping them the forces attempt to punish and humiliate an entire community.

Rape as a Weapon

One case of mass rapes in Shopian in 1992 typifies the official response. A government statement on the case maintains, “two of the women alleged to have been raped were wives of terrorists, viz, Takub Hussain, a platoon commander of Hizbul Mujahideen and Mohd Yakub a group commander of the same militant group”. Asia Watch maintains that one of the ways security forces in Kashmir use rape is as a weapon against women suspected of being sympathetic to or related to alleged militants. While we do not know whether such suspicions motivated the soldiers responsible for the rapes of these women, it is clear that the authorities intend to use the accusation that the women associated with “terrorists” – both to discredit the women’s testimony and implicitly at least shirk responsibility for the abuse. When countered with the Asia Watch report, the police officials maintain that Asia Watch has its own agenda to put the security forces in a bad light. The allegations, mentioned by Asia Watch, do not figure anywhere in the official records.

The manner in which official data on rapes in conflict is collated illustrates the callousness, deliberate or conditioned by an inherent prejudice. Statistics compiled by the crime branch of police states 936 women were killed by militants since 1990. One hundred and twenty-five of them were abducted and killed. Another 132 women were abducted and freed and many of these were also raped, though no numbers are as yet compiled. However, the cases of rapes by security forces are not even acknowledged. A top police officer some years ago maintained, there are only 20 cases of rapes registered since 1990 against security forces in which four cases were proved and 14 security men were punished. DGP Kuldeep Khoda in 2009, faced by the outrage over Shopian twin rapes and murders, reduced this number to 10.

Farce of Inquiries

While only a fraction of the cases of rape and sexual violence by armed forces are discussed in media and academic circles, the official denial continues, followed or aided by the farce of inquiries, probes and reports that are one-sided or never see the light of the day. The normal process of the law, starting with registering of a formal complaint in the police station, followed by a trial, is not the norm. The case is either simply hushed up or even if there is a magisterial probe, or an inquiry by a retired judge or a court martial proceeding – all in a bid to respond to public anger – they end up as an eyewash. The cases where the armed forces claim to have taken action in the courts of inquiry remain a poor joke, all at the expense of the trauma of the victim and her further ostracisation from society. In May 1990, Mubina Gani, a bride being taken along with her bridegroom and baratis after the marriage was solemnised, was raped in south Kashmir by the Border Security Force (BSF). Her aunt accompanying the marriage party was raped too. One man was killed and several wounded. A government inquiry held the BSF men guilty but the latter were never prosecuted. However, a BSF staff court of inquiry that held the men guilty “suspended seven men”. Normally, a person convicted for rape could get up to 10 years in prison if the normal Indian legal procedures are followed.

In yet another case, in November 2004, when a mother-daughter duo was allegedly raped by an army major in Handwara-Badar Payein, the case simply ended in an internal army enquiry which held the major “guilty of misconduct”. While these words were misleading, the post-mortem reports in the case were never really made public. The government inquiries are neither made public nor followed up with the security forces. The courts of inquiry by the security agencies, even if they hold their own men guilty, never punish them adequately. The maximum punishment given is suspension, or no more than the remark of “severe displeasure” gets recorded.

In a negligible number of cases, prosecution takes place. In none of them has justice been delivered. In some cases where the government has ordered inquiries mostly under judicial magistrates, or where security forces order their own court of inquiries, the findings and punishments are not made public, leaving victims to believe that such abuse is committed with impunity. The security forces are just not held accountable, and in many instances cases are not even registered against them. Even when cases are registered, the legal sanction required for prosecution, as per the provisions of laws like AFSPA, is never accorded.

Significant to Conflict Areas

This is why the Justice Verma Committee Report is significant with respect to Kashmir and other conflict areas since it looks into sexual aggression of a different kind in places like Kashmir, north-east and Chhattisgarh, where women’s bodies have been instruments of war by the paramilitaries which are supposed to protect them. The panel not only outright rejects the impunity that the soldiers enjoy for sexual offences and calls for an amendment in the law to exclude the mandatory central government sanction for prosecution of such offenders, maintaining that they need to be straightaway tried in the civil court of law, it also questions the very utility of the AFSPA that gives the armed forces this clause of massive impunity. The panel has called for a complete review of the law and significantly points out, “It must be recognised that women in conflict areas are entitled to all the security and dignity that is afforded to citizens in any other part of our country”. In doing so it has questioned the very biased role of the State in a place like J&K and has placed sexual violence in the centrality of the AFSPA discourse, which has been missing even from a Kashmiri perspective.

There has been strong opposition to the draconian law imposed in the state in 1990 owing to the pattern of impunity it offers to the armed forces for torture, killings, fake encounters, custodial killings, custodial disappearances and rape. Women activists have been at the forefront challenging AFSPA. However, protests are much more feeble in cases of rapes and molestations, where a woman is seeking justice for herself, than over cases of torture and custodial killings or missing youth, where women come forward not just in the traditional role of mothers, daughters and sisters, but also enter the public domain as household heads. Kashmiri society may have to look inward to challenge the centrality of this patriarchal set-up which not only sets the limits of women entering the political domain in the role of agitationists, also for challenging the “honour” discourse, often with the binaries of “us” and “them” that encourages sexual violence to be seen from the prism of stigma and forbids greater participation of women in seeking justice for the surviving victims.

Though sexual violence has not been central to the discourse challenging AFSPA, opposition to it is something that lies at the core of the human rights movement in J&K. For this reason, any move to revoke the law, or challenge some of its demeaning provisions would be welcomed by and large in the state, particularly in the Valley. The Criminal Laws Amendment Ordinance 2013 in no way matches the Justice Verma Committee Report. Silence on AFSPA is only one of the differences. However, the report is yet to be placed before Parliament for formulation of a final law; so it is still too premature to conclude that the government would try its best to exclude the recommendations related to AFSPA, though the haste with which the ordinance was brought about when Parliament session was less than a month away raises doubts. The recent statements of Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar that carried an implicit approval of rape in “the line of duty” and another by Union Finance Minister P C Chidambaram that broad consensus is needed to accept the recommendations on the review of AFSPA further strengthen these doubts. Chidambaram’s more recent remarks at a public lecture that it is difficult to challenge AFSPA because of the army’s opposition strengthen this scepticism. Yet, hypothetically, if AFSPA-related recommendations are incorporated into the proposed law, would it make any difference to Kashmir?

Any hypothetical outcome would depend on how the J&K state government implements the provisions of this law. By virtue of the special status accorded to the state, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) does not apply to J&K, which has its own equivalent Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) and so amendments carried out in the IPC have not been adopted in the RPC. Any law legislated by Parliament or any amendments carried out in the existing laws are not automatically extended to J&K. It is also not legally binding upon the state government to incorporate them. In most probability, the state government would review its own existing laws dealing with sexual offences. An exercise to this extent has already begun with the state government on 6 February announcing a committee to enter into consultations with various groups and stakeholders as well as study the Justice Verma Committee Report. The panel headed by the state’s advocate general was to submit its report within a week’s time, according to official spokesperson. The state’s law department has also sought suggestions from law experts, civil society members and academicians. But while the initiative has not been much publicised for encouraging holistic public participation, one week is too short a period for inviting and studying such suggestions and then finalising a report.

At the time of writing, the State’s Commission for Women (SCW), a highly politicised body headed by a member of the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, is the only one that is known to have so far responded to the law department with suggestions regarding amendments to the state law. The contents of its suggestions are not known, but the only public statement made by the SCW called for harsher laws like death penalty and chemical castration, which goes against the grain of the Verma Committee Report. The composition of the committee formed by the J&K’s law ministry to review the criminal laws dealing with sexual offences itself is problematic. How does one expect a body comprising government functionaries minus any women representation to either challenge the patriarchy that endorses the culture of rape or the might of the state that protects the culprit by subverting the process of justice?

These might not be the only flaws with the state government’s exercise which has a record of raising the bogey of special status of the state to thwart and oppose people-friendly central laws, though exceptions are made when it comes to laws like the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). J&K was the first state in the country to implement POTA. It was under pressure that the J&K government framed its own Right to Information Act but in a diluted form. Later amendments that strengthened the Act a bit were modified again last year to further weaken it. Despite tremendous pressure, the state government is neither able to incorporate the provisions of the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Indian Constitution, providing for decentralisation of powers to the grass roots, nor frame an equivalent state law. The state government has also been stonewalling the Lokayukta in J&K on grounds that the state has its own state accountability law, which stands diluted and looks like a hollowed-out clone of the Lokayukta.

Conclusions

Given the background and tradition of hostility to introducing people-friendly laws and the hasty and clumsy manner in which a committee has been framed with a deadline of a week for studying recommendations and framing a suitable report, it is difficult to presume that the state government would come out with a law matching the Verma panel recommendations. It might in all probability be a cut and paste of the Ordinance 2013, which has omitted AFSPA and most other suggestions that challenge the patriarchal order that lies at the core of sexual offences and the might of the state that stonewalls an effective legal justice system through procedural protocols to be followed in investigations and medical examinations and calls for penalisation of cops guilty of dereliction of duty in responding to complaints of rape and other sexual assault.

So even if the central law eventually incorporates the suggestions related to AFSPA as recommended by the Verma Committee, unless the state law is adequate enough to ensure an effective legal justice mechanism and is powerful enough to challenge patriarchy (patriarchy being central to how rape is placed within the paradigm of honour and encourages a tendency to stigmatise the survivors) so that survivors can freely report complaints of sexual assault, it is unlikely that the armed forces personnel charged of the crimes would be adequately penalised. The state has appropriated enough power to give full protection to the culprits in uniform overtly or covertly with all-out efforts made to hide facts and even tamper with evidence. The state police personnel, not covered under AFSPA, accused of rapes are already being shielded through methods like hushing up cases at the medical examination level, tampering evidence, delaying the basic documentation of the case, refusing to register cases, sending in state-sponsored teams or the highly influenced Central Bureau of Investigation to probe such cases.

Such methods employed for obfuscating and burying the truth have already been used in the Shopian rapes and murders of 2009 to the extent of sending the proactive judge of the high court, at whose intervention the arrests of the police officers he held guilty of tampering with evidence if not committing the rapes and murders were made, on a transfer to Sikkim. They have also been employed in cases where the armed force personnel are involved. In the Kunan Poshpora rapes of February 1991, in which over 30 women and children were allegedly gang-raped by soldiers of the fifth Rajputana rifles, no formal complaint was lodged. A local magistrate was called for investigation, but authorities in Delhi vehemently denied the incident without even verifying with local officials. A police investigation was never carried out.

The absence of adequate documentation of such cases would make any fair trial in all these cases of sexual abuse very difficult, even if it is assumed that the lawmakers at the centre and in J&K are able to frame the best of laws. The union law ministry in maintaining that the Ordinance 2013 will have no bearing on the Delhi bus gang rape having come into being after the Act also betrays the impossibility of a hypothetical diluted AFSPA being used with retrospective effect. Justice in the known cases of rapes by men in uniform will, in that case, remain elusive. In all probability, the security forces and the politicians, who have enabled the armed forces to trample women’s right to safety, security and dignity will continue to do so without being accountable, despite the painstaking efforts of the three-member Verma Committee.

 

Dear Omar,
 I am forwarding the email I have received from Mr. G.M. Kaloo, President of the J&K Press Association, whom you had met several months back at my request. I have been receiving several such emails from various persons stating that newspapers are not being allowed to be published/distributed in Kashmir, cell phones and internet services have been disabled, and other restrictions placed after the hanging of Afzal Guru.
  My own thinking in the matter is this : no freedom can be absolute, and hence press freedom under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution can also not be absolute, but is subject to reasonable restrictions in the public interest vide Article 19(2).
 Kashmir has a law and order problem, and ordinarily it is the state government which is the best judge of the situation and the way to handle it. Hence we should ordinarily respect the decision of the state government. The state government may have thought that for some time there should be a restraint on press freedom, because while many newspapers are responsible, some are not, and may publish inflammatory material which may create a huge law and order problem by inciting people to violence. Hence for some time a restraint order may be justified.
 However, if the restraint is continued too long it may become unreasonable and unjustified. After all, there has to be a limit to the time duration of the restraint order, and it cannot continue indefinitely. People have to be allowed to let off steam and express their grievances peacefully,otherwise their grievances will erupt violently. There is a proverb “Words break no bones”.
 I would therefore request that you consider the matter and discuss it with Mr. Kaloo and other respected and responsible journalists of J&K, and then pass appropriate orders.
  You know that I hold you in respect, and I know of the difficult situation you are facing, and so I hope you will not mind my expressing my view, which I think to be in your interest.
 Regards
 Justice Katju
Subodh Mukoo wrote:
Adab,
Publication of news paper has been stopped by the government and thus people deprived of information about day to day developments in Kashmir Valley .
G. H. Kaloo
President
Jammu Kashmir Press Association(JKPA)
(Subodh K Mukoo)
National Coordinator, JKPA


CM Omar Abdullah‘s Reply :

Dear Justice Katju,

With reference to your emails of today please find attached below my response which I hope you will take in to consideration while making any public statements regarding the media in Kashmir.

Best regards

Omar Abdullah

With reference to your e-mails, I fully share your concern regarding continuation of restrictions in the Kashmir Valley.
The facts are under:-
·       The execution of Afzal Guru took place on Saturday (Feb 9). On Saturday night, some local newspapers like Kashmir Images and Kashmir Reader and a few local Urdu dailies did print and publish their newspapers.
·         Circulation of these papers by the vendors was not possible as there were severe restrictions on any kind of movement in Srinagar city, in particular, and all over Kashmir valley at large.
·         We have been given to understand that on Sunday newspapers have not printed their editions as restrictions were continuing in Kashmir valley and circulation of the same would not have been possible, even if they were to be printed.
·        It may be mentioned that Jammu editions of the Kashmir based papers did get circulated.
·      The Information Department has not issued any directive to the publishers by putting any restrictions.
·         It is true that the internet facilities on GPRS enabled phones  have suffered, but Broadband  Desktop internet facilities are available and the newspapers are updating their editions online.
·        With the Government proposing to ease restrictions in Kashmir valley as the situation improves, movement of vehicles would also be getting facilitated and we are sure that the media publications would also get circulated.
·        The security/ law and order concerns and the restrictions in Kashmir Valley has well been appreciated by you and we acknowledge it with all humility.

 

Screening of film on Valley violence stalled in Kashmir University

A documentary depicting violence against women in the restive valley was stopped from being screened at the University of Kashmir on Saturday despite being cleared by the censor board.

The authorities, who seemed to fear trouble, forced the cancellation of Ocean of Tears just an hour before it was to hit the screen in the University Convocation Complex.  Sponsored by Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT), the 27-minute film dealt with eye opening and spine chilling facts about crimes against women in Kashmir valley.

“The film reveals victims’ experiences in the struggle against all forms of violence inflicted on them. It showcases how they learn to deal with their past and the coming year of further battle against the power structures”, said Bilal Jan, director of Ocean of Tears.

The film has focused on controversial subjects including the alleged mass rape of over two dozen women of Kunan Poshpora village allegedly by the troops, during the intervening night of February 23 and 24, 1991. Interviews with the victims encapsulates the horror of that night and the subsequent stigma that the girls had to undergo.

The last moment cancellation created a flutter among the audience. “They gave foolish reasons for the cancellation. I had booked the Convocation Complex and even paid Rs20,000. There were hundreds of people who had come from far flung areas to watch the screening”, said Jan. Registrar of Kashmir University Zafar Reshi said two people are laying claims to the same piece of work, which Jan rubbished.

“We asked them whether they have a written complaint and they said somebody had ‘verbally’ complained. These are childish reasons aimed at stalling the screening”, he said.

WATCH THE TRAILER BELOW

 

 

Author: Saadut
•7:46 PM
Ye kamsund’oo naad, kusu aallav divaan?
Ye’ kamsind’e dupmm’phit tchoupi’ seeth aalam dazaan?
3.30 am is just between midnight and early morning when the night is still in transit and sleep still grips you tight. It was at this time in the late autumns of late 1990’s when piercing decibels from the Masjid loudspeaker announced an Army crackdown in the locality, ordering all males to assemble in the abandoned barren orchard that lay by high ground almost 900 meters away from my home.  A repeat of these announcements for the next 30 minutes or so seemed to drive more fear inside us, more of dread. In sleep deprived eyes mother was seen frantically looking for a safe place for her valuables, many crackdowns had been known to magically disappear many savings and valuables from households. By 4.15 am a half asleep habitation, now rubbing eyes and shaking heads was being herded in fading dark towards the high ground, that suddenly seemed so faraway today. Children in long pherans, tripped over each other, adults gripping their hands unsuccessfully tying to make them walk at an adult pace. Whispers were exchanged, whereabouts of extended families sought in this crowd. The autumn changeover to winter had just begun and most of us were already in our winter ‘astronaut’ dresses, spare for some deep sleepers who wore pheran draped over night trousers in their forced hurry to join the crowd.  The crowd grew by every lane, every turn; I never knew so many people lived in this habitation. These crackdowns were one social leveler; all classes, all levels of society were pushed and herded here like cattle by the security forces. As the peeping sunrays over the eastern hills created extended shadows of the breaking morning, crowds merged into the abandoned orchard. Like crowded packs of domestic animals let out in confined grazing grounds, security men were seen shouting and driving us to close in, on one side of the orchard slant which descended to the middle ground. On the opposite side of this orchard slant were rows of army vehicles, the whole orchard ringed by lines of uniformed men, looking down upon in stern glaze and finger on trigger at ‘helpless us’, as if in jeer and mock. And if the setting winter chill had not already set in our bones, the chilly stare and tone of these uniformed completed the freeze. We had nothing to beat this chill with; kangris for the day in Kashmiri homes are only prepared early morning, not in the middle of the night and there were clear instructions by the herders to assemble without any of these firepots. The overnight dew having inundated the barren orchard, all of us sat still on our knees; the vapor of our whispers mingling with the cold morning air. The shame of watching your elders and teachers being paraded the same way as you, forced on knees before gun trotting and stick wielding uniformed men, pushed and heckled like animals, is unexplained.  Showkat the tailor was holding his 7 year old son in the lap, juggling between his own balance and the cold wet grass; a stick wields, a blow comes his way, Showkat is unbalanced and his son falls from the lap, forcing them to sit separate. Soon such herding became the norm, as we were made spectators to our own shame.
By 10 Am that ‘CAT’ was already in the Gypsy, people were driven in extended queues to slow identification lines before the vehicle. In most likeliness an informer or a renegade, the ‘Cat’ lay firmly seated in the front of the vehicle, hooded and identity less deciding the life and death fate of people. It was no fancy act to walk past the ‘Cat’ even if you have had not even the remotest connection with militancy. Many a times these ‘Cats’ were known to have settled personal scores or dislikes in identification parades; his one hint would have the commoner bundled in or bundled out. Renegades were known to have created personal fiefdoms with the help of security forces in Kashmir where ‘God’ like aura was self assumed by them deciding the face of lesser mortals. While here our fate was being decided by ‘faceless hoods’ behind armed escorts, we were also worried about the ‘search operation’ by the uniformed forces back home, where only female folk had been retained.
A lean and tall boy with patches of a beard, in an old worn pheran and slippers was marked, pushed out of queue and segregated as he came in front of the ‘cat’. The quiet boy dragged, lay stone faced as he was taken behind the line of armored vehicles. After a brief jolt, the queue continued to trod, the masked hood continued to decide. It looked like an eternity at the barren orchard, the noon sun passed its peak, and dew absorbed some by the sun rest by the restless people who sat on it. Masterji (that is how we called him, was a retired teacher in his 80’s; flowing beard, a lifetime of humble reputation and lots of respect) was sitting by Dad’s side, felt restless for want of water. He dared standup and approach the herding uniformed soldier close by “where to drink some water”, the soldier raised his stick, frowned and pointed towards a muddy water cesspool that lay by a depression. Masterji quietly sat down, my Dad holding his hand. By afternoon there were already more than 8 boys marked by the ‘cat’, who lay bundled to behind the line of armored vehicles, fate unknown.
Zain, my cousin had recently returned from the US, his once in a lifetime holiday to Kashmir. We had in fact been in touch for long and decided that both of us would come to Kashmir on holidays at the same time.  His morning excitement of experiencing his first crackdown in Kashmir had already evaporated by the noon, now overtaken by a griping fear, the shake and trembles visible on his face. My own fears making me numb, I extended my arm on Zain just to soothe him, but he could see the blankness on my face, the brave mask that I was trying to put on failed. I tried to look up Dad sitting next to me, but failed to meet his eye, that was visualizing what we could not comprehend.
Hunger and thirst pangs had overtaken when our turn in joining the queue came must have been already 5 PM. I tried of be ahead of Dad and Zain but a violent push by the soldier entrenched me behind Dad and Zain. The serpentine queue moved so slow, while I lost pace of my own thumping heart beat, “get over with it damn it, will you” I kept repeating. We kept tracing steps of the earlier queues in slow motion, as if novices walking on a tight rope between two cliffs. The first cliff was our fear, the second being our fate, in between the two we were hung as if by a slender thread. The queue moved like a snail and so did our fate.
Dad stood composed facing the ‘cat’, there was no reaction from the vehicle, “move on” shouted the officer standing next to the vehicle. When Zain faced the ‘cat’ next, his shoulders had dropped dead and his ‘always cool’ composure was all gone. As white as cold marble, his face stared into a windshield, the officer signaled to move on and I heaved a sense of relief for him, my own fate yet unknown. I extended my step towards the precipice, heart galloping when I heard voices ‘wapas aao’ (come back); Zain had been marked, called back and hastily dragged to behind the line of these armored vehicles. I froze, everything became blurred in front of me and I wanted to cry out loud but could not. Suddenly I head noises, somebody pushed me and suddenly I realized a soldier was kicking me to move one ‘aage chalo’.  Dad had lost his composure on the other side, all my life I never saw him so pence, as clueless as on that day. Zain had been our responsibility in Kashmir, my responsibility, and now the unimaginable had happened.
The queues kept passing by the ‘hooded marker’ and by late evening as the process had been completed a few more boys had been ‘marked’ by the ‘cat’, only to be bundled up into the unknown. By 9.00 PM the cordon had been lifted and people were heading back home. Our standing at the same spot yielded no results, no amount of pleading with the officers helped. The boys had all been taken away in armed vehicles to the forces camp, destination we knew nothing of.
Back home, Mom had been successful in salvaging her valuables but our rice storages (Kashmiris store rice for long winters) had been all scattered from the store into the backyard; while in our rooms wardrobes were so disheveled, belongings ravaged as if relics of a war. By 10.00 PM Dad was ringing anybody he could lay his call on, his friends in the bureaucracy, acquaintances and a trunk call to an ‘connected’ uncle who lived in Delhi. Desperation was transmitted via the landline; whereabouts of the army camp (and Zain) were sought. Tears, sobs were heard from the kitchen, neighbors sat with us through the night consoling, assuring. The night never seems to end, I must have moved out in the garden barefooted unmindful of the winter chill, just wanting to grab the dawn and end this night as soon as I could. Morning Fajr prayers brought with them a telephone call from one of Dad’s friends who had traced the camp and Zain there.  Prayers done, we set out for the camp; I drove, shivered, rattled and lost. Over potholes and clayey paths, these undone roads seemed to never finish.
Dad’s bureaucrat friend had already talked to the camp commander, and only Dad was allowed to get inside the camp to meet him. I and my younger uncle waited seemingly in eternity outside the camp, the obnoxious fortifications standing like a monster before us.  When at around 9.00 Am Dad came out, seemed after ages he had gone inside the camp, he took my younger uncle to one side and all I could hear was ‘saas’ (thousands) to which uncle nodded and pointed to his bulging waist coat pockets (from the sides of his shawl) and both went inside the camp again.
It took another 30 minutes for Dad and uncle to come out of the camp along with Zain, who looked drained zombie like and limping bare footed like a recovered corpse. If you had seen Zain in better times, you would not believe this was the same Zain coming out of the army camp, being supported by Dad and uncle. I offered him my shoes, but he kept quiet, with a lowered gaze he hardly spoke in the car, a silence that made me feel the culprit for his condition. I felt wretched, had I not insisted on his Kashmir visit with me, he would not have gone thru this suffering. Back home Zain withdrew into recovery and reclusiveness for some days, recovering gradually from his shock and wounds; one reality of Kashmir had touched him very hard. But why had Zain been picked up in the first instance, why had he been called back by the ‘cat’? During the course of our conversations later it dawned that while Zain stood before the ‘cat’ (Zain was sans a Kashmiri pheran) on that fateful day, it was his ‘New Balance’ sneakers that had attracted the attention of the ‘cat’. And it was only when Zain had been asked to move on, did the ‘cat’ have an afterthought and signaled him to be retained; the American stuff had done him in. His sneakers, watch had been relieved of, he had been made to sit on a bare floor all night, despairing. And when he started hearing tormenting cries of torture in the room close by all night, he seemed to living close to his brutal nightmares. Close to midnight he himself had been caned, abused, beaten in this cell; his legs had been run over by jackboots, torture that had shattered him. Dad never told us about the ‘saas’ (thousands) bargain he had to undertake to free Zain, we never asked.
Some of the boys picked up on that fateful day were released within days, some detained longer. I could only guess if the ‘saas’ (thousands) tradeoff had helped any. The lean and tall boy with patches of a beard, in an old worn pheran and slippers who had been taken on that fateful day never came back home. Later found that he was the mansions son, who worked real hard through his school, did well in studies and had been preparing for a professional career. The poor boy used to support his studies by working as a laborer on odd days and later as a Mansion apprentice along with his Dad. The only son of his father, he was used as a conflict fodder by those in uniform, his erasure lost to decades of state denial. His crackdown never ended.
Along years, thousands of such poor, lean and hapless young men were to fall prey to state forced erasure, exhausting and depleting their improvised families of life and hope. Such people may have been lost to denial, but such stories live in our memory till eternity.
Saadut
28th September, 2012 ; 19:44 PM

For more on  real picture of Kashmir http://saadut.blogspot.in/

Let your footprints be your thoughts, let your wealth be your deeds

 

 

Fire destroyed 200-year-old Sufi shrine Peer Dastgeer Sahib in June 2012. Photo: Abid Bhatt

Very recently a friend appearing in an interview in New Delhi was asked a strange question. Why was Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan offered tight security in Kashmir? Does it mean militancy is still a major threat? The applicant quoted police figures on garrisoned Kashmir saying not more than 247 rebels fight over half a million troops in Kashmir, plus several thousand spies and nearly a lakh cops. To him and many others the security was offered to shield the star from “unruly” fans. Rewind to the interview. So many mosques are coming up in Kashmir. Why are people suddenly turning religious? I mean I heard the youth are getting radicalised, another interviewer asked? The outspoken applicant in reply sought reasons as to why so many small temples have come up along Srinagar-Jammu highway, away from local Hindu population, which was not the case until few years ago. The interview then suddenly shifted to the applicant’s extra-curricular activities.

For the past many years, the question of mosques coming up in every lane of Kashmir is being asked. Then religious groups like Jamiat-e-Ahl Hadith (JAH) or the Salafis (popular but contemptuously referred to as the Wahabis and a constituent group of Sunni Muslims), Deobandi and Barelvi outfits (Shrine goers) or even Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) are discussed. Years ago JeI was pegged as a group from which youth sought inspiration from. Note, the state has often described people ‘radical’ once they offer it formidable belligerence, politically or ideologically.

In recent years, we’ve been told that JAH is promoting Saudi Islam or Wahhabi Islam in Kashmir, a land that has roots in Sufi ethos, in an attempt to push it against Barelvi sect. And now a new group Carvan-e-Islam that randomly came from nowhere has started promoting ‘moderate Islam’. It has seen a valley’s top bureaucrat leading its rallies, although he has been denying regularly that he promotes any one sect in Kashmir either personally or in official capacity. One wonders how processions of Carvan-e-Islam are allowed by the state while the Ashura processions of Shia Muslims always face strict curbs, water cannons, aerial firing and bamboo beating every year.

Last few months has seen target killings of personnel of religious groups. And with it several Kashmir mosques (mostly belonging to Hanafi sect—which in the eyes of the state follow moderate Islam) started catching fires. Almost half a dozen cases of fires witnessed that also saw a famous Sufi shrine getting devastated in Srinagar’s Khanyar area. Separatists suspect it as the “handiwork of agencies” hell-bent on dividing the Kashmir society along religious lines and “weakening the united resistance”, while the police has been blaming either miscreants or short circuits as cause of fire.

If we look back, one would realise how complex the situation has remained ever since the armed rebellion for Azadi broke out in 1989 and how the state has actually sided with the group (irrespective of its ideology) that doesn’t pose any threat to it.

For example, JAH that preaches puritanical Islam owes its rise to the not-so-powerful-now JeI, which was cut to size by various state machineries during the past few decades. JeI — a cadre-based politico-religious body in the state was a revivalist movement and had operated within a moderate Hanafi framework. It fuelled Islamic movement in the Valley through a definite doctrine but in sync with socio-cultural essence of the Valley. JeI brought modern religious education in Kashmir by organising seminars, discussions, opening schools and donation centres. However, as JeI also proved to be a political wing of the largest militant outfit, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, it soon saw itself juxtaposed to state and Centre policies. Soon notorious renegades and government gunmen started hounding JeI members triggering a huge flux among JeI cadres, who fled from villages to Srinagar and other urban areas. The JeI’s weakness created a huge vacuum only to be filled by the JAH. Side by side huge militarisation, raging conflict and loss of identity forced Kashmiris to live in a highly insecure environment. While civilians were seeking refuge in religion, the JAH proved to be the only platform that until now had the state patronage.

The JAH had initially faced opposition. For example, in South Kashmir’s Shangus area there are instances when members of JAH tried to preach in Hanafi mosques but kangris (traditional fire pot) were hurled on them. Similar other instances meant the JAH wouldn’t preach their ideology in local masjids. The takeover was failing. But soon the JAH started constructing their own mosques. The strong factor that saw the JAH penetrate deeper into Kashmir society was increased militarisation of the Valley. In many instances villagers going for morning prayers were suspected as militants and shot dead by troops. Previously villagers or citizens would walk for several kilometres to reach a mosque, but fear of getting killed saw mosques coming up in lanes after lanes. And as population swelled from 77,18,700 in 1991 to 1,25, 48,926 in 2011, expansion of rural and urban areas also saw hundreds of mosques coming up. The JAH’s money from Saudi Arabia was unrestricted so was its influence that was fast spreading especially among educated youth of the Valley. While the state agencies were clipping JeI’s power, the JAH found itself close to the state. The same state which now seems appeasing the shrine believer sect Barelvis. In fact in 2008 the then Governor Lt Gen (retired) SK Sinha helped the then JAH cleric Maulana Showkat for setting up the Transworld Islamic University. The JAH was given 12 acres of land. Reportedly ample financial support from Saudi Arabia had come too. The state agencies chose to stay ignored. Interestingly, Showkat was killed in a cycle bomb episode one Friday in 2011. Salafi ideology Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT)would later blame “traitors from our own ranks” for the murder.

There are instances of killings that show irrespective of what ideology one follows, proximity with New Delhi and state agencies were the reasons of assault on people. For instance, in Seer village of South Kashmir, years ago pro-India People Democratic Party (PDP) worker Ghulam Nabi Khan who was a Salafi Muslim (JAH) by ideology was shot by militants. Then some JeI members were also killed just because of their affiliation with the PDP and not because of what sect they belonged to. It was never a sectarian fight.

Even in pro-Azadi JKLF, some members follow the JAH ideology though the party they work for has a shrine-goers baggage. In police department some key officials, who were at the forefront of counter insurgency some time back, follow Wahabbi Islam but work against the militants often driven by pan-Islamism. Again while the JAH is thought to be proponents of violent Islam it was the JAH’s Maulana Showkat who did a strong peacemaking when years ago members of Muslim and Sikh community came head-on over some issue. Showkat’s march had both JKLF and Sikh members.
The JKLF is many times promoted as a secular party because it fits in the dominant state narrative, despite the fact that they were the ones to shut down cinemas, burn down liquor shops and involved in many civilian kidnappings. If a research is done, the LeT, which the state sees as the most-ruthless group, will be found involved in very small number of cases in which civilians were killed. “In fact it’s the only militant group,” one senior journalist believes, “that apologised for killing an unarmed defence PRO (Major Purushottam ) when its Fidayeen squad entered Srinagar’s Badami Bagh army cantonment in November 1999. Purushottam had saved three visiting photojournalists in the toilet before he was shot.” But since the LeT has been capable to recruit many locals and has been involved in many spectacular attacks on the police and army installations, the group has been easily passed as the one doing something that goes against ‘Kashmiriyat’.

Sectarian war in Kashmir will favour the state which has been facing a popular rebellion so far. And since the Home Ministry’s survey recently found that nearly 60 percent of angry youth who took part in the 2010 civil unrest had spent ample time listening to religious discourses in (Wahabbi) mosques or on the net, pitting good Hanafi against bad Wahabbi, seems the next gamble. Earlier, the army had claimed to have funded renovation of Sufi shrines under Operation Sadhbavana until it faced a fatwa in 2007 and recently personnel of Rashtriya Rifles (RR) were seen offering food at a local Barelvi shrine. The state too is massively funding construction or renovation of many Hanafi shrines which can prove a dangerous trend.

If one carefully observes the standards of living of some senior Barelvi leaders, who have become active in recent months, as well as the reach of the JAH among the educated youth of Kashmir, it suggests that funds are coming for either sects and whether this money is coming from approved channels or from some mysterious quarters, the intention of triggering passions between the two sects seems the prime motive.

As I write this piece, North Kashmir’s Handwara district is protesting against the desecration of yet another mosque today. And, like, always police has registered a case against “unidentified miscreants”.

Mohammad Umar BabaAuthor: Baba Umar’s career started with The Indian Express in Srinagar where he reported on the South Asia earthquake of 2005. In the following years, he wrote features for Kashmir’s first online news magazine Kashmir Newz and in 2008 he joined Rising Kashmir as a senior reporter where he covered 2008-09-10 civil unrest. Baba specializes in producing stories mostly on Kashmir conflict and water disputes in India. Baba joined Tehelka in 2010 and the next year saw him winning ICRC (Geneva)-Press Institute of India (PII) award for his news report on victims of armed conflict in Kashmir.